Two division foes just seven points apart square off at Enterprise Center tonight, as the Nashville Predators (37-23-5, 1st Central) go up against the St. Louis Blues (33-23-6, 3rd Central).
Thanks to a 3-2 shootout win over the Oilers yesterday, the Predators leap-frogged the Jets and moved into first place in the Central Division. But the Blues aren’t too far behind, as a regulation win would put them only five points back with just under 20 games left to go.
St. Louis has gotten the best of Nashville this season, winning three out of the last four contests. They are listed as favorites to win at home -160.
This Predators team was among the most-active during Monday’s trade deadline. Within the final hour until the deadline, Nashville made two separate moves to bring in forwards.
First, they acquired Mikael Granlund from the Wild in exchange for Kevin Fiala. Next, they traded for Wayne Simmonds, sending Ryan Hartman and a mid-round pick to the Flyers. Granlund (49 points) and Simmonds (27 points) will add scoring to a team that has been in the middle of the pack offensively. Simmonds is expected to make his debut tonight, while Granlund is a question mark with his fiance in labor yesterday.
The two new forwards come to a Nashville team that ranks 13th in goals scored and 22nd in shooting percentage, but sixth in shots. They are still strong defensively, ranking fourth in goals allowed and seventh in shots allowed.
Granlund’s 49 points trails only Ryan Johansen (53 points) and Roman Josi (51 points). Mattias Ekholm (41), Filip Forsberg (39), and leading goal-scorer Viktor Arvidsson (35, 26 goals) are other players capable of doing some damage.
With Pekka Rinne starting yesterday, backup Juuse Saros will likely start tonight. The young goaltender is 14-7-2 with a 2.70 goals against average and .912 save percentage.
Quiet in STL
With both Winnipeg and Nashville making deadline moves, it was a little surprising to see the Blues not involved in many trade discussions. St. Louis has just a six-point cushion above the Wild for the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
The Blues did make one small move, however. They acquired defenseman Michael Del Zotto from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a sixth round pick in this year’s draft. Del Zotto, 28, has split time between the Canucks and Ducks this year, scoring seven points in 35 games.
Offensive help was perhaps the bigger need for the Blues, who are just 16th in goals, 17th in shots, and 20th in shooting percentage. Thanks to a deep blueline and the great play from rookie Jordan Binnington, St. Louis is seventh in goals allowed and fifth in shots allowed.
Ryan O’Reilly at 63 points leads the team in scoring, followed by Vladimir Tarasenko at 53 points. Those two are the main options for St. Louis, appearing in nearly every game for a team who has dealt with injuries to forwards like David Perron and Jaden Schwartz.
Binnington will likely start tonight against Nashville. The rookie is 14-2-1 with a 1.70 GAA and .934 save percentage, to go along with four shutouts.
If Nashville had a full group tonight, I would like their chances a whole lot more. But they will likely be without Granlund, even though Simmonds will play. Additionally, they’re just 3-3-2 on the second half of a back-to-back. I will take the Blues to win -160.