The St. Louis Blues host the Nashville Predators tonight after a wild 6-5 loss Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The club had their 13-game home point streak snapped with a record of 12-0-1 in that timeframe. Tonight, the team looks to continue its 8-4-1 groove against Central Division opponents as they will be welcoming veteran reinforcements back into the lineup. After Sunday’s practice, head coach Craig Berube confirmed that defenseman Colton Parayko, along with forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn have all been cleared of COVID protocols and will return against the Predators. The Blues are 0-0-1 against the Predators this season, having lost their first game in overtime by a score of 4-3.
Here’s a look at the storylines and projections ahead of tonight’s matchup:
2 Storylines: Blues (22-11-5)
Blues to Retire Pronger’s No. 44
The Blues are adding another jersey to the rafters tonight as 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and long-time fan favorite Chris Pronger’s No. 44 will be forever immortalized. The defenseman will join the likes of Al MacInnis, Bob and Barclay Plager, Brett Hull, Bernie Federko, Bob Gassoff, and Brian Sutter.
The Ontario native was selected second overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Hartford Whalers. In July 1995, he was traded to the Blues after scoring 10 goals and four points while racking up 167 penalty minutes in only 124 games over two seasons with the Whalers. In his third season with the Blues, he was named team captain. Over nine seasons, Pronger appeared in 598 games, accumulating 84 goals and 356 points.
The towering 6-foot-6 defenseman went on to play 1,167 career games in his time with Hartford and St. Louis, as well as the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, and Philadelphia Flyers. His playing career ended due to a right eye injury and continued concussion issues. He was a gold medalist with the Canadian Olympic team in 2002 and 2010 and won the Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Ducks.
Vladimir Tarasenko Rejuvenation Continues
This season, Tarasenko has found new life and is currently scoring at a point-per-game pace with 14 goals and 34 points through 34 games played. The 30-year-old Russian sniper is among a three-way tie leading the team in goals this season, and there’s no sign of him slowing down. His 11.9 shooting percentage this season is right in line with his 12.6 career shooting percentage, suggesting his shot could prove to be even more of a threat if he continues to trend upwards.
Tarasenko was subject to trade rumors this past summer after requesting a trade from the only franchise he has ever known. He returned to St. Louis even after being exposed and made available in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft and is proving that he is healthy once more. With one more season left on his contract and a hefty $7.5 million cap hit, only time will tell if his continued success could be with the franchise or help him find a new home and team to belong to.
2 Storylines: Predators (24-12-3)
Nashville Channeling Smashville Attitude
With a 9-2-1 record against Central Division opponents, the Predators are currently tied for first place in the division, and in third place per points percentage. Helping lead the charge are defenseman Roman Josi, and forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen, who have combined for 107 points this season.
The organization is looking to make a push beyond the first round of the playoffs this season for the first time since 2017-18 and back to the Stanley Cup Final since 2016-17. This season, the Central Division is looking to be a race to the finish as the Blues and Predators, along with the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche, are all fighting for playoff chances.
Duchene and Johansen Producing for Preds
Before the start of the 2021-22 season, Duchene was subject to ridicule and labeled as one of the worst contracts on the Predators roster. Having signed a seven-year contract extension worth $56 million, Duchene hoped to be a leading point producer in Nashville. Since signing the exemption, he has played in 100 games, totaling 55 points. This season, the 31-year-old has 17 goals and 34 points, good for second place on the team.
Along with Duchene, forward Ryan Johansen has found his game once more this season. On July 28, 2017, he was signed to an eight-year, $64 million contract extension and has found nothing but difficulty producing offensively ever since. Over the past two seasons, he has appeared in 116 regular-season games and tallied 21 goals and 58 points. He has turned things around this season and scored 10 goals and 30 points through 36 games. If the Predators continue to see success from these two, the team could be a threat in the playoffs.
Players to Watch
St. Louis: Ryan O’Reilly — Five points in his last five games, three goals in his last three games, including two against the Toronto Maple Leafs. O’Reilly may be heating up.
Predators: Tanner Jeannot — Through seven games this month, Jeannot has four goals and five points, all coming at even strength.
Projected Line Combinations
St. Louis Blues
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Ivan Barbashev||Ryan O’Reilly||Brayden Schenn|
|Jordan Kyrou||Robert Thomas||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Brandon Saad||Logan Brown||David Perron|
|Klim Kostin||Tyler Bozak||Oskar Sundqvist|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Niko Mikkola||Colton Parayko|
|Torey Krug||Justin Faulk|
|Marco Scandella||Robert Bortuzzo|
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Eeli Tolvanen||Mikael Granlund||Matt Duchene|
|Nick Cousins||Ryan Johansen||Luke Kunin|
|Yakov Trenin||Colton Sissons||Tanner Jeannot|
|Matt Luff||Michael McCarron||Philip Tomasino|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Roman Josi||Dante Fabbro|
|Alexandre Carrier||Matt Benning|
|Mark Borowiecki||Philippe Myers|
Blues’ Next Game: Friday, Jan. 21 at the Seattle Kraken (9 PM CST)
Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.