Ryan Miller is already making an impact on the St. Louis Blues.
It's also starting to be felt in the Central Division race.
Miller likely will have an opportunity to win his third straight start for the Blues on Thursday night when they try to continue their success against the last-place Nashville Predators.
St. Louis (41-14-6) acquired Miller in a trade with Buffalo on Saturday, hoping one of the NHL's elite goaltenders can help it make a run at the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
So far, Miller is delivering.
The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner made 23 saves and the Blues erased a two-goal, third-period deficit in Sunday's 4-2 win at Phoenix. He followed that up two days later with 15 stops, while his teammates again overcame a two-goal deficit to win 4-2 at home versus Tampa Bay.
Hitchcock feels Miller's mere presence is making a difference.
"His disposition and the way he carries himself has a professionalism to it that I think over time just rubs off on everybody," Hitchcock said. "Coaches, players - from the time he comes into the building, the way he carries himself has a positive effect on everybody."
Miller's impact is also stretching to the division race, with the two wins since the deal moving the Blues into sole possession of the Central lead, two points in front of second-place Chicago.
He's stopped 57 of 59 shots to win his two career visits to Nashville, but the most recent was Dec. 3, 2011.
St. Louis has won eight of the past nine meetings with the Predators (26-26-10), including all four at Bridgestone Arena after a 6-1 victory Oct. 26. The Blues won the latest meeting at home 4-3 in a shootout on Feb. 1, extending their overall winning streak in the series to four games.
Alexander Steen has three goals in his last two games at Nashville, with two coming Oct. 26. The left wing, who has a team leading and career-high 29 goals, scored for only the second time in nine games Tuesday. Steen has no goals in five straight road contests, while teammate T.J. Oshie has just one in his last 11 away from home.
Oshie ended a five-game goalless drought with a short-handed tally against the Lightning and also set up Steen's goal. Oshie has 13 points over his past 15 meetings with the Predators.
As the last-pace team in the Central, Nashville made a move for the future at Wednesday's trade deadline when it sent David Legwand to Detroit for forwards Patrick Eaves and Calle Jarnkrok and a conditional draft pick.
Legwand was drafted second overall as the expansion Predators' first pick in 1998, but he's scheduled to enter free agency after the season.
Colin Wilson is slated to center the top line in Legwand's place, but he has only two points in his past 18 games and none in the last six.
Pekka Rinne will likely get his second start after missing 51 games with a hip infection. He returned to make 16 saves in Tuesday's 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh.
Rinne hasn't faced the Blues since being pulled midway through the first period after allowing three goals on six shots in a season-opening 4-2 road loss Oct. 3. He is 0-1-2 despite a 1.90 goals-against average in his last three home matchups with St. Louis.
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