WILD (2-0-0) at PREDATORS (0-0-2)
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (Dish: 444/HD: 9514; Direct TV: 644/HD: 644-1 ; Comcast Nashville 1675; Comcast Chattanooga/Cleveland/Knoxville 401; Comcast Memphis 830; Charter Nashville 33/810; AT&T Nashville 724/1724)
Radio: Preds Radio Network Flagship - 102.5-FM The Game Radio Network; Network Affiliates
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES vs. MINNESOTA
Tonight is the first of three games in 2012-13 between the Nashville Predators and the Minnesota Wild – the teams will meet at Xcel Energy Center again on Feb. 9, and at Bridgestone Arena on March 9. The Predators have claimed the season series three games to one in each of the past two seasons, posting a perfect 4-0-0 mark in the Music City and a 2-2-0 record in St. Paul. All four games in 2011-12 were one-goal games, with a pair of those going to a shootout – both of which Nashville won, 2-1, on Dec. 28, 2011 and April 3, 2012. The highlight of the slate came on Jan 31, 2012, when Nashville scored four goals in the final 10:38 of regulation to down Minnesota 5-4 in the first game after the All-Star Break. It was one of two regulation wins by Nashville after trailing by three goals at some point in the game in 2011-12 – the Predators were was the only team to do it.
Martin Erat leads all active Predators in points vs. Minnesota with 26 (11g-15a) in 33 games. He scored his first career goal on Oct. 30, 2001 vs. Minnesota (goalie Dwayne Roloson)… Matt Halischuk has three points (1g-2a) in four career games vs. the Wild… Nick Spaling has six points (4g-2a) in eight career games against Minnesota, including his most recent of two career two-goal games on March 10, 2011 vs. Minnesota… Pekka Rinne is 8-3-1 with a 2.20 goals-against average and three shutouts against Minnesota.
TWO-GAME POINT STREAKS, TWO GAMES IN
Three Nashville Predators – Ryan Ellis, Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist – have reached the scoresheet in each of Nashville’s first two games this season. Most notable is Hornqvist, who tied a career high with his ninth career three-point (1g-2a) game on Monday vs. St. Louis after posting an assist on Saturday vs. Columbus. Erat followed a one-goal performance on Saturday by assisting on Nashville’s second and third goals on Monday, while Ellis picked up an assist against the Blues after scoring his fourth career goal against the Blue Jackets.
After only one power-play opportunity on Saturday night, Nashville earned six chances against the Blues, scoring twice. Paired with a one-for-one performance on Saturday against Columbus, the Predators are now three-for-seven on the season with the man advantage (43 percent).
For the second consecutive game, a shootout was required to determine a winner. The Predators and Blues have gone to the shootout a total of 13 times since it was implemented for the 2005-06 season, with Nashville holding an 8-5 edge. On Saturday, Nashville went to a shootout with Columbus for the ninth time (6-3 record), meaning nearly a third of Nashville’s 73 all-time shootout appearances have come against the two Central Division teams with “Blue” in their nickname.
LAST TIME OUT: St. Louis 4 at Nashville 3 in a shootout
In addition to Hornqvist’s three-point performance (1g-2a) and Erat’s two points (2a), Mike Fisher posted a multiple-point effort with his first goal and first assist of the season… Colin Wilson opened the scoring and played 20:02, his first game playing more than 20 minutes since Martin Luther King Day a season ago, Jan. 16 at the New York Islanders… Seven Predators had at least 20 minutes of ice time, with Shea Weber (28:54) leading all players in the game… Weber also led all Nashville skaters in shots (5) and hits (4) for the second straight game… Scott Hannan finished the night with seven blocked shots – the same total as the entire St. Louis Blues lineup… Nick Spaling was 10-of-15 in the faceoff circle… With Pekka Rinne stopping 36 shots, Nashville has not lost in regulation when he makes 35 saves or more in a game since Dec. 26, 2010. He went 14-0-2 in 2011-12, was 8-0-0 in 2010-11, and won the last three games of 2009-10 when he hit the 35-save plateau… Rich Clune made his Nashville debut after being picked up on waivers on January 15.
Tonight, the Predators will complete their first of nine sets of back-to-backs 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.
A FRANCHISE RECORD ROAD TRIP
Tonight marks the beginning of a franchise record tying seven consecutive road games; the Predators also played seven straight on the road from 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, then 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.
PREPARED TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
The team that has played the first two games of 2012-13 looks strikingly similar to the one that played in May 2012 when Nashville closed out the 2011-12 campaign. The team is only implementing three 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, 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, and Rich Clune, who the Predators picked up on waivers from Los Angeles on Jan. 15.
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 have the third-most home victories since the start of the 2005-06 campaign (181), and the fifth-most overall (320).
Nashville has had 4 awards finalists each of the last 2 seasons. David Poile has been a finalist for the GM of the Year Award each of its three years of existence, while Pekka Rinne (Vezina) and Shea Weber (Norris) are back-to-back finalists.
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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