Surging Preds host Blues

10:08 AM, Oct 26, 2013   |    comments
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( - The surging Nashville Predators will try to stay hot on Saturday when they welcome the St. Louis Blues for a Central Division clash at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators have won three of their last four games and are 5-1-1 since a disappointing 1-3 start to the season.

Nashville is coming off Thursday's home win over the Winnipeg Jets, an overtime victory that came without No. 1 goaltender Pekka Rinne. Craig Smith scored with 17 seconds left in overtime and goaltender Carter Hutton held down the fort in the 3-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators learned earlier Thursday that starting goaltender Pekka Rinne would miss about four weeks to have arthroscopic surgery on an infected left hip. With one of the league's top netminders sidelined for the foreseeable future, Hutton showed what he can do to try and replace Rinne.

Hutton, making his third career start and second this season, registered 34 saves in his first start since Rinne's injury.

"I thought he was pretty square to the puck," Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said about Hutton. "They put a lot of rubber towards him and he handled it just fine."

The Predators won the game after a miscue from Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who looked to start a rush from the Winnipeg zone late in the extra session, but lost control of the puck. The Predators quickly capitalized on the turnover as David Legwand fed Smith for a one-timer from the left circle.

Shea Weber and Patric Hornqvist also scored for Nashville.

Nashville won't play at Bridgestone Arena for a while after Saturday's game. The Preds are set to begin a season-high road trip Thursday in Phoenix, the first of seven straight games on the road for the club before it returns to the Music City to face Chicago on Nov. 16.

The Blues beat Nashville once earlier this season, recording a 4-2 home win on Oct. 3. Rinne was pulled from that game after surrendering three goals on six shots, but Hutton stopped 21-of-22 shots the rest of the way.

St. Louis has won two straight and six of the past seven meetings against the Preds and Nashville has lost the past three encounters on its home ice.

The Blues, however, enter Saturday on a two-game slide, having lost their past two contests after regulation. St. Louis dropped a 4-3 shootout decision in Winnipeg on Oct. 18 and emerged from a lengthy break with a 3-2 overtime loss Friday night against the visiting Canucks.

Ryan Kesler scored his second goal with 14.7 seconds left in OT to lift Vancouver to last night's victory. Vancouver's Daniel Sedin drew a hooking penalty on Patrik Berglund with 34 seconds remaining in the extra session. Sedin then sent a fluttering puck from the slot towards Jaroslav Halak, but Kesler, who was planted on the doorstep, knocked down the shot and beat the Blues goaltender on the backhand from the crease.

Halak stopped 18 shots for the Blues, who fell to 1-1-2 over its last four games after starting the season with four straight wins. Alexander Steen had a goal and an assist in the loss.

"It's unacceptable," St. Louis captain David Backes said. "They're a team that played last night, which we knew they were going to be ready to go. They don't even get time to think about it and they're right into the game and we had a week off. We can't start slow, we can't dig holes like that and expect to be able to dig out."

Beginning with Saturday's test in Nashville, the Blues are playing four of their next five games on the road. St. Louis is 1-0-1 as the guest this season.

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