by Forechecker on 02/12/09 at 05:04 PM ET
In the chase for the Western Conference playoffs, it’s not just about earning points for your own team, but knocking down the competition as well when you have the chance. The Nashville Predators have an opportunity to deliver a critical blow to St. Louis’ faint playoff hopes, and lift themselves back into contention at the same time. After tonight’s game in Nashville, these two teams meet again next Thursday at the Sommet Center, and then Saturday, Feb. 21 in St. Louis.
Beating the Blues won’t be an easy task, however; despite dominating them in recent years, this season the Preds are 0-2-1 against the Central Division’s last-place team. Coming into tonight’s game riding a recent 6-2-3 stretch, the Blues are proving to be far more resilient than anyone could expect, particularly considering the rash of serious injuries they’ve had to deal with (Paul Kariya, Eric Brewer, Erik Johnson).
So what do the Preds need to do to turn things around tonight?
1. Shut down B.J. Crombeen: It’s flat-out embarassing that we even need to note this, but the Blues’ knuckle-dragger lit up the Preds with a hat trick in the last meeting between these teams on December 8.
2. Offense all around: A shorthanded team like St. Louis is most likely to be vulnerable once their big guns are on the bench, and Joel Ward needs to bring more of what he showed Tuesday against Detroit. If Patric Hornqvist wants to stick in the NHL, he needs to chip in as well.
3. Double-check the game time: The Preds need to jump the Blues right off the opening faceoff, and establish an early lead.
4. Stay out of the box: At home against a team which they should have outgunned, the Preds can ill afford to shoot themselves in the foot and give St. Louis power play chances.
Game Time is 7:00 tonight at the Sommet Center, and if you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, follow this link and use the special offer code “predators” for discounted seats.
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