The streaking Nashville Predators (14-8-1) return home tonight to face the St. Louis Blues (9-9-4) at the Sommet (not for long) Center. The puck will drop at 7 p.m. Central and the Preds will sport their new third jerseys for the first time.
The Preds are the second hottest team (Chicago is #1) in the NHL, and have won seven straight and 12 of their last 15. In their last game on Wednesday they eked out a win in Colorado on a David Legwand shot in overtime.
St. Louis is a team still trying to find it's identity playing better on the road (4-1-3) than at home (5-8-1). The Blues are 4-3-3 in their last ten games including a shoot-out win in Dallas on Wednesday.
The two clubs last met on November 12 in St. Louis with the Preds winning 3-1 in the game that started the Preds current seven game win streak. With a win tonight, the Preds would tie for the longest win streak in franchise history dating back to the 8-0 start in the 2005-06 season.
No official word has been given on starting goal tenders but it is assumed that each team will go with their best in tonight's match-up which would pit Pekka Rinne (11-4-0, 2.33, .915) against former Predator, and fan favorite, Chis Mason (6-7-3, 2.28, .921).
Rinne has won seven games in a row tying Tomas Vokoun's franchise record of consecutive games won. He also has won eleven of his last 12 games, dating back to October 22, in Ottawa, the game that broke the Pred's early season six game losing streak.
Chris Mason has played well against the Predators going 2-1-2, 1.34, .958 in his career against his former team mates. His only loss was in the game earlier this month.
Special teams will be a key in tonight's game. After an 0 for 30 period early in the season the Preds have become dominant on the man advantage going 15 for 60 to move from last to 18th (18.9%) in the league. The Blues have struggled on the power play and are 29th(13.1%) in the NHL.
On the penalty kill, the Blues have had more practice and are ninth (83.0) in the league while the Preds are 15th (80.0). The Preds are the leagues least penalized team (8.3 mpg) while the Blues are the 25th worst (15.7 mpg).
For the first time this season the Preds are playing a team with less goals scored that they have with the Preds having 54 to the Blues 53. To be fair, the Blues have played two less games.
Another key to watch will be to see if the Predators continue to pour shots on net. The Preds have the league's fourth best record (8-4) when out shooting the opposition.
Another key will be whether Jordin Tootoo can continue to draw penalties without being drawn into a fight. His second highest penalty minute total is against the Blues with 68 (number one is Columbus at 88). The Predators still only have two fights for the season and Tootoo is a fight and a minor away from claiming the all-time Pred's penalty minute title from Scott Hartnell (544 to 538).
The Preds made a couple of moves on Thursday recalling Alexander Sulzer after he was sent to Milwaukee earlier this week to get a couple of games under his belt after sitting for an extended period of time.
They also swapped forwards, sending Andreas Thuresson to Milwaukee and recalling Dave Scatchard. Thuresson has done what he was asked to do but was not producing offensively. Scatchard is the Ad's leading scorer (7 goals) in spite of spending nine games with the Preds earlier this year.
The Predators will play rare back to back home games on consecutive nights when they host the Florida Panthers on Saturday night and then host the Calgary Flames on Monday. The Blues return home after the game to host the Detroit Red Wings tomorrow night.
In Predator Nation...
Bryan Mullen at the Tennessean has the story of the third jersey debut and what the players think about them. He also has a notes column that shows what a good captain Jason Arnott is.
John Glennon touches on the reason for the Thuresson-Scatchard swap at Inside Predators.
Paul McCann sets the table for tonight's game at HockeyBuzz.
Jeremy gives thanks at Section 303 and includes us as things he is thankful for. Thanks, guys, we love you too!
Mark at The View From 111 analyzes the Pred's winning ways and uses one of Barry Trotz's favorite words, resiliency.
From the Blues side at the St Louis Dispatch, the Blues' big guns are starting to step up and they also are getting bumped off their TV network by high school football. Andy Strickland has an article that is a few days old but discussed the Blues power play and scoring issues.
Ads Short Shifts has an update on Chet Pickard who has claimed the number one goalie slot in Milwaukee.
Hell must be frozen today since the Globe and Mail has positive things to say about the Preds.
Around the NHL...
Alexander Ovechkin got ejected from their game against Buffalo on Wednesday night. Our friend Rick at The Cold War thinks that Ovie's cheap shots have gone on too long. Here is the follow-up with the no action result.
Ryan at the RLD has the top five turkeys of the year and they are not ones you would eat.
Puck Daddy has the five best and worst decisions of the decade.
Adrian Dater rips the Leafs as he should at No Holding Back.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass