Blues-Predators Preview

The Associated Press

A potent and deep offense, solid goaltending and outstanding team defense are all reasons why the St. Louis Blues are leading the race for the Presidents' Trophy.

Their success against the Central Division can also be added to that list.

St. Louis seeks to remain unbeaten in regulation against the Central and complete its first-ever season sweep of the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

With roughly one month left in the regular season, the Blues (45-14-7) sit atop the league's overall standings with Anaheim, San Jose, Boston and Pittsburgh close behind. The Blues, who haven't won the Presidents' Trophy since 1999-00, are 6-0-1 this month.

Included in that stretch was a 2-1 victory at Nashville on March 6 and a 3-2 shootout win at Minnesota on Sunday. That gave St. Louis 16 consecutive wins against the Central before that run that ended with a 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas on Tuesday. Now 18-0-2 against their own division, the Blues have outscored the Predators 16-7 in winning all four meetings this season.

After playing four straight one-goal games, St. Louis was locked in another tight battle Thursday against Edmonton before Alex Pietrangelo triggered a four-goal third period in an eventual 6-2 victory. Jaden Schwartz scored twice and Vladimir Sobotka had a goal and two assists in his return after missing 12 games with a broken left kneecap.

"I just kept it simple," Sobotka said after the fifth three-point game of his career. "It was about timing. As the game went along, I got a little faster and a little stronger."

Ryan Miller stopped 23 shots and improved to 5-0-1 with a 1.82 goals-against average since joining St. Louis.

The Blues have outscored opponents 12-2 in the third period this month.

"We played with tempo and we played with speed in the neutral zone," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We were really effective. We put a lot of pressure on people."

Both Miller and Brian Elliott have played very well against the Predators. Miller is 3-0-1 with a 1.75 GAA in his last four meetings while Elliott is 4-2-0 with a 1.99 GAA and two shutouts in six career starts.

Either Miller or Elliott will try to prevent Nashville (29-28-10) from a season-high fourth straight win. Roman Josi set up all three goals and Pekka Rinne turned aside 31 shots as the Predators swept a three-game trip with Friday's 3-2 victory at Chicago.

Shea Weber notched his team-best 27th assist and Nashville's defensemen combined for five points. Weber leads the team with 43 points, and Josi jumped into a tie with Patric Hornqvist for second on the club with 21 assists.

''That's the strength really of our group, our D-men,'' coach Barry Trotz said. ''They're all young and talented. We're the youngest team in the league by three years on the blue line. The future is really bright for us there."

This will be the Predators' only home game in an eight-game stretch, which isn't necessarily bad news for a team that's scored three goals during a four-game skid at Bridgestone Arena.

Trotz could start Carter Hutton in the second of this back-to-back, but he has a 4.26 GAA in two starts against the Blues this season. Rinne is 1-5-2 despite a 2.48 GAA in his last eight starts in this series.

St. Louis has won five straight and nine of the last 10 matchups.

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