NEW SEASON, NEW FACES
Thursday night, the Nashville Predators will have eight players in their lineup that were not on their opening night roster a season ago. Nashville’s roster overhaul began when it drafted Seth Jones with the fourth overall pick in June’s Entry Draft, and continued on July 5, when it signed more players in a single day than any other free agency period in franchise history.
Jones was ranked the top-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting after finishing the 2012-13 season with 14 goals and 42 assists for 56 points to go with a +46 rating in 61 games as Portland posted its best regular-season record in franchise history. That point total led all WHL rookie blueliners, as the Arlington, Texas native won the Jim Piggott Trophy as the WHL’s Rookie of the Year.
The Predators began the free agency by signing of forward Viktor Stalberg, who is currently on Injured Reserve, to a four-year contract. Stalberg posted 23 points (9g-14a) in 47 regular-season games and three assists in 19 playoff games for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in 2012-13, his fourth NHL season.
Veteran center Matt Cullen was next, as he signed a two-year deal with the Preds. Cullen posted 27 points (7g-20a) in 42 games with Minnesota in 2012-13, in addition to ranking among the League leaders in face-off efficiency (53.2 percent). The Virginia, Minn., native is the Predators most veteran skater, having played in 1,073 regular season games since 1997-98, amassing 562 points (202g-360a). The 6-1, 194-pound center is also a Stanley Cup champion, having posted 18 points (4g-14a) in 25 games during Carolina's run to the title in 2006.
Nashville also added grit and character to its lineup with Eric Nystrom and Matt Hendricks. Nystrom, who signed a four-year deal, has spent the last two seasons with the Dallas Stars, posting 11 points (7g-4a), 61 penalty minutes and ranked among the League leaders in hits (122) while playing in all 48 games in 2012-13. Hendricks signed a four-year contract after amassing eight points (5g-3a) in 48 games for the Capitals in 2012-13, while leading the team in penalty minutes (73), and ranking third on the team in both face-off efficiency (56.8 percent) and hits (93).
Finally, the Predators solidified the backup goaltender position by signing of Carter Hutton to a one-year deal. The Thunder Bay, Ont., native appeared in one game for the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and 51 games for the AHL's Rockford IceHogs in 2012-13, posting a 26-22-1 record, a 2.72 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.
In addition to the fresh faces on the roster, the Predators also added Phil Housley to their coaching staff. Housley , who coached the United States to a gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships, and ranks fourth all-time among NHL defensemen in points (338g-894a-1,232pts). The South St. Paul, Minn., native posted the most points by an American-born defenseman in NHL history, and played the sixth-most games among all League blueliners (1,495). A first-round pick (sixth overall) by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, Housley was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
WEBER STRONG ON THE BACK END
Shea Weber finished the 2012-13 season with a four-game point streak (1g-4a), as he led the team in points (9g-19a-28pts) for the first time in his career. Weber and Phoenix’s Keith Yandle were the only defensemen to lead their team in points during the shortened 2012-13 campaign.
• Weber finished the season tied for fifth in goals, tied for ninth in points, and 14th in power-play goals (3) and power-play points (3g-9a-12pts) among blueliners.
• Nashville captain logged more than 25 minutes on 33 occasions, and led the team in ice time in 37 of 48 games.
• The two-time Norris Trophy runner-up ranked fourth in the League in total ice time (1,244:14), and sixth in average ice time (25:55).
• He led the team and ranked fourth among defensemen in shots (124).
• Weber ranked 13th at the position in hits (112) and 27th blocked shots (90) – he finished as one of two blueliners (Dion Phaneuf) to rank among the Top 30 in points, hits and blocked shots while averaging more than 25:00 per game.
• Weber now ranks third on the franchise’s all-time goals list (108), while ranking fourth in points (291) and fifth in assists (183). He ranks first all-time in power-play goals (49), while ranking second in plus/minus (+42) and overtime markers (5).
• He became the sixth player in franchise history to appear in 500 games on Feb. 25 vs. Dallas.
RINNE REMAINS STRONG
In 2012-13, goaltender Pekka Rinne was once again a workhorse for Nashville as he tied for second in the League in appearances (43), tied for fourth in starts (42) and ranked sixth in minutes played (2,443:46).
• The 6-5, 204-pound Finn started 25 consecutive games from Feb. 19-April 9, the second longest streak of its kind in franchise history. He made 30 straight appearances from Feb. 10-April 9, also the second longest in franchise history.
• Rinne tied for the League lead in shutouts (5) in 2012-13, including a shutout streak of 155:06 from Feb. 10-16, a personal best and the second longest in franchise history. Since 2008-09, he leads all netminders in the category with 30.
• He gave up two goals or fewer in 24 of his 42 appearances a season ago.
• Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Rinne ranks sixth in wins (152), fifth in save percentage (.919), tied for seventh in goals-against average (2.36).
THE PREDS IN SEASON OPENERS
The Nashville Predators open their 15th season of play at St. Louis for the second time in franchise history. Nashville dropped a 5-2 decision at the Scottrade Center to start the 2008-09 campaign. The Preds are 7-6-1 all-time in season openers, including a 2-0-2 record in their last four. They defeated Dallas (2009), Anaheim (2010) and Columbus (2011) before dropping a shootout decision to the Blue Jackets in 2013.
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. ST. LOUIS
In the most recent meeting at the Scottrade Center on Feb. 5, 2013, the Predators tied a 2012-13 season high in goals as they routed the Blues by a 6-1 margin. Colin Wilson’s career-high three helpers led the offensive charge for Nashville, with Ryan Ellis (1g-1a) and Paul Gaustad (2a) also recording multi-point games. In all, 11 Predators reached the scoresheet.
Patric Hornqvist has 13 points (5g-8a) in 20 career games against St. Louis, including three (1g-2a) in three games last season… David Legwand has played 70 career games against the Blues – more than any Predator player against any opponent all-time – posting 33 points (11g-22a)… During his career, Pekka Rinne has posted a 13-8-4 record with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage against the Blues… Carter Hutton made his NHL debut in Chicago’s 2012-13 season finale against St. Louis on April 27, 2013.
23 players (including Viktor Stalberg, who is currently on injured reserve)
Average Age: 27 years, 1 month
Average Height: 6-1 1/4
Average Weight: 204 pounds
British Columbia: 2
United States: 8
Connecticut, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin: 1
Switzerland and Finland: 1
Third Round: 1 (Rich Clune)
Fifth Round: 1 (Gabriel Bourque)
Sixth Round: 1 (Viktor Stalberg)
Seventh Round 1 (Patric Hornqvist)
Eighth Round: 1 (Pekka Rinne)
CCHA: 1 (Eric Nystrom)
Switzerland: 1 (Roman Josi)
Finland: 1 (Pekka Rinne)
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League: 1 (Gabriel Bourque)
|Back to top ↑|