Blues, Preds clash in likely defensive battle

The St. Louis Blues have an All-Star goaltender who might not even be his club's starter come playoff time.

The Nashville Predators are likely to start a netminder this evening who is on the longest winning streak in club history.

That could make goals at a premium Saturday night in this big Central Division matchup between the Blues and Predators in Nashville.

St. Louis has posted a 9-1-2 record since a 3-0 loss in Detroit on Dec. 31 and sits fourth overall in the West, four back of the Red Wings for first place in both the division and conference. Nashville, winners in 13 of its past 16, is a point behind St. Louis.

The Blues recorded their NHL-leading 10th shutout of the season last night with a 1-0 win over the Kings, getting the fifth of the season from Jaroslav Halak to snap a two-game slide. The St. Louis netminder made 22 saves for his 21st career whitewash, getting all the support he would need at the 8:38 mark of the second on Jamie Langenbrunner's goal.

"You've got to get 100 points to make the playoffs and we knew that coming in," Langenbrunner said of the always-competitive Western Conference playoff picture. "If you win one you feel good about it and you move on. If you lose one you forget about it and move on. No one is going to win every game, but you've got to make sure you give yourself a chance every night."

Halak is 12-1-3 in his last 16 starts, posting a 1.57 goals-against average and .937 save percentage over that span. Four of his last seven starts have resulted in shutouts.

Still, Halak has made 28 starts to Brian Elliott's 22. The latter also has five shutouts this year and leads the NHL with a 1.69 GAA. The All-Star selection is second in the league with a .938 save percentage and it is unknown who will get the start tonight.

Nashville is likely to turn to Pekka Rinne, who is in the midst of a personal 10-game win streak. Rinne hasn't lost since Jan. 5 and has allowed two goals or less in all but one contest over his current win streak. He is also 13-1-0 with a 1.77 GAA and .941 save percentage since Dec. 28 and became the third goaltender since the start of the 2005-06 season to win more than 10 wins in a month after going 11-1-0 in January.

After giving up four goals in a 5-4 win at Minnesota on Tuesday, head coach Barry Trotz gave his No. 1 goalie a rest on Thursday and started backup Anders Lindback, who allowed three goals on 27 shots in a 4-1 defeat to hosting Philadelphia.

Ryan Suter had the lone Preds goal, his first since Nov. 23, while Craig Smith logged an assist to give him two goals and three helpers over a five-game point streak. Nashville, though, had a five-game win streak halted.

"Yeah, we haven't given him enough support in terms of offense," Trotz said of Lindback bearing the brunt of an offensive drought. "Sometimes that happens. He's had some good teams we've played him against in the [Eastern Conference]."

The Predators have won all three meetings with the Blues so far this season, including consecutive 2-1 shootout victories. Nashville has won nine of the last 13 encounters overall and four of the past six played at home.