Blues-Predators Preview

(AP) — 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.