PREDATORS (15-21-8) AT BLACKHAWKS (33-5-4)
TV: Fox SportSouth (Dish: 452/HD: 9574; Direct TV: 650/HD: 650-1) ; Comcast Nashville 26/1676; Comcast Chattanooga/Cleveland/Knoxville 58/402/1676; Comcast Memphis 830; Charter Nashville 37; AT&T Nashville 729/1729)
Radio: Preds Radio Network Flagship - 102.5-FM The Game Radio Network; Network Affiliates
The Predators saw yet another young Swede make his season debut on Monday, as 2009 fourth-round pick Mattias Ekholm became the fifth member of the Preds’ 2009 draft class to play for the club this season (Gabriel Bourque, Ryan Ellis, Taylor Beck and Craig Smith are the others). The 6-4, 202-pound native of Borlange, Sweden played 16:05, predominately on a pairing with Jonathon Blum.
While Ekholm and Ellis have spent time on the Nashville blue line this season, the majority of Nashville’s youth has come at forward with injuries to Patric Hornqvist, Paul Gaustad, Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson, Brandon Yip and Gabriel Bourque. On Monday, Nashville fielded a forward corps whose average age was 24.9 years old. It included five players with 15 or fewer NHL games, and four more with less than 160 games experience. Nashville’s two most veteran forwards – Legwand (890gp) and Sergei Kostitsyn (349gp) have combined for 1,239 career contests, the team’s other 10 players up front have combined for 728 NHL games. With veterans sidelined due to injury, a combined 2,072 games of experience at forward are out of the lineup.
CLUNE STIRS THINGS UP
Rich Clune’s fighting major at 5:23 of the first period on Monday was his 13th major of the season, tied with Tampa Bay’s B.J. Crombeen for the League lead. It also brings his season total to 101 penalty minutes, making him the first Predator to hit triple digits in penalty minutes since Jordin Tootoo in the 2008-09 season. Clune also added five more hits to his season total against Vancouver, moving him into the Top 10 with 139. Of those players with more hits, only Steve Ott (Buffalo) has more goals than Clune’s four.
WEBER STRONG ON THE BACK END
Shea Weber is not only tied with David Legwand for the team lead in points (8g-15a-23pts), but is tied for fourth among NHL defensemen in goals, and is tied for 16th at the position in points. Weber is currently tied with Jason Arnott (107) for third on the franchise’s all-time goals list, while already ranking fourth in points (286) and fifth in assists (179). The Sicamous, B.C., native also has a franchise-best +43 rating and 49 power-play goals, while ranking second in overtime markers (5).
• Weber has 22 points (8g-14a) in his last 31 games.
• The back-to-back Norris Trophy runner-up led the team in ice time for the 36th time this season on Monday. He ranks second in the League in total ice time (1,144:05) and ranks sixth in average ice time (26:00).
• Weber leads the team and is third among defensemen in shots (113).
• Weber ranks among the Top 25 at the position in both hits (98) and blocked shots (85) – he’s the only blueliner to rank among the Top 25 in points, hits and blocked shots while averaging more than 25:00 per game.
LAST TIME OUT: VANCOUVER 5 at NASHVILLE 2
• The Predators put 38 shots on goal, just one shy of their season high set on April 4 against Columbus. That included a season-high 19 shots in the second period, the team’s highest single-period total since March 20, 2012 against Edmonton (19 in the third period).
• Nashville outshot Vancouver 38-24. All but four Nashville skaters put a shot on goal, led by David Legwand’s six. That tied his total against Anaheim on Feb. 16 for the most this season. Filip Forsberg, Craig Smith, Matt Halischuk, and Daniel Bang each had four shots.
• Nashville gave up fewer than 30 shots for the 33rd time this season. The team is sixth in fewest shots allowed per game (27.3).
• The Predators posted 27 penalty minutes, their second-highest total of the season, and were shorthanded four times for the first time in 11 games. Nashville ranks fifth in the NHL in fewest times shorthanded (130) and sixth in fewest penalty minutes (10.2).
• Nick Spaling scored his eighth goal of the season, equaling his 74-game total from the 2010-11 campaign, and just two shy of his 77-game total a season ago. The Predators are 19-4-1 when Spaling scores a goal and 33-9-3 when he records a point during his career.
• Daniel Bang assisted on Spaling’s goal, giving him two points in four games.
• Bobby Butler’s goal at the 11:50 mark of the second period gave him two in three games. He now has six points (2g-4a) in 15 games since being claimed on waivers on March 4 from New Jersey.
• Rookie defenseman Victor Bartley picked up his second point in three games with the assist on Butler’s goal.
• Pekka Rinne has made a League-high 41 appearances this season, and is second to fellow Finnish netminder Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks in minutes (2,323:15) and is tied for the NHL lead in shutouts (5). Rinne has kept the opposition to two goals or under in seven of his last nine games. He has a 2.38 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage during the month of April despite seeing the team go 1-7-1.
• Filip Forsberg became the third-youngest player (18 years, 244 days) to don a Predators uniform (Scott Hartnell: 18 years, 171 days; David Legwand: 18 years, 243 days) when he made his NHL debut on Sunday against Detroit. The Östervåla, Sweden native was the 11th overall pick in last summer’s Entry Draft, and was recently ranked 10th in the world among NHL-affiliated prospects not currently in the League by The Hockey News.
• Nashville’s 20-man unit on Monday consisted of seven Americans, seven Canadians, three Swedes, and one player each from Finland, Belarus and Switzerland.
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES vs. CHICAGO
The Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks wrap up their five-game 2012-13 season series on Friday at the United Center with their fourth meeting in the last three weeks. Nashville has yet to beat Chicago this season, coming closest on April 1. After falling behind by two goals, the Predators rallied in the final frame on goals by David Legwand and Taylor Beck to force overtime and earn a point, eventually falling in a shootout, 3-2. Nashville’s last win in the series came March 25, 2012 by a 6-1 score in the Windy City. The Predators have killed all seven Chicago power plays through four games in 2012-13.
Legwand leads the team in points against Chicago this season (2g-1a) and has 11 points (3g-8a) in his last 10 games against the Hawks. He has 58 career points (21g-37a) against Chicago – more points, goals and assists than any other player against any team in franchise history… Despite posting an 0-3-1 record against the Blackhawks in 2012-13, Pekka Rinne has a 2.47 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS vs. CHICAGO
Matt Halischuk – Career-high 10 penalty minutes on Oct. 31, 2011 at Chicago and first game as a Predator on Jan. 16, 2011
Kevin Klein – First NHL goal on Jan. 26, 2007 at Chicago (Nikolai Khabibulin)
David Legwand – First of two career hat tricks on Jan. 20, 2007 vs. Chicago
Pekka Rinne – First NHL game and first NHL win on Dec. 15, 2005 vs. Chicago
Shea Weber – Most recent of nine career two-goal games on March 31, 2012 vs. Chicago
Brandon Yip – First game as a Predator on Jan. 21, 2012 vs. Chicago
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