Blues get first test under Berube at league-leading Nashville
Last February, the beginning of the end for Mike Yeo unfurled in Nashville, although no one suspected it at the time.
The St. Louis Blues‘ coach was sitting pretty on a Tuesday night with a 3-0 lead midway through the third period, his team about to move two points closer to the Predators in the Central Division race with plenty of time to catch them.
Then Nashville roared back with three goals in a five-minute span to force overtime and won on a penalty shot by Filip Forsberg. That was the pivotal result in a seven-game losing streak that helped St. Louis miss the playoffs by one point.
Yeo’s Blues never gained any traction this season, either, and after a 2-0 loss Monday night to Los Angeles dropped their record to 7-9-3, the hangman arrived. General manager Doug Armstrong canned his third coach in seven-plus years and promoted Craig Berube on an interim basis.
Berube doesn’t exactly get to ease into the new gig, taking St. Louis to Nashville on Wednesday night for the first of a home-and-home series with the NHL’s top team. The division rivals square off again Friday night in St. Louis.
The first job for Berube is to find a way to get a puck into the net. Monday night’s defeat was the third time in four games the Blues had been blanked. This time, it was by Cal Peterson, he of three games of NHL experience.
“It’s hard to win when you don’t score goals,” forward Vladimir Tarasenko told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The 45-year-old Yeo was the NHL’s third coach to lose his job this season, hours ahead of Edmonton parting ways with Todd McLellan on Tuesday in favor of former Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.
Having gotten a coach fired, St. Louis figures to come out with a detailed effort Wednesday night. But it went 0-for-4 last season against the Predators (15-5-1), and with key forwards such as Pat Maroon, Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz injured, scoring goals against Pekka Rinne won’t be easy.
Rinne (8-2-1, 1.69 goals-against average, .942 save percentage) came up big for Nashville in a 3-2 victory Monday night over Tampa Bay, stopping 29 of 31 shots. He got help from defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who denied the Lightning a tying goal in the last 10 seconds by knocking a puck away from the goal line after it trickled off and behind Rinne.
“We knew we were going to get pressured hard there at the end with their skill and six guys on the ice,” Rinne said. “But our guys did a great job — we blocked a lot of shots and made it hard for them.”
The Predators might regain the services of All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban, who sat out the last three games with a lower-body injury.
The Blues are expected to start Jake Allen (5-5-3, 3.33, .895), who has allowed just one goal in each of his last three outings.