Preds visit Blues for Central Division showdown

The Blues may be leading the NHL in points, but the Predators may be one team that they would like to avoid in the postseason.

Nashville looks to officially secure its trip to the playoffs this evening as it goes for a fifth victory this season against St. Louis.

The Predators are 4-0-1 versus the Central Division-leading Blues this season, winning the first four encounters before a 3-2 shootout loss at home on Feb. 23. Nashville has won 12 of the past 18 encounters overall and seven of its past nine trips to St. Louis.

Looking for a third straight victory at Scottrade Center, the Predators need only a point tonight to secure their seventh trip to the playoffs in the past eight seasons. They sit fifth overall in the West with 96 points, one back of the fourth-seeded Red Wings.

Nashville has won two in a row overall following losses in four of five and exploded offensively in Sunday's 6-1 win over Chicago. Six different skaters logged a goal, with Mike Fisher, Shea Weber, Matt Halischuk and Patric Hornqvist all having a goal and an assist each. Alexander Radulov added an assist to give him three points in three games since returning to the Predators.

"The overall playoff picture doesn't really matter to me right now," said Predators coach Barry Trotz. "The most important thing is we have to focus on ourselves."

Nashville matched its season-high output for goals in a game despite Martin Erat missing the contest due to an upper-body issue. Erat, who has a career high-tying 57 points this year, is questionable for tonight, as is Colin Wilson (groin) and Jordin Tootoo (upper body). Roman Josi is out with an upper-body injury.

The Predators' offense figures to face the ultimate test this evening against the Blues, who have gotten a combined 14 shutouts this year from goaltenders Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak to set a club record. The duo surpassed the 13 shutouts posted by Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante in 1968-69.

Elliott posted his second shutout in a row and NHL high-tying eighth of the season on Sunday, turning aside all 20 shots faced in a 4-0 win at Phoenix. Elliott matched Hall's single-season record for shutouts set in 1968-69 with the 17th of his career and also leads the NHL with a 1.52 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

Alex Pietrangelo and David Backes each posted a goal and an assist for the Blues, who wrapped a seven-game road trip 3-2-2 and play four of their final six regular-season games at home. They are 12-1-1 in their past 14 at home and 29-4-4 overall this season compared to 18-16-5 on the road.

Kevin Shattenkirk had three assists in the win and St. Louis killed off all four Phoenix power plays.

"Our penalty killing has been good now for two months and it saved us again," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.

The excellent play at Scottrade Center has helped St. Louis amass 103 points on the season, two more than both Vancouver and the New York Rangers for the most in the league. The Blues are also six up on Detroit for first place in the Central Division.

Vancouver and Detroit are both idle tonight, while the Rangers, who have a game in hand over the Blues, are in Minnesota this evening.

Tonight's game could feature a pair of milestones. St. Louis' Jamie Langenbrunner is slated to become the 21st American-born skater to play in 1,100 NHL games, while Trotz is one win shy of reaching 500 with the Predators franchise. He would become just the fifth head coach to reach that mark with one team.