Red-hot Blues set for first of two vs. Predators
The streaking St. Louis Blues have made their way into a playoff-eligible position in the Western Conference. It's a place the surging Nashville Predators have been for quite some time.
No challenge seems too big at the moment for the Blues, who look to extend their season-high winning streak to five games Saturday afternoon in the first of a home-and-home set with the visiting Predators that will take place on consecutive days.
Riding an 8-2-1 stretch, St. Louis has been one of the hottest teams in the league over the last month.
Most of that success, though, came on the road, where the Blues won 1-0 in overtime at NHL-leading Tampa Bay on Thursday to conclude a 4-1-0 trip through California, Ohio and Florida.
Brayden Schenn snapped an 11-game goal drought late in the extra session and rookie Jordan Binnington stopped 32 shots for his second career shutout and fourth consecutive victory for St. Louis, which owns the final wild-card spot, for the time being, in the crowded Western Conference.
"We've really come together as a team," Binnington told the Blues' official website. "We're playing smart hockey, disciplined hockey, and hopefully we're going to keep this going and continue to make a push."
Binnington has started St. Louis' last six games and owns a 1.23 goals-against average with a .944 save percentage in the last four. Jake Allen, who hasn't played since Jan. 17, has a 3.18 goals-against average while losing five of his last seven starts.
Allen was in net both times in November as the Blues split the first two meetings this season with Nashville. Schenn had a goal with an assist in St. Louis' 6-2 home victory over the Predators on Nov. 23.
Nashville, which sits within one point of Central Division-leading Winnipeg, will try for a fourth consecutive road victory Saturday. The Predators are 7-1-2 away from home since a miserable 0-8-2 road slide.
They've also played well overall of late, winning their second straight and fifth in the last six, when they defeated division foe Dallas 3-2 in overtime at home Thursday. Ryan Johansen scored 43 seconds into overtime and added an assist earlier in regulation for the Predators.
"Every Central Division game is huge," forward Viktor Arvidsson said, according to the Predators' official website. "You climb the standings and make the playoffs through the Central Division, so we have to win those games."
Thursday marked the first game of recently-acquired Cody McLeod's second stint with Nashville, and the Predators debut for veteran forward Brian Boyle, who was brought on board Wednesday in a trade with New Jersey.
"I like the standard everyone is held to," Boyle said. "Good is not enough, and we're striving for better and better."
Nashville's Juuse Saros made 27 saves Thursday for his third straight victory, and could split time with Pekka Rinne in the current back-to-back scenario. Saros yielded five goals in the loss at St. Louis earlier this season, while Rinne has a 1.33 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in winning his last six regular-season starts against the Blues.
The Blues and Predators will play another daytime contest at Nashville on Sunday.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 8, 2019