The Nashville Predators officially opened their season last Saturday against Columbus.
Realistically, though, they started to play two nights later against the St. Louis Blues.
“I think [Monday’s] game was a man’s game, compared to Columbus, [which] I thought was a shinny game,” coach Barry Trotz said. “[Monday] was a man’s game you’ve got to put your big boy pants on and I thought we handled it pretty well.”
The Predators lost to the Blues 4-3 in a shootout but built on that performance and defeated Minnesota the next night. That gave them at least one point in each of their first three games and four total.
Now they get another crack at St. Louis, which had the Western Conference’s best record last season and entered this lockout-shortened campaign with a clear identity and sense of purpose. The teams play for the second time in four days — and four games — when they meet in St. Louis (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).
The division rivalry figures to serve as an early barometer for both franchises. They’ll play again in the final contest of Nashville’s current seven-game road trip (Feb. 5), which means they will exhaust three of their five matchups in the first nine games for each.
“I think there are a couple teams that stand out, especially in the West,” Trotz said. “I think they’re coming out of the gates and are closer to their A-game — I don’t think anybody has their A-game. St. Louis is one.
“… If we were at half our game [Saturday] night [then we were] 75 or 80 percent of our game [Monday].”
Whatever the actual percentages, the Predators (1-0-2) have not been bad.
Through their first three games they have trailed for a total of just 12:38 and the bulk of that (10:29) was Tuesday at Minnesota. In that one, Nashville overcame an early 1-0 deficit and won 3-1.
The Blues had the lead for 2:09 of the first period but played from behind or even the rest of the way. Neither side led by more than a goal and the shootout was the fourth in the last six meetings between them.
“It was a battle all game,” center Mike Fisher said. “It was back and forth, and I thought we definitely played better than [against Columbus]. The main parts of our game were better. … I felt we did better against a better team.”
Nashville has won exactly half of its 82 all-time games against the Blues, including four of six last season and six of nine in St. Louis over the last three campaigns.
Each team comes into this one with four points and part of an early logjam near the top of the Western Conference standings.
“St. Louis is a really good team,” captain Shea Weber said. “If we keep playing like we did [Tuesday] night and battling like we did [Tuesday] night, we will be all right.”