Blues-Predators Preview

Although Alexander Steen continues to score at a blistering

pace, nothing else has been that easy for the St. Louis Blues since

their hot start.

They might not be catching a break despite the Nashville

Predators missing their two-time Vezina Trophy finalist.

The Blues will try to avoid their fourth loss in five games

Saturday night when they visit the Predators, who seek their second

straight win after losing Pekka Rinne for at least a month.

Perhaps a bit rusty in its first game in a week, St. Louis

(5-1-2) rallied back from a two-goal deficit to force overtime

before losing 3-2 to Vancouver on Friday. Since outscoring

opponents 19-7 while winning their first four games, the Blues have

been outscored 14-9 during this 1-1-2 stretch.

”It took a while for us to wake up,” said center David Backes,

who has six goals and three assists. “It’s not acceptable. We

needed two points.”

While St. Louis may have cooled off, Steen certainly isn’t

showing any signs of slowing down. He’s tied for second in the

league with eight goals after scoring his fourth in three games

Friday.

Steen had a goal and an assist to lead the Blues past the

visiting Predators 4-2 in the season opener Oct. 3.

Nashville’s Carter Hutton performed well in relief when Rinne

struggled in that meeting, allowing only a Steen power-play tally

on 22 shots in his 50-plus minutes.

The Predators (6-4-1) aren’t allowing anything on the power play

these days, having killed off 22 straight penalties over their last

seven games to match the franchise’s second-longest streak.

With Rinne out at least four weeks following arthroscopic

surgery on his hip, Hutton stopped 34 of 36 shots Thursday in a 3-2

overtime win over Winnipeg that was the Predators’ fifth victory in

seven games.

Hutton is 2-0-0 with a 1.37 goals-against average in three

appearances, but both wins have come against the offensively

challenged Jets. In his only career start against the Blues, he

gave up three goals on 28 shots in a 3-1 loss while with Chicago on

April 27.

”I am just taking it day-by-day, shot-by-shot,

period-by-period, kind of slow things down,” Hutton said. ”You

look at the big picture, it can be a bit overwhelming, especially

I’ve only played a couple of games.”

After allowing three goals on 21 shots against the Canucks on

Friday, St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak figures to give way to Brian

Elliott in the second of back-to-back games. Elliott has allowed

five goals on 42 shots in two games, but is 3-1-0 with two shutouts

and a 1.33 GAA in his last four meetings with Nashville.

Whoever gets the start will be particularly interested in

keeping the Predators off the board early since they’re 5-0-1 when

scoring first. Nashville, however, is tied for 25th with 2.0 goals

per game.

Patric Hornqvist has scored all of his team-high four goals

within the last seven games. He also has five scores and nine

assists in 21 career games against the Blues.

St. Louis continues to be without forward Maxim Lapierre, who

was suspended five games for an Oct. 15 hit on San Jose defenseman

Dan Boyle.

The Blues have won six of seven meetings, including the last

three in Nashville.