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Predators-Blues Preview

AP - Sports

The NHL's 48-game lockout-shortened schedule will make teams plenty familiar with each other by the time the playoffs roll around in just a few months.

The St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators are getting a taste of that early.

St. Louis seeks a fourth straight victory over visiting Nashville when the Central Division rivals meet for the second time in four days Thursday night.

Teams will play only others within their own conference for the first time since a lockout also shortened the 1994-95 season to 48 games.

St. Louis defeated Nashville 4-3 in a shootout Monday, marking the second time in the last three meetings the teams have played past overtime. The Predators lost their first two games in the shootout before defeating Minnesota 3-1 on Tuesday.

Nick Spaling, David Legwand and Martin Erat, who had two assists versus the Blues (2-1-0) and has two goals and four assists in his last five in the series, netted goals against the Wild as Nashville (1-0-2) began a franchise record-tying seven-game road trip.

"It's a big win. (Monday) was a tough game for us, (and) I was really concerned we weren't going to have much," coach Barry Trotz told the team's official website. "It showed early, we didn't have our legs, but as we got through the first period, I think our game got better and better."

Pekka Rinne, who rested in favor of Chris Mason on Tuesday, made 36 saves versus St. Louis and is 4-1-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average in his last seven games in the series.

The Predators haven't lost in regulation when Rinne makes at least 35 saves since Dec. 26, 2010, going 25-0-3 in such games. He may be in net again after Alex Pietrangelo beat him for the tying goal with less than eight minutes remaining in the third period Monday.

"That's the type of game you're going to see St. Louis and Nashville battle. You've got to bring it," Trotz said following that contest.

The Blues are coming off a 3-2 loss to Chicago on Tuesday, getting outplayed for the majority of the first two periods in the second game of a back-to-back.

"It's part of the situation with the schedule the way it is," said Andy McDonald, who had a goal and an assist versus Nashville and scored again Tuesday. "We roll four lines and we've got 16 who can play, so there's no reason fatigue should be a factor."

Coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't pleased with the overall performance but lauded Brian Elliott, who made 24 saves after earning the victory over the Predators in relief of Jaroslav Halak.

"We can't play this way and expect to win hockey games," Hitchcock said. "We'll have to smarten up to get to the next level."

The Blues, though, converted one of their two power-play chances and improved to 6 for 9 on the season.

Nashville scored twice with the man advantage against St. Louis after going 3 for 21 in the previous 11 meetings.

St. Louis is 3-1-1 in the last five home matchups with the Predators.

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