RED WINGS (7-6-2) AT PREDATORS (7-4-5)
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (Dish: 448/HD: 9518; 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. DETROIT
Tonight marks the first of four 2012-13 regular-season meetings between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings, and the first time the teams have seen each other since Nashville’s five-game Western Conference Quarterfinals victory last spring. After falling in six games each of the first two times the Predators faced the Wings – in 2004 and 2008 – Nashville beat “big brother” in 2012 behind three consecutive wins from games No. 3-5. The Predators opened the series with a 3-2 win on home ice in Game One, before dropping Game Two by the same score. In Detroit, the Preds claimed 3-2 and 3-1 decisions before wrapping up the series with a 2-1 win on Bridgestone Arena ice on April 20. The Preds won the series despite being outshot 160-116, including a 60-36 gap in the third period. Among returning players, David Legwand (2g-2a) and Gabriel Bourque (3g-1a) led the team in scoring with four points apiece. Bourque set franchise records for points and plus-minus rating (+5) by a rookie in a playoff series, and by scoring two goals, including the game winner, in his NHL playoff debut – Game One of the WCQ vs. Detroit – he became just the third player in the last 14 playoff years to attain the feat.
Shifting gears to the regular season, the teams split six games – all settled in regulation – during the 2011-12 campaign, with Nashville claiming the last two – a 3-2 decision on March 10 and a 4-1 victory on March 30 in a game that saw Barry Trotz become the fifth coach to win 500 games with a single franchise and David Poile the first GM in NHL history to record 500 wins with two separate teams. Nashville also won on Dec. 15, 2011 as Shea Weber scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the final 4:30 of regulation as the Predators rallied from two goals down to win 4-3 at Bridgestone Arena, one of seven two- or three-goal comebacks the Preds had in 2011-12. On home ice, the Predators have garnered points in nine of their last 10 games against the Wings dating back to the start of the 2008-09 season, posting a 6-1-3 record.
Three of Nashville’s seven defensemen made their NHL debuts against Detroit – Shea Weber on Jan. 6, 2006, Roman Josi on Nov. 26, 2011 and Ryan Ellis on Dec. 26, 2011… David Legwand recorded a team-high five points (1g-4a) in six games against the Red Wings in 2011-12, while Weber led the team with three goals in five games. In 63 career games against his hometown team, Legwand has 40 points (15g-25a)… For his career, Pekka Rinne is 11-5-3 with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. He also has three shutouts against Detroit, one of just three teams he has more than two whitewashes against (Phoenix, 4 and Minnesota, 3)… Jonathon Blum has seven career goals, with two of them coming in four games against the Wings... Sergei Kostitsyn has recorded nine points (4g-5a) in 13 regular-season games against Detroit, and scored the game-winning goal in Game Three of the 2012 WCQ at Joe Louis Arena.
OFFENSE HEATS UP
Despite the loss on Monday, the Predators tallied five goals on the day – their second-highest goals output of the season after posting six goals against the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 5. Eight Predators found the scoresheet on Monday, including five multiple point games.
For the first time in his career, Colin Wilson has points (2g-3a) in four straight games after posting his third multi-point effort (1g-1a) of the season on Monday against Colorado. The Greenwich, Conn., native has been an offensive catalyst for Nashville over the last nine games, having been in on 11 of the last 22 Predator goals, posting 11 points (4g-7a) during that span. He leads the team in goals (5) and points (5g-7a).
Shea Weber pulled the Preds within one late in the third period after notching an assist on Mike Fisher’s second period goal – it was his first multiple point outing of the year. The Preds captain has posted five points (2g-3a) in his last seven games, including points in three straight (2g-2a). Weber has tallied goals in back-to-back games after recording the 100th goal of his career on Saturday night. That goal made Weber the first Preds defenseman and fifth Predator all-time to break the 100-goal plateau. The Sicamous, B.C., native now ranks fourth on Nashville’s all-time goals and points list (101g-167a-268pts).
Sergei Kostitsyn opened the scoring for Nashville with a first-period power-play goal and added an assist on Mike Fisher’s second period marker. The goal was his first in eight games and gives him points in back-to-back games (1g-2a). Fisher pocketed his second multi-point game of the season with a goal and an assist in Denver. Fisher has three points (1g-2a) in his last three games. Jon Blum also notched a two-point effort (1g-1a), including his first goal of the season and his first since Dec. 26, 2011 against Detroit. It was the second multiple point game this season and the second of his career. The 6-1, 186 pound blueliner has points in back-to-back games for the Preds (1g-2a).
