ST. LOUIS – With two crucial Central Division games on back-to-back nights, the Blues have the luxury of turning to not only one goaltender, but two.
They will do so tonight when Carter Hutton gets the start against his former team as the Blues (16-5-1) entertain the Nashville Predators (13-6-2) at 7 p.m. (FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM).
The Blues, first in the Western Conference with 33 points, will also host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday and Jake Allen will get the cage for that one.
It'll be the two teams the Blues faced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
Hutton — who spent three seasons with the Predators from 2013-16 — is 4-0-0 on the season with a 1.71 goals-against average and .943 save percentage; he's 0-1-0 with a 2.79 GAA and .897 save percentage in three games against Nashville.
"They've got a good team, obviously knocked us out of the playoffs," Hutton said. "We're playing well, they're playing well. It should be a big divisional battle for sure."
It will be Hutton's first game since relieving Allen on Nov. 11 against the New York Islanders and first start since Nov. 9 against the Arizona Coyotes.
"Obviously it's nice to just play," Hutton said. "I'm excited to play. I try to bring as much juice as I can every night. Obviously playing a team like that and getting another start at home is great. We've got a big weekend here and a lot of big games coming up, divisional battles."
Blues coach Mike Yeo factored in the time to get Hutton a game, perhaps some extra motivation playing his former team and Allen's success against Minnesota in the playoffs last season as reasons for the split.
"For sure. This was targeted, the back-to-back nights, a team he's familiar with, a player always has some extra motivation playing against a former team," Yeo said. "We've got to factor in what's best for Jake, and I think maybe an extra day between games for Jake and then he can come back and play against Minnesota, a team that he's had strong performances against. That was our thought process here.
"Both guys have played well. We certainly, it would be a different story, we'd have to spend a lot more about it if 'Hutts' wasn't on top of his game or he hadn't played well for us, we didn't have confidence in him. That's clearly not the case."
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After being sent home from practice because of didn't feel well Thursday, Patrik Berglund was back on the ice moving closer towards a return to the lineup.
"It feels good. It's getting closer and closer every day," Berglund said. "Still, it's a process and we'll see when I'm ready to compete and play."
Berglund is involved in all facets of preparation these days, including conditioning, all on-ice related activities including contract drills.
"Mostly getting stronger in the gym, too, keep getting some strength back and all that so I really feel comfortable when I start playing," Berglund said. "I've been skating for a while now. I think strength-wise is the biggest part now.
"(Contact) has been feeling pretty good. It's hard for the guys to play you really hard in practice. That will never happen until you really are competing in the games. Protecting the puck, getting pushed on and so on, it feels pretty good. Everything is moving along good."
Berglund will be a welcomed addition to the roster, especially on the third line where the Blues can use some scoring pop.
"Maybe I've been ready for a month, but they just don't want to put me in because there's no spots," Berglund joked, regarding the team's strong start. "It's been amazing to see how good they're playing (and) competing, after a bad game how they've bounced back, too. They're really rolling and it's great to see."
Dec. 1 against the Los Angeles Kings could be the projected game for Berglund's return if things continue to progress in the right direction.
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Tonight's matchup will be the first since the Predators eliminated the Blues in the Western Conference Second Round last season in six games. But with a new season on hand, both sides have much respect for one another.
"Right now, they're the tops in the West and one of the top teams in the National Hockey League, so it's a great challenge for us coming in here," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "It should be a good game. The games last year were always competitive. For the most part, every game that was played was about the battles and winning the battles."
If it wasn't hyped up before, perhaps P.K. Subban offered fuel to the rivalry.
"Personally, I don't like playing these guys," Subban said. "I don't like them very much, but they're a really good team and you've got to respect the way they play.
"... You know what, it's going to be a physical game, it's going to be competitive, high energy. I wouldn't expect anything less. You really have two really good teams in the league going at it that are playing well. ... I definitely want to walk out of here with two points tonight, that's for sure."
The Blues will have to be mindful of Nashville's power play, which is third in the league at 25.3 percent and is 6-for-11 the past three games.
"Their special teams have been very good lately, that's going to be a big factor in the game tonight," Yeo said. "That was a big factor in the playoffs last year. Getting through the neutral zone is always going to be a challenge, whether it's their neutral zone forecheck, the rush, your rush opportunities, the rush against, they always have numbers back, they always have skating D-men that hold good gaps, so you don't generate a lot of rush opportunities.
"You've got to find a way to get pucks in on the forecheck and create in the offensive zone and even when you did get there, they get on you quickly. They swarm you pretty good, how we beat guys to the net, how we shoot, how we recover pucks and try to create off the shot, that's going to be a focal point tonight."
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Blues center Brayden Schenn is on a career-high eight-game point streak (seven goals, 12 assists); he has two four-point games during the streak, something Schenn never accomplished in the 447 NHL games prior to the streak.
Since they first played together as a line on Oct. 25, Jaden Schwartz, Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko have combined for 54 points (18 goals, 36 assists) in 13 games.
Schwartz has nine points (two goals, seven assists) during a five-game point streak.
Tarasenko has 12 points (six goals, six assists) the past eight games.
Forward Sammy Blais, recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Thursday who made the trek to St. Louis from San Jose, where the Rampage played Wednesday, on Thanksgiving, was on the ice but will not play. He could get into the lineup Saturday against the Wild.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Vladimir Sobotka-Paul Stastny-Alexander Steen
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin-Oskar Sundqvist-Magnus Paajarvi
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Chris Thorburn
Joel Edmundson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Carter Hutton will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Carl Gunnarsson, Nate Prosser and Sammy Blais. Patrik Berglund (shoulder) is close to returning; Zach Sanford (shoulder) is out indefinitely and Robby Fabbri (knee) is out for the season.
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The Predators' projected lineup:
Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala-Kyle Turris-Craig Smith
Pontus Aberg-Nick Bonino-Calle Jarnkrok
Miikka Salomaki-Colton Sissons-Austin Watson
Roman Josi-Mattias Ekholm
Alexei Emelin-P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin-Anthony Bitetto
Pekka Rinne will start in goal; Juuse Saros will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Cody McLeod and Frederick Gaudreau. Ryan Ellis (knee), Scott Hartnell (lower body) and Yannick Weber (lower body) are out.