Predators-Blues Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Blues hadn't given coach Ken Hitchcock many opportunities to be upset over a performance before their previous contest.

He's been much happier after their most recent games against the Nashville Predators.

St. Louis looks to beat visiting Nashville for the eighth time in nine meetings when the teams meet Saturday night.

The Blues (36-12-5) missed a chance to tie Chicago atop the Central Division with a 3-1 loss to Carolina on Friday that ended a three-game winning streak, and Hitchcock didn't hide his feelings afterward.

"Hard to find a lot of good players in our game (Friday)," Hitchcock said. "(The Hurricanes) skated. They checked. They played hard. And we looked like we had the body language like we wanted an easier game. Didn't get it."

David Backes scored for only the second time in 17 games, converting on a power play in the first period. St. Louis entered with the league's second-ranked power play unit, which has scored 23.6 percent of the time with the man advantage.

Alexander Steen's five-game point streak came to an end.

"It's nice to be back on the scoreboard, but we're more interested in winning," Backes said. "(Friday) was a game where they brought a hard-skating, tough-checking game, and we didn't have a ton of answers for it."

The Blues will look to get back on track against the Predators after winning the first two meetings this season. Steen had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 victory Oct. 3 and scored twice in a 6-1 win Oct. 26.

Nashville, though, improved to 4-1-1 over its last six with a 3-2 overtime win over New Jersey on Friday. Captain Shea Weber, who left Tuesday's win over Winnipeg with an upper-body injury, scored his second goal of the game 1:29 into OT.

Weber leads all NHL defensemen with 15 goals.

"He's one of the best at his position, plain and simple," coach Barry Trotz said. "He's our building block, and he's a difference maker in this business. There aren't too many guys at his level."

The Predators (25-23-8), hoping to avoid missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002-03, got a goal from David Legwand with 10.8 seconds remaining in regulation to force extra time.

Legwand lauded the play of Weber.

"It's going to take a lot to keep him out of a hockey game," Legwand said. "He loves playing the game and shows that over the course of his career. He was big for us. Obviously on the first one and in overtime, two huge goals."

Carter Hutton made 24 saves, meaning Devan Dubnyk could get the start against St. Louis in the second of a back-to-back set. Dubnyk has given up nine goals while losing his first two starts for Nashville since being acquired from Edmonton on Jan. 15.

Jaroslav Halak stopped 28 shots Friday for the Blues, leaving the door open for Brian Elliott to get the nod for this contest. Elliott has lost three straight starts while posting a 3.69 goals-against average, but he's 3-2-0 with a 1.80 GAA in five career starts against Nashville.

Dubnyk has a 4.72 GAA while losing all seven of his starts against the Blues.