Preds glad to be back home to face Blues
This December is looking a lot like last December for the Nashville Predators, which is not a good thing.
A season ago, Nashville went 5-6-3 in December, kicking off a stretch of just over two months featuring inconsistent play and resulting in real doubts as to whether the Predators could make the playoffs.
This season, Nashville has lost four of its first five games in December, picking up just three points. That includes a 5-4 loss Dec. 3 to the New Jersey Devils in which the Predators coughed up a 4-1 third-period lead, and back-to-back losses on a brief road trip to Dallas and Arizona.
If the Predators (12-11-4) are to get back on course, a win Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues in Bridgestone Arena would be a good way to do it. It would, if nothing else, erase the taste of a 4-1 defeat against the lowly Coyotes on Saturday night.
"We've got to play faster and be better than what we were," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said after his team's second defeat to the Coyotes in just over a month.
Getting back home could help the Predators in that regard. They are 9-2-2 in Bridgestone, including a 3-1 win over St. Louis on Nov. 10. That game came during a stretch in which Nashville won six straight home games and went 9-3-2 in November.
Nashville might also get top-four defenseman Ryan Ellis back from an upper-body injury that caused him to miss the past eight games. Both Ellis and center Colton Sissons, out for seven games with an upper-body injury, practiced Monday.
"It stinks when you're sitting on the sidelines, whether you're winning or losing," Ellis said. "Either way, it's not fun when you're hurt or you're out. You always hope the team can pull through for you, but at times if they don't, if they do, it's tough either way."
The Blues (16-9-4) are a bit like Nashville in that they are world-beaters at home and something resembling mop water on the road. St. Louis is coming off a 3-1 loss Sunday in Minnesota, falling to 1-2-0 on its four-game road trip and 2-7-0 in its past nine away games.
Two quick second-period goals doomed the Blues against the Wild. St. Louis controlled play in the first period with an 11-6 advantage in shots on goal, but once the Blues had to chase the game against impenetrable Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk, they were in a position they couldn't escape.
"All these games are right there, but we're not getting a big enough push-back against these teams that really check hard," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They checked hard. We really checked them hard, but as the game wore on, they started to get a little bit control of it."
Jake Allen will get the start in net for the Blues. Allen stopped 22 of 24 shots Sunday but took the loss, falling to 14-5-3 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .910- save percentage.
He probably will be opposed by Pekka Rinne (11-7-4, 2.45), who has given up 16 goals in four December starts after earning the NHL's First Star for November. Rinne still sports a .920 save percentage.