Blues-Predators Preview

Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz doesn’t feel at ease with

his team’s spot in the Western Conference standings, but at least

the club has plenty of upcoming home games to help make its

postseason push.

The St. Louis Blues don’t have that luxury.

The Predators go for their first 10-game home point streak in

five seasons on Thursday night when they try to win their fifth

straight this season over the Blues, who open a road-heavy portion

of their schedule.

Despite Nashville (35-19-6) maintaining a three-point edge over

sixth-place Chicago with Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Northwest

Division-leading Vancouver, Trotz is far from comforted by his

team’s position. Eighth-place Los Angeles is just 10 points

back.

“We’re at home here, and you’ve got to get some points,” Trotz

said following the opener of the four-game stretch at Bridgestone

Arena. “… we’ve got a little bit of separation from eight place,

but it’s not enough.”

Playing six of its next eight on home ice could help Nashville

create that separation.

The Predators have lost just three times in their last 18 at

Bridgestone Arena.

Their 8-0-1 run at home is their best since a 9-0-3 stretch from

Oct. 14-Dec. 16, 2006.

Led by a goal and two assists from Martin Erat and 42 saves from

Pekka Rinne, Nashville pushed its winning streak in this Central

Division series to four with a 3-1 home victory on Feb. 4.

The Predators trail fourth-place St. Louis (36-17-7) by just

three points.

“Bottom line is we need to start racking up some points against

teams that are ahead of us,” rookie center Craig Smith said.

The Blues were hoping to make their third and final

regular-season visit to Nashville in 2011-12 on the heels of a

franchise-record 22-game home point streak, but that surge ended

with Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Boston.

“I thought we played really well that whole second period,”

said coach Ken Hitchcock, who is 0-11-6 with a tie in his last 18

games in Nashville. “We just couldn’t get that (game-tying) goal

even when we had all the play in their zone.”

The Blues will try to avoid their first three-game skid since

Dec. 27-31 as they open a stretch of 14 of 18 away from home.

St. Louis has scored two goals or fewer while losing nine of 13

on the road.

The Blues could begin this stretch of six straight outside St.

Louis with Jaroslav Halak in net after Brian Elliott, the league

leader with a 1.65 goals-against average, lost his second

consecutive start on Wednesday.

Halak, who has been fighting a bout of the flu, is 0-2-2 with a

1.69 GAA while starting all four games versus Nashville in

2011-12.

Rinne, the league leader with 33 wins, has stopped 147 of 152

shots in those contests.

He is 15-2-1 with a 2.19 GAA in his last 18 home starts, which

includes a 39-save effort on Dec. 17 in a 2-1 shootout victory over

St. Louis.

Predators center Mike Fisher has six goals – tied with Sergei

Kostitsyn – and a team-best 15 points during the Predators’ home

point streak. Fisher scored in the Blues’ last visit.

Nashville is 11-0-3 when Fisher finds the back of the net.