Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blues return to scene of only regulation loss

Predators took 4-3 decision two weeks ago,
have had their way with St. Louis in recent years

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was two weeks ago to the day, where Bridgestone Arena was the scene of the crime: the Blues played arguably their worst hockey of this young season.

It was the first period. Actually, it didn't even take that long, 56 seconds to get down -- and stay down.

The Blues (4-1-2) fell behind the Predators (5-0-3) by a 3-1 count, only to rally twice in the second and third periods before falling 4-3. It's the only game of seven this season where the Blues have failed to earn at least a point.

They return to the very same scene at 7 p.m. today (FSN, KMOX 1120-AM) to face the Predators who have yet to lose in regulation this season -- the last remaining team in the NHL to remain unbeaten in regulation.

Nashville came out gunning right from the opening whistle here on Oct. 14, jumping all over a Blues team that had been well-rested for three days. Nashville had played the night before but still displayed the more fresh legs.

The Blues, despite outplaying the Predators over the final two periods and outshooting them 35-22 for the game, could never recover.

"If you look back at the situation, they played the night before and I think they caught us off-guard," Blues forward Andy McDonald said. "It's kind of an area we take pride in, coming out strong and they kind of took it to us. That can't be the way it happens on Thursday. We definitely have to be more prepared and come out with a little bit more intensity than they do."

Added defenseman Barret Jackman, "We definitely know that they're a fast-starting team. They're a team that over 60 minutes never gives up. That's the way (Predators coach) Barry Trotz has always coached his teams. It doesn't matter who they have in the lineup, they're always playing the same way. We know that we have to be sharp at the beginning and play for a full 60."

The Predators have owned this series since the start of the 2005-06, and they've won five in a row dating back to last season when Nashville won five of six games. The Blues are a paltry 9-19-9 in the last 37 meetings, including 4-8-6 in this building.

"Nashville has always been a close rival of ours," Jackman said. "They've always played us very well and we've struggled against them. But going to that building is going to be an opportunity for us to continue to grow as a team and take another step toward being one of the better teams in the league."

Even though the Predators seemed to have owned the series between the teams in the last five years, 12 of the 16 meetings have been decided by one goal. Nashville seems to thrive off the one-goal outings. Since Feb. 10 of last season, the Predators are an amazing 18-0-4 in one-goal games.

"I think that they do a lot of the detail work well," Blues coach Davis Payne said of Nashville. "They work hard, they work consistently for 60 minutes, they stay within their structure, they manage the puck very well, a real good puck pursuit team, real good team at staying in the battle and their goaltenders have played pretty well so far this year. They've got good speed up front, good pursuit speed and they can create some trouble on the forecheck. So we feel we've got to do a much better job handling that. We did in the second and third (periods on Oct. 14). Unfortunately it was too late against them. Their power play was clicking that night as well.

"We've got a couple issues we've got to clean up, but they're just a very consistent team. Barry Trotz has done just a fantastic job there in putting those guys in the playoffs and having the type of success that he's had over the last little bit. It's a good formula that they've got going there."

The Predators don't have that superstar firepower some teams have. There are no $8-, $9-, $10-million dollar players on the roster. Just a bunch of hard-nosed players who work their tails off for a coach who preaches many of the little things.

"They're more like us," Blues center Patrik Berglund said. "They're a hard-working team every game. I think we play a pretty similar game. The last game, they got off to a good start and we didn't. After that, I think we had the last two periods. They're tight games. There's a lot of hitting and battling. I just think we have to go in there and be ready right from the start. They're the toughest team the first 10 minutes. We've got to be ready.

"It's really tight in the neutral zone. It's hard to carry the puck. There's going to be a lot of dump and chase, win battles in the corners and get the puck up to the d-men, get traffic to the net and hopefully get some rebound goals."

Payne was asked if anything needs to be said about the start.

"We've already started, so I don't think as a coach, you skip that opportunity," Payne said. "Even if a word may not need mentioning, they'll hear it."

The Blues, one of the best records on the road a season ago at 22-14-5, seek their first win of the season -- they're 0-1-2 -- away from Scottrade Center, where they are 4-0-0.

"It's funny how it works," McDonald said. "We were strong on the road last year and struggled thus far this year. We have to carry it over. We've got a good team we're playing against in Nashville. We've got to bring our best game. I like what I saw from the weekend (in victories over Chicago and Pittsburgh).

"We have to make sure we're ready to play our game."

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