Hot teams square off as Blues meet Predators

NHL

The St. Louis Blues will look to extend their early-season roll when they host the Central Division-rival Nashville Predators on Thursday.

The Blues have taken just two regulation losses in their first 11 games. They return home after a 2-1-1 road trip.

“You’re in good shape if you get more than 50 percent points,” St. Louis winger Pavel Buchnevich said. “It’s a good trip. Happy to get the points. Long trip and we want to go home.”

The Predators won 4-2 at Dallas on Wednesday night, making them 3-1-1 on their current six-game road trip and they are 6-1-1 in their last eight games overall.

“I thought tonight was a really good game all the way through the lineup,” Predators winger Tanner Jeannot told Bally Sports South after the victory, in which he had a goal and an assist. “Everybody bore down when they needed to. We were pretty good in our D zone, which is something we wanted to work on coming into this back-to-back here.”

Nashville started Juuse Saros in goal Wednesday, so there is a good chance backup David Rittich could make his debut against the Blues. He missed the first month of the season due to COVID-19 protocols.

Since St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington is coming off a strong performance in a 3-2 shootout victory at Winnipeg — 39 saves in the game, then four saves in the shootout — he figures to start against the Predators.

The Blues will be looking to re-establish their puck possession game after the Jets outplayed them for much of the Tuesday night contest.

“We didn’t move the puck very well, just through the neutral zone,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “That’s the biggest thing. A lot of times not predictable enough and not north enough. You gotta just advance things. Especially on the road, in the second period. You got tough line changes. You gotta just simplify it and be more predictable.”

The Blues made a roster adjustment ahead of the Nashville game, sending rookie Jake Neighbours back to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. They want the 19-year-old winger to continue his development while leaving him in consideration to play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships.

“I think he could have survived this year, but when you have a prospect, you’re going to count on more than that,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “I think surviving isn’t enough.”

The Blues recalled forward Dakota Joshua from their Springfield affiliate in the AHL to replace him. Also, forwards Brayden Schenn (upper-body injury) and Oskar Sundqvist (knee surgery) are nearing their return.

The Predators placed forwards Filip Forsberg and Nick Cousins on injured reserve Tuesday. Both are sidelined on a week-to-week basis with upper-body injuries. Michael McCarron and Mathieu Olivier arrived from Milwaukee of the AHL to replace them, and both played Wednesday at Dallas.

Nashville defenseman Alexandre Carrier exited the Wednesday game after being hit the back of the head by a slap shot. He is questionable for the Thursday contest.

–Field Level Media

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