Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Preds look to clinch playoff berth in St. Louis



The Nashville Predators will travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues for the final time in the 2011-2012 regular season tonight. Nashville has posted a 4-0-1 record against the Blues so far this season, and will be looking to win their third game at Scottrade Center this season. If the Predators are able to pick up at least one point tonight, they will clinch a playoff berth for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

St. Louis leads the NHL in points with 103 and are primed to win their first President's Trophy since 2000. The Blues got a 4-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday night. Brian Elliott stopped all 20 shots he faced to pick up his league-leading eighth shutout of the season. Elliott will be in goal tonight against the Predators.

Nashville is coming off of a 6-1 beatdown of the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night. Pekka Rinne seems to have regained his usual dominant form after struggling against Edmonton and Pittsburgh last week. Alexander Radulov has three points(1g, 2a) in his first three games back in the NHL.

Martin Erat missed Sunday night's game with an upper-body injury and it's unclear whether or not he will play tonight. According to Josh Cooper of The Tennessean, Trotz listed both Erat and Jordin Tootoo as questionable for tonight's game.

Nashville's primary focus isn't just on clinching a playoff berth tonight. If the Predators are able to get a win, they will be one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for fourth place in the Western Conference standings. It's looking more and more like the Predators and Red Wings will be squaring off in the first round of the playoffs.

If the Predators win tonight, Barry Trotz will post his 500th victory as an NHL head coach. All of those wins have come with the Predators. Standing in the way is Ken Hitchcock, who Trotz has historically dominated.

My player to watch for St. Louis is David Backes. He leads the Blues in goals with 23, and has been the most consistent offensive option for St. Louis all season. At 6'3", 225 lbs, Backes is a power forward that is hard to push around.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Andrei Kostitsyn. If Erat isn't able to play tonight, expect Kostitsyn to take his place on the top line like he did on Sunday night against Chicago.

(Photo Credit: Nashville Predators)

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