Matchups with Blues have helped define Predators season thus far

Monday, February 4, 2013 at 10:47pm

Shootouts and shutouts.

That about sums up the Nashville Predators’ season to this point.

They have struggled to score goals in general and are one of three NHL teams that have been held scoreless twice already. Also, more often than not, their games have extended beyond regulation and beyond the four-on-four overtime period to a shootout.

The St. Louis Blues have contributed to both aspects of Nashville’s performance.

Perhaps, therefore, Tuesday’s game at St. Louis (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) will provide an indication of what is next for the Predators, who have won two straight and have maintained contact with the top eight teams in the Western Conference.

St. Louis actually is the only opponent Nashville faced more than once in its first eight games.

The teams met Jan. 21 at Bridgestone Arena, which was the last time the Predators played at home. The Blues won that one 4-3 in a shootout.

They played again eight days later at St. Louis and Nashville lost 3-0, the first of two shutout defeats in five days and the start of a goal drought that has yet to subside. The Predators have scored just four times in the last five games, including once each in victories at Los Angeles last Thursday and San Jose on Saturday.

Their 14 goals scored are the fewest in the NHL and their 1.50 goals per game average is the lowest. Martin Erat, David Legwand and Brandon Yip share the team lead with two goals apiece. Following Monday’s contests, 97 players around the league had more.

The first meeting with the Blues was the second of a league-high five Nashville games that have extended to the tiebreaker thus far.

The franchise record for shootouts in a season is 12 – and that was in an 82-game season (2009-10). At the current pace of more than one ever other game the Predators would finish with 30 shootouts in the current 48-game season.

The other common aspect of Nashville’s season thus far has been the number of road games. Three-quarters of the contests have taken place outside of Middle Tennessee and Tuesday’s will conclude a seven-game road trip, which matches the longest in team history.

They have gone 3-2-1 on the trip but have been outscored 12-7.

Nashville and St. Louis will play just once more this season. That will be April 9 at Bridgestone Arena.