Blues hope to make up ground on Predators

( - The red-hot St. Louis Blues will try to gain some ground in the Central Division title race when they host the first-place Nashville Predators in Thursday's matchup at Scottrade Center.

Nashville has been atop the Central for most of the season and the Predators currently hold a five-point lead over both Chicago and the Blues.

However, St. Louis enters tonight's tilt boasting a 7-0-1 record over its last eight games and is hoping to stay hot Thursday and gain some ground on Nashville.

This evening's tilt marks St. Louis' first game after the All-Star break, as the club hasn't played since beating Colorado 3-1 on Jan. 19. That victory gave the Blues a 5-0-1 mark on a seven-game homestand that is set to end tonight.

St. Louis picked up its second straight win in its most recent trip to the ice, with Jaden Schwartz tallying a power-play goal and an assist to help the Blues down the visiting Avalanche.

Carl Gunnarsson and T.J. Oshie also scored in the win, Alexander Steen extended his point streak to 10 games with two assists and Brian Elliott made 17 saves for the Blues.

"Tonight I thought was probably our best game this year, from the goalie out," said Steen, who has seven goals and 11 assists during his point streak.

Elliott will get the start in net tonight for the Blues, while backup Jake Allen is slated to play tomorrow at Carolina.

In other news, St. Louis will no longer carry three goaltenders on its roster as Martin Brodeur has decided to call it a career. The 42-year-old future Hall of Famer spent his first 21 seasons with New Jersey before signing a one-year deal with the Blues earlier this season. Brodeur will announce his retirement from the sport at a press conference on Thursday morning at Scottrade Center and then take on a job in the St. Louis front office.

Brodeur went 3-3-0 with a 2.87 goals against average in seven appearances with St. Louis. He led the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles during his standout career and he retires as the NHL's all-time leader in numerous categories, including wins (691) and shutouts (125).

The Predators are trying to get by without franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne, who suffered a lower-body injury earlier this month and will be sidelined for at least the next few weeks.

Nashville is 2-1-1 since Rinne went down to injury and the Central leaders halted a two-game slide when it emerged from the break to post a home overtime victory against Colorado on Tuesday.

Craig Smith scored at 2:46 of the extra session to lift the Predators to a 4-3 win.

Colorado had tied the game on Nick Holden's goal with 36 seconds left in regulation, but Nashville was still able to win the game shortly after Carter Hutton made a tough save on a Zach Redmond one-timer.

The Predators skated down the other way and Mike Ribeiro sent a saucer pass from the right boards to the left for Smith, who skated down the middle and snapped a wrister past Semyon Varlamov for the victory.

"It certainly wasn't what we wanted to do at the end of the game," said Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette. "But I thought the guys came out with a lot of energy in the overtime and I'm glad we were able to pull this one out."

Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson and Roman Josi all scored while Ribeiro posted three assists for the Predators, who had lost their final two games before the All-Star break for their first losing streak of the season.

Hutton stopped 21 shots in the win. With Nashville also scheduled to play tomorrow at Colorado, it's unclear if Hutton or Marek Mazanec will get the call in net tonight.

Thursday's contest marks the start of a three-game road trip for the Preds, who are 12-8-4 on the road this season.

Tonight's test marks the fourth and final regular-season meeting between the Blues and Predators. Nashville is 2-1-0 against the Blues this season, winning two straight on home ice since St. Louis notched a win at Scottrade Center on Nov. 13.

The Blues, who own a 18-4-2 record as the host this season, have won three of four and five of their past seven home games versus Nashville.