RINNE MAKING A PUSH FOR EARLY HART CONSIDERATION
Pekka Rinne – who replaced Chris Mason late in the second period on Monday, turning away all 10 shots he faced – continues to be stellar in net for the Preds. In his last eight starts, Rinne has posted a 6-1-1 record with a 0.97 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage. The eight-game stretch that dates back to Jan. 31 includes three shutouts in his last five starts – a 32-save effort in a 3-0 win on Feb. 7 vs. Los Angeles, a 25-save whitewash in a 1-0 overtime win last Tuesday vs. San Jose, and a 19-save performance in a 3-0 win on Feb. 14 against Phoenix. Rinne’s three shutouts this season lead the League, and his total of 28 since the start of the 2008-09 season is also tops among netminders. Overall, Rinne ranks first in goals-against average (1.58) and second in save percentage (.938) among starting goaltenders, in addition to being tied for 11th in the NHL in wins (6) and second in minutes played (835:48).
HORNQVIST MAKES AN IMPACT
Patric Hornqvist posted an assist in his return to action on Monday after missing the last 10 games with a lower-body injury. His assist accompanied a game-high 12 shots on goal, including a franchise record eight shots in the final period. Hornqvist’s 12 shots were the most by any NHL player this season and tie him for the second-most in franchise history. He already holds the franchise record for shots in a game with 14 on Dec. 28, 2010 against Dallas. Over the last three seasons, the Sollentuna, Sweden native has held or tied for the team lead in shots on goal.
LAST TIME OUT: Nashville 5, Colorado 6 at Pepsi Center
Nashville allowed six goals in a game for the first time since March 20, 2012 vs. Edmonton (6-3 L)… Martin Erat recorded an assist on Colin Wilson’s second period goal. That helper gives Erat three points (3a) in his last three games… Craig Smith tallied his first point in five games with an assist on Sergei Kostitsyn’s power-play goal… Kostitsyn finished a game-high +3 rating… Jon Blum led the team with four blocked shots. Nashville ranks third in the League with 254 blocks on the year… Colorado and Nashville combined for three goals in 29 seconds in the second period (NSH-C. Wilson at 13:17, COL-Paul Stastny at 13:33, COL-Jamie McGinn at 13:47), setting a new road record for the Preds… The seven goals in the second period matched a franchise high for the Nashville in a period (previously hit five times, last on Mar. 11, 2010 vs. San Jose)… Nashville put a season-high 38 shots on goal – its highest total since firing 44 shots on goal against Edmonton on March 20, 2012. The Preds put at least 30 shots on goal for a second consecutive game, and for the third time this season.
The Predators close out their third of nine sets of back-to-backs in 2012-13 tonight, after they were defeated by the Avalanche yesterday in Denver. Six times the Preds will play one game at home and one on the road (or vice versa), 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.
In the Preds’ first set of back-to-backs this season on Jan. 21-22, they dropped a 4-3 shootout decision on home ice to the St. Louis Blues before downing the Wild, 3-1, the following evening. In their second set Feb. 9-10, they fell at Minnesota in overtime, 2-1, then returned home and dropped a 3-0 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks.
SUCCESS AGAINST THE CENTRAL
Though Nashville has started the 2012-13 season with a 1-1-2 record against divisional opponents, there will be plenty of opportunities to improve on that mark as 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.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
Nashville has been one of the League’s best teams on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, compiling 184 home victories, fourth most in the NHL and just one shy of Vancouver for third place. The Predators are 3-1-3 at Bridgestone Arena in 2012-13 while being tied for 25th in home games played. Nashville is the only team in the NHL to post at least 23 home victories in seven consecutive seasons.
The Preds have sold out a franchise-record 20 games dating back to March 6, 2012 vs. L.A. Last season, the Predators sold out a franchise record 25 games and averaged 16,690 fans, the highest average attendance in a single season. The team sold out all five 2012 playoff games, and the first seven games of 2012-13 to bring the streak to 20.
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