Preview: Predators at Blues (3/21)

Location: Scottrade Arena (St. Louis, Missouri)

Game Time: 5:00 pm Central

TV: FSN

Radio: 104.5 The Zone (WGFX-FM)

Records:
Nashville: 41-26-5 (87)
St. Louis: 34-28-9 (77)

Season Series:
11/12/09 – NSH 3 – STL 1
11/27/09 – STL 3 – NSH 1
12/29/09 – NSH 4 – STL 3

Not So Sweet Home: Sunday marks only the second Blues home game in the month of March…not that they mind. The good news for the Blues is that that they have won 3 of their last 4 at home. The bad news is that they have the worst home winning percentage in the NHL, winning only 12 of 34 home games this season. This, of course, bodes doubly well for the Predators, as the road team has taken every game so far in the series this season.

Shutdown Goalie: The NHL will have a hard time not naming Pekka Rinne as one of the Three Stars of the Week for the second week in a row. Since losing his job after the Vancouver game on March 7 and regaining it 2 games later, Pekka has ripped off 5 straight wins and 3 shutouts. This week alone, he has 2 consecutive shutouts and a much-better-than-it-looked-on-the-scoreboard 42 save night against the Flyers. His 6 blanks this season rank second in franchise history, trailing the record of 7 that he set last season. Pekka rides a scoreless streak of 132:36 out of the weekend and will most likely not be in goal on Sunday due to the quick turnaround between games (although there was some speculation by the post game show on 104.5 The Zone last night that he may actually get the start in Missouri). Either way, Pekka appears to have won his job back.

He’s A-Mason: Sunday will presumably mark the second time in as many days that the Predators faceoff against a goalie named Mason (Ty Conklin was in goal on Saturday for St. Louis’ 1-0 win over the Devils). This Mason, Chris, will be familiar to most of the Predators players and teams. After losing his starting job to Dan Ellis after a dismal 2007-08 season, Mason was traded to the Blues, where he immediately turned his game around. In his last season in Nashville, Mason only won 18 of the 48 games in which he factored into the decision, had a save percentage of 0.898 and a GAA of 2.90. After coming to St. Louis, however, Mason won 27 games, had a save percentage of 0.916 and a GAA of 2.41 in his first season. This season, Mason has continued to be solid, picking up 24 wins, a GAA of 2.58 and a 0.911 save percentage. In addition, he was the first alternate goalie for Canada in the Olympics…meaning that if one of the goalies was hurt, it would have been him and not Marc-Andre Fleury getting a gold medal in street clothes. Mason is 1-2 against the Predators this year, giving up 4 goals in the last game against them. However, Mason also had his remarkable 47 save shutout performance last season and has given up 2 goals or less against Nashville in 5 of the 7 times he has played his old teammates.

Ellis Hopes to Rebound: After a self-described “nightmare” in which he let in 6 goals against San Jose, Dan Ellis was benched for Pekka Rinne. Sunday will most likely be his first start since that debacle. After starting the season on a relative tear, Ellis has slumped as of late, winning only 5 of 11 games since January 1 and giving up 4+ goals in 4 of those starts. However, Ellis has not faced St. Louis since last November when he had a shutout, yet lost in a shootout. This marks the first time Ellis and Mason have faced off since that epic goalie duel.

Legwand-O-Meter Hits a Milestone: David Legwand has not scored a goal in 30 games. Per the Section303.com Legwand-O-Meter, that will be over 77 days by game time. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Quest for 50: It took the last play of the game, but Martin Erat continued his scoring streak and inched one point closer to 50 points with his assist on Cody Franson’s game-winner on Saturday. Erat now has 47 points and has scored 12 points in his last 12 games.

Quick Notes: Colin Wilson had the second assist on Franson’s goal, giving him 8 points in 8 games…The Predators win against Columbus on Saturday night marked the 14th consecutive triumph over the Blue Jackets at “The Bridge”…Cody Franson’s 6th goal moves him into 2nd among rookie defensemen in goal-scoring and 4th in overall scoring. Oh yeah, and while two of the rookie blueliners above him have had all season to put up those numbers, Franson’s done it in only 51 games.

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PHOTO CREDIT: UPI/Bill Greenblatt