TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. ST. LOUIS
The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues face-off for the first of two games against each other this week tonight, with the second game to be played Thursday at Scottrade Center. While the Preds play Chicago and Columbus five times in 2012-13, they only meet St. Louis and Detroit four times; the other two Blues-Predators games come Feb. 5 and April 9.
A season ago, Nashville claimed the season series with the 2011-12 Central Division Champion Blues, posting a 4-1-1 record, including a 2-0-1 mark at Bridgestone Arena. Three of the six games went to a shootout, a common theme in series – the teams have needed post-overtime penalty shots to determine a winner 12 times, with Nashville posting an 8-4 record. The highlight of the 2011-12 season series came in Nashville’s second game of the campaign on Oct. 8, 2011, when David Legwand tied a career high with four points (2g-2a) and Craig Smith pitched in three (1g-2a) in his second career game in a 4-2 win at Scottrade Center.
Legwand led all Preds in points vs. St. Louis a season ago, posting five (2g-3a) in six outings. He’s played 66 career games against the Blues – more than any Predator player against any opponent all-time – posting 33 points (11g-22a)… Martin Erat produced at a point-per-game pace in 2011-12, with four points (2g-2a) in four games… For their careers, Pekka Rinne (12-6-3 record) and Chris Mason (13-4-2 record) have combined to post a 25-10-5 record against St. Louis, with Rinne putting up a 1.90 goals-against average and a .934 goals-against average while Mason possesses a 2.05 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. Mason ended his second stint with the Predators when he was traded to the Blues on June 20, 2008. In 118 games with St. Louis from 2008-10, the Red Deer, Alta., native posted a 57-43-15 record with eight shutouts, a 2.47 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.
The Nashville Predators have a 3-4-0 record all-time on Martin Luther King Day. They topped the New York Islanders in an MLK Day matinee last season, 3-1.
Martin Erat scored the Predators first goal of the 2012-13 season just 39 seconds into Saturday’s game against Columbus, tying the record for fastest goal to start a season originally set by J-P Dumont in the 2006-07 season opener against Chicago. Nashville went on to win that game – played on Oct. 5, 2006, by a score of 8-6 to set a record for most combined goals in a game (14) in franchise history. In 2011-12, Nashville scored in the opening minute of play twice, with Patric Hornqvist scoring both of the goals – Oct. 29 vs. Anaheim (0:14) and Oct. 31 at Chicago (0:26).
The Predators and Blue Jackets went to a shootout on Saturday night, the ninth time Nashville and Columbus have needed the shootout to determine a winner – Nashville is 6-3 in those games. The Predators have gone to the shootout with tonight’s opponent, St. Louis, more than any other team – a total of 12 times (8-4 record).
Tonight marks the first of nine sets of back-to-backs the Predators will play in 2012-13. Six times the Preds will play one game at home and one on the road, twice they’ll hit Bridgestone Arena ice on back-to-back days, and on one occasion will play two road games in two nights. A season ago, Nashville was 8-3-0 on the front-end of back-to-backs, and 5-6-0 on the back end.
LAST TIME OUT: Columbus 2 at Nashville 3 in a shootout
Nashville garnered a point against Columbus on home ice for the 21st consecutive game dating back to Nov. 18, 2006. The Predators are 19-0-2 against the Blue Jackets in that span… The Predators opened the season with the Blue Jackets for the second consecutive season. They also played St. Louis in their second game of 2011-12… The power play – which was tops in the NHL a season ago – finished one-for-one courtesy of Ryan Ellis’ fourth career goal. Three of those four have been man-advantage markers… Martin Erat scored his 160th career goal… Sergei Kostitsyn assisted on both markers, his 20th multi-point performance as a Predator… Pekka Rinne recorded an assist on Erat’s goal. A season ago, he led all NHL netminders in points with five (5a)… Roman Josi paced all skaters in ice time (27:30), while partner Shea Weber had a game-high six of Nashville’s 34 shots… Nashville outshot Columbus 34-28 with eight players recording three or more shots. In 2011-12, the Preds averaged 27.6 shots per game, and outshot the opponent in 24-of-82 contests, posting a 15-5-4 record… Scott Hannan made his Predators debut.
