An outstanding week has given the Nashville Predators a little breathing room heading into the regular season’s stretch run.
The St. Louis Blues are well aware that they don’t have any such luxury.
The Predators look to extend a five-game winning streak Sunday as they face a Blues team that continues to make a strong last-ditch postseason push.
Nashville (41-26-5) failed to make the postseason last year, and begin play in fifth place in the Western Conference. The Predators hold just a four-point lead, though, ahead of Central Division rival Detroit in eighth.
They’re also coming off a key win as Cody Franson(notes) scored 1:54 into overtime for a 1-0 victory over Columbus on Saturday night. Three of the rookie defenseman’s six goals have been game-winners.
“He’s been really sharp,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s doing a good job. He’s moving, his hands have been good, he’s been seeing the puck, and obviously playing very well for us.”
Though Rinne might be due for a rest, the Predators may want to send him out again. He’s 4-2-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average in seven games against St. Louis (33-28-9).
St. Louis, which has won nine of 12, is six points behind Detroit with 11 games remaining.
“We know where we’re at,” said Conklin, who has four shutouts and 10 wins in 23 games. “We have to win the majority of our games.”
“It’s amazing what he’s able to do,” coach Davis Payne said. “He’d been on the bench for a while and all of a sudden, he was thrown into the fire. To perform like that takes a guy with great focus and a great amount of intensity.”
But Conklin, 4-3-1 with a 3.19 GAA in 10 games including eight starts against the Predators, may find himself on the bench due to the quick turnaround.
Mason has a 6.06 GAA over his last two games, but he’s 3-2-2 with a 1.66 GAA in seven starts against the Predators.
Steen, who missed 14 games earlier this season due to a broken right wrist, continues to play a significant role in the keeping the Blues’ postseason hopes alive. The fifth-year center has 10 goals and eight assists in his last 18 games.
Despite being limited to 57 games, Steen has set a career high with 21 goals in his first full season with St. Louis.
He had a goal and an assist in St. Louis’ 4-3 loss to Nashville on Dec. 29, the teams’ last meeting. The Predators are 2-1-0 versus the Blues this season and 16-6-3 against them since the 2005-06 season.