Preds close out December schedule against Blues

Published December 30, 2011

| Sports Network

The Nashville Predators will try to end their December schedule on a positive note, as they visit the St. Louis Blues for tonight's Central Division clash at Scottrade Center.

The Predators halted a two-game skid and won for just the second time in five games with Wednesday's shootout win over the visiting Minnesota Wild. Tonight marks Nashville's last game of the calendar year, but the Predators will play on New Year's Day, as they're scheduled to host Calgary in the NHL's only game on Jan. 1.

Nashville allowed the Wild to push Wednesday's game to overtime after a late goal by Dany Heatley, but Minnesota couldn't get out of its own way in the shootout round. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne had 30 saves in regulation and four more in overtime, but only needed to make one stop in the shootout after two Wild skaters lost the puck on their attempts.

The first skater, Matt Cullen, made it about two-thirds of the way to the net before letting the puck drift off his stick and to the left boards. Then, after Nashville's Colin Wilson scored on Josh Harding and Rinne stoned Mikko Koivu, Minnesota's final skater, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, was too close to the goaltender when he tried a spin move and couldn't get a proper shot off.

Jordin Tootoo had the lone goal in regulation for the Predators, who played their first game since announcing Tuesday that star defenseman Shea Weber is out indefinitely with a concussion.

"They all played really hard. It was a really grinding-type of game and we battled," said Predators coach Barry Trotz.

Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein is also on injured reserve because of the flu and has missed the last five games. He could make his return tonight.

The Predators, who will begin a three-game homestand Sunday against the Flames, are 9-8-1 as the visiting team this season.

St. Louis, meanwhile, will try to bounce back from a rare regulation loss under Ken Hitchcock. The Blues dropped a 3-2 decision Tuesday in Detroit, dropping Hitchcock to 15-4-4 since taking over as head coach for the fired Davis Payne.

The Blues allowed goals to Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall during a 56- second span in the third period after taking a 2-1 lead into the final 20 minutes. Matt D'Agostini and Alexander Steen lit the lamp for St. Louis, while Brian Elliott also made 29 saves for the Blues.

"You have to finish with a clear, concise game, get pucks in, get pucks out," Elliott said. "Obviously they're a good team. You have to give them credit. We didn't do the things we wanted to in the third period and that cost us."

St. Louis hopes a return home can get it back in the win column tonight. The Blues have won six straight on home ice and are 14-3-1 as the host this year compared to a 7-8-3 road mark. They will be back in Detroit tomorrow to try and get a measure of revenge against the Red Wings.

The Blues lost defenseman Kris Russell to a groin strain on Tuesday and he is expected to miss three weeks of action. T.J. Oshie could return tonight after missing the last two games with a wrist injury and fellow forward Jamie Langenbrunner is probable after missing the same amount of games with the flu.

St. Louis forward Vladimir Sobotka is questionable after sitting out the last seven games with an ankle injury.

Nashville has won two straight in the series against the Blues and notched a 2-1 shootout win when the clubs last met on Dec. 17 in Music City. The Preds have taken six of the last eight encounters in St. Louis.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2011/12/30/preds-close-out-december-schedule-against-blues/