Based on the teams’ recent history in Nashville, the Predators have a better chance of starting their playoff push when the Central Division rivals meet Thursday night at the Sommet Center.
St. Louis (24-26-7) is tied with Colorado and Phoenix at the bottom of the West standings with 55 points. Nashville (27-28-3) is one spot ahead of that group with 57 points.
Both the Blues and Predators, though, are still in the mix for the postseason in the West, where the last-place teams are within nine points of Vancouver and Columbus - currently tied for the fifth seed.
The Predators have to like their chances Thursday. Since the start of the 2005-06 season, they’ve recorded at least one point (12-0-2) in all 14 of their home games against the Blues.
Despite that fact, St. Louis has given the Predators all they can handle. In their last 14 games in Nashville, the Blues have four shootout losses, one overtime loss and three other defeats by just one goal.
In the teams’ second meeting in Nashville, Predators center Jason Arnott tied the game with three seconds left in regulation and winger Steve Sullivan scored the lone shootout goal to give the Predators a 4-3 victory Feb. 12.
Sullivan scored his first two regulation goals in nearly two years Wednesday night, his 17th game since returning from a back injury that had kept him sidelined since February 2007. However, it wasn’t enough to make up for the five power-play goals the Predators allowed in a 6-2 loss at Detroit.
“If they get two power-play goals a game against us they usually win,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “They get five, they always win.”
Blues coach Andy Murray was also lamenting his team’s defense after a 4-3 loss in Columbus on Wednesday night. St. Louis gave up a power-play goal 1:15 into the first period, and turned the puck over in front of its own net to lead to the Blue Jackets’ second goal later in the period.
“It’s just not playing smart,” Murray said. “… We made a mistake on the penalty kill, and we made a mistake when we had the puck.”
Mason played only two periods before getting pulled Wednesday, but could be back in net against Nashville. He’s 1-0-1 with a 1.39 goals-against average in his first two career games against the Predators - the Blues’ two previous trips to Nashville this season.
Predators goalie Dan Ellis is 2-1-1 with a shutout and a 2.35 GAA lifetime against the Blues. Because Ellis started and finished Wednesday night’s game, Nashville could turn to Pekka Rinne, who’s given up eight goals in splitting two career games versus St. Louis.