NHL

Blues-Predators Preview

The Nashville Predators had a first-place slot in the Central Division firmly in their grasp and let it slip away.

They'll be forced to quickly move on from that disappointing loss with a visit Tuesday night from the re-energized St. Louis Blues.

Nashville (23-9-3) entered Monday's contest against Chicago with four wins in five games and quickly jumped out to a commanding three-goal lead. However, the Predators allowed three goals in the second period and the tying tally with just over one minute remaining in the third before falling to the Blackhawks 5-4 in a shootout.

A regulation win would have tied them with Chicago atop the division.

"I thought we did a good job shooting pucks and going to the net," said James Neal, who scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season. "Just a few little things, we clean that up and we can win the hockey game."

Nashville remains on an upswing despite the loss with averages of 4.4 goals and 36.4 shots over its last five games. The Predators also have yet to lose back-to-back games.

Pekka Rinne ranks near the top of the NHL with a 1.88 goals-against average and had surrendered more than three goals only three times in 30 starts prior to Monday, although he did make a season-high 38 saves in the defeat.

Rinne, however, has not played in both ends of a back-to-back since March 14-15 - coincidentally, also at Chicago and against St. Louis - and he could hand the starting job Tuesday to backup Carter Hutton, who has allowed 11 goals in his four starts.

St. Louis (22-11-3) heads to Nashville after snapping a season-worst four-game losing streak with Monday's 3-0 victory over Colorado.

"We're getting engaged," coach Ken Hitchcock told the team's official website. "Starting to look and act like a team. Starting to behave properly, good things, started showing signs the last game. We've had real pockets of it."

Martin Brodeur made 16 saves to extend his NHL record to 125 shutouts, but No. 1 goaltender Brian Elliot is set to return after he was medically cleared to play Sunday - and it may leave Brodeur as the odd man out in St. Louis. Second-year netminder Jake Allen is 11-5-2 this season with a 2.76 GAA.

Brodeur, however, was in a joking mood when asked about what may happen to him.

"I think I'm going to Nashville," he said. "I'm not sure. ... If that's my last game, that's not a bad one to leave on, but I don't feel it's going to be. I'm happy to be here and I think they are pretty happy to have me around, too."

Nashville has taken two of three matchups with St. Louis this season, including a 4-3 victory in the most recent Dec. 4. All three Blues goaltenders have started against the Predators this season, but only Allen has been able to secure a win.

Rinne started all three meetings and owns a 2.15 career GAA against the Blues.

Regardless of who's in net, St. Louis' offense will still center around Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored his 22nd goal of the season Monday to set a new career best. He has a goal in each of the last two games, giving him 16 points over the last 14 contests.

Tarasenko, who has three goals against Nashville this season, sits behind only Dallas' Tyler Seguin (25) and the New York Rangers' Rick Nash (23) for the NHL goals lead.

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