Predators limp into St. Louis to face Blues (Dec 30, 2016)

ST. LOUIS — The NHL schedule-maker did not do the Nashville Predators any favors coming out of the Christmas break.

Waiting for them as a belated present were three games in four nights, all against Central Division rivals. They opened with a 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night, followed by a 3-2 setback against Chicago on Thursday night, the third consecutive loss by the Predators.

The Predators got on a plane after that game to fly to St. Louis, where they meet the Blues on Friday night.

They could be without two key players for that game. Right winger James Neal had to come out of Thursday’s contest in the second period because of an upper-body injury. Defenseman P.K. Subban (upper-body) missed the last six games and the team said he is not expected to play against the Blues.

“In our division, it feels like everyone is winning, especially now when we lose division games,” Nashville left winger Filip Forsberg said. “Other teams are going to get ahead of us. We have to realize the moment; we still have half of the season left but at the same time, you can’t just push the reset button after the New Year … you have to get more urgent and string some wins together.”

St. Louis won its first game after the break behind the first career hat trick from Robby Fabbri, scoring four goals in the third period in a 6-3 victory Wednesday night at home over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The four goals were one more than the Blues scored in the third period of their last nine games combined.

“I know it’s an easy thing to say, but you want your game to be simple, and when you want to score so badly, you can make it very complicated, and we have done that,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We have made it very complicated.”

Most of the Blues’ problems have come on the road, where they are 5-10-1. The win over the Flyers improved their home record to 14-2-4.

The game against Nashville is the second contest of a season-high six-game homestand for the Blues, including the outdoor Winter Classic matchup against the Blackhawks on Monday at Busch Stadium.

Defenseman Colton Parayko hopes the Blues learned something with their comeback from a 4-3 deficit against the Flyers which they can use in the future, beginning Friday night.

“If we have the lead, I think we’ve been holding back with the lead almost,” Parayko said. “We went in (to the third period) tied and went down and didn’t give up. We stuck together and that’s one of the things we wanted to change coming back from this break and it was noticeable for sure.”

After getting the night off against the Flyers, regular goalie Jake Allen gets the start in goal for the Blues against the Predators.