With different lines and players contributing offense each night, the Nashville Predators enter tonight’s clash with the St. Louis Blues as one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League. Boasting a record of 8-1-1 in their last 10 contests and a 4-0-1 mark through five of eight straight against Central Division opponents, the Predators’ confidence is at a season high.
“We talked about it as training camp – we are going to have to win as a team,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “If one line gets shut down, another line needs to step up. Legwand’s line stepped up and got us a couple of important goals Thursday and Arnott’s line did the same against Columbus. Guys are finding a way to step up and contribute.”
Timely scoring and third-period goals have been the theme of the hot streak, with Nashville outscoring its opponent 18-6 in the final 20 minutes of regulation during the stretch. The Preds have also scored the first goal of the game in eight of the past 10 outings.
Spreading the wealth has also created a number of hot streaks among the forward contingent. With the game-winning goal in overtime (in addition to a first-period assist) against Chicago, Martin Erat has six points (3g-3a) in his last two games, while linemate Jason Arnott has registered a point in six of the past seven contests (4g-3a). David Legwand also has a stretch of nine points (3g-6a) in his last seven games, but it is his next two points that will receive the most attention.
Nashville’s first-ever draft pick back in 1998 is just one point from tying Kimmo Timonen atop the franchise’s all-time scoring list (301 points). The Detroit, Mich., native already leads the team in goals (112).
Nashville has won 15 of its past 17 clashes with the Blues dating back to Oct. 15, 2005. The improved Blues won the first meeting of 2007-08, topping the Preds 4-1 at the Scottrade Center on Oct. 10.
Tonight’s game marks the return of Paul Kariya to the Music City. Kariya made his mark in just two years with the Predators, notching 161 points (55g-106a) in 164 games. His 2005-06 marks of 31 goals, 54 assists and 85 points all sit atop the franchise leaderboard for single-season totals.
Kariya led the Preds in scoring against St. Louis a season ago with nine points (3g-6a) in eight games, and now paces the Bluenotes through 16 games with 18 points (4g-14a). His linemates Keith Tkachuk (16) and Brad Boyes (14) round out the top three, and provide a consistent source of offense for the team.
On the heels of a 3-2 victory against Columbus a night ago, St. Louis comes into the Sommet Center with an even 8-8-0 record. Since starting the season 4-1-0, the Blues have won four of 10 games dating back to Oct. 20. Six of those 10 have been decided by one goal. Defense continues to the team’s foundation with a 2.47 goal-against average, and the fourth-ranked penalty kill in the league at 89.2%.
These same two squads will turn around and play each other two nights from now in St. Louis at 7:30 p.m. CT.
Tickets are still available to this evening’s game by visiting the Sommet Center Box Office, logging on to nashvillepredators.com or ticketmaster.com, and by calling (615) 770-PUCK.
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES: The Predators have won eight straight home games and 10 of 11 at the Sommet Center in the series dating back to Oct. 16, 2003… The Preds lead the all-time series 23-21-6 through 50 games… Jordin Tootoo scored Nashville’s lone goal Oct. 10 in St. Louis, with Alexander Radulov and Dan Hamhuis assisting. Tootoo has fared particularly well against the Blues, notching six points (3g-3a) in 10 career games against them… Jason Arnott has the most career points against the Blues among players currently on Nashville’s roster with 25 (9g-16a) in 38 games… The Preds are 4-1-1 on the season against the Central Division, 6-0-1 in the month of November, and 9-0-0 when scoring first… Nashville has outscored its opponent in both the first period (14-13) and third period (24-19) through 18 games… Tonight, David Legwand is expected to tie Greg Johnson for second all-time in games played in a Predators uniform (502)… The Preds are 6-2-0 at home, and 4-0-0 when Martin Erat scores a goal… Erat has the game-winning goal in the past two games, and three of the past five. He paces the team in game-winning goals with three.