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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

    NHL News: Predators in search of offensive spark vs. Blues

    The Nashville Predators will continue their push to make the playoffs on Saturday afternoon when they host the surging St. Louis Blues.

    The Predators (37-29-8, 82 points) entered play on Friday residing three points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Blues (35-34-6, 76 points), in turn, are nine points out with seven games remaining on their schedule.

    Nashville has dropped three of its past four games following a 2-0 setback at Pittsburgh on Thursday, marking the ninth time in its past 10 games that it has been held to two goals or fewer.

    Juuse Saros made 43 saves in the loss to the Penguins.

    “It’s a playoff mindset now,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “You have to move on to the next one. You have to take some lessons from each game, but you certainly have to be able to turn around quick.”

    The Predators’ offensive struggles can be traced to injuries to several of their top players.

    Captain Roman Josi, who has team-high totals in assists (41) and points (59), hasn’t played since sustaining an upper-body injury against the Jets on March 18. Josi is a game-time decision against the Blues.

    Winger Filip Forsberg, whose 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists) are third on the team despite playing in just 50 games, has been on injured reserve with an upper-body ailment since Feb. 28.

    Center Ryan Johansen (12 goals, 16 assists) underwent season-ending leg surgery in February. Center Matt Duchene, who is second on the team with 56 points and leads the team with 22 goals, hasn’t played since injuring his hand against Toronto on March 26.

    While the Predators are fading, the Blues are hitting a high note.

    St. Louis is coming off a 5-3 win over the host Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday for its sixth victory in the past eight games (6-1-1), during which they’ve scored 37 goals.

    “We’re scoring lots of goals. I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve got going for us right now,” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. “We’re scoring goals, and we’ve got a lot of guys playing pretty good offense right now. That’s the bottom line.”

    Brandon Saad collected a goal and an assist and Jakub Vrana, Logan Brown, Alexey Toropchenko and Jordan Kyrou also scored against the Blackhawks. Jordan Binnington made 30 saves for St. Louis.

    Kyrou has scored a team-high 34 goals to go along with 35 assists for a club-best 69 points. He has three more points than Pavel Buchnevich (25 goals, 41 assists), who missed Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury.

    Robert Thomas has a team-high 46 assists to go along with 17 goals this season, but he missed Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury. Thomas and Kyrou are game-time decisions against Nashville.

    This will be the Central Division rivals’ fourth — and final — meeting of the regular season.

    Nashville cruised to a 6-2 win at home on Oct. 27 before St. Louis knocked off the Predators in the next two games on home ice. The Blues posted a 1-0 victory in overtime on Dec. 12 and 5-2 triumph on Jan. 19.

    –Field Level Media


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