A FRANCHISE RECORD ROAD TRIP
After tonight’s game, the Predators will hit the road for seven consecutive games; it marks the second time in franchise history the team will set out on a seven-game trip, with the first coming Oct. 30-Nov. 12, 2002. The trip will last 15 days, and see the team go to Minnesota, St. Louis, Anaheim, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose, the back to St. Louis to wrap things up on Feb. 5. Nashville’s next game in the Music City after tonight will be Feb. 7 against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
SUCCESS AGAINST THE CENTRAL
This season’s 48-game schedule configuration calls for the Predators to play two Central Division opponents five times (Columbus and Chicago), two Central Division opponents four times (Detroit and St. Louis), and all other Western Conference teams three times each. A season ago, the Preds had the second-best intra-conference record, going 40-19-5 against the West versus 8-7-3 against the Eastern Conference. More importantly, Nashville posted a 16-5-3 (.729) against the Central Division, which along with the Atlantic, became the first two divisions to have four teams reach the 100-point plateau since the NHL went to its current format for the 1993-94 season. That was good for the third-best intra-divisional winning percentage behind Boston (19-4-1, .813) and Vancouver (18-5-1, .771), each of whom were the lone 100-point teams in the Northeast and Northwest Divisions, respectively.
PREPARED TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
The team that hits the ice for the Nashville Predators on Jan. 19 will look strikingly similar to the one that played in May 2012 when we last saw them. The team will only be implementing two players that weren’t in the organization in 2011-12 – Chris Mason, who is now in his third stint with the club after spending time with Nashville and Milwaukee from 1998-2002 and 2003-08, and Scott Hannan, a 13-year NHL veteran defenseman who has played more games than any NHL blueliner over the last 10 seasons and knows the League well.
A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY
The Predators are the only team in the Western Conference to advance to the second round in each of the past two seasons.
• The team is one of just five to reach the postseason in seven of the last eight seasons and one of three to post 40-plus wins in seven consecutive seasons.
• The Preds enter this season with the third-most home victories since the start of the 2005-06 campaign (181), and the fifth-most overall (320).
OLDER AND WISER
The past two seasons, the Predators have thrived despite being one of the League’s youngest teams. They ended the 2010-11 season as the youngest team in the National Hockey League, and began the 2011-12 season as the third-youngest team at 26 years, 5 months. This season, the average age will be more than two years higher at 28 years, 7 months. The addition of veterans Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad at last season’s trade deadline have them fully incorporated into the team’s culture and system, while putting Nashville in the middle of the pack in terms of average age.
BUILDING ON LAST SEASON’S MOMENTUM
Nashville finished the 2011-12 regular season ranked in the Top 10 of each of the following categories: points, goals for, goals against, power play and penalty kill. The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks were the only other team to do so.
The Preds posted the League’s fifth-highest point total (104) and tied with Vancouver and Philadelphia for third in regulation/overtime victories (43).
Nashville ranked eighth in goals per game (2.83) and tied for eighth in goals against average (2.50) in 2011-12. Only Boston, Detroit and Vancouver ranked among the League’s Top 10 in both goals for and goals against.
The Predators were one of just three teams to rank in the League’s Top 10 in both power-play percentage (first) and penalty kill percentage (10th) during the 2011-12 campaign. Vancouver and Pittsburgh were the only other teams to rank in the Top 10 in both categories. Prior to 2011-12, Nashville had never ranked higher than 10th in power-play efficiency, while the PK finished in the Top 10 for the eighth time in the last 12 seasons. Nashville’s special teams finished a +15 in 2011-12, compared to +3 the season prior.
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