Central Division Rivals Battle For Playoff Positioning
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DETROIT
The Predators host the Detroit Red Wings for the third and final time tonight at Bridgestone Arena, the fifth of six games between the two clubs in 2009-10. Nashville will visit the Motor City to wrap up the season series next Saturday. Since winning four straight over Detroit from Feb. 28, 2009 to Nov. 23, 2009 (the first game between the clubs this season) by a combined score of 19-7, the Predators have dropped three straight to the Wings, including both the last meeting overall – a 5-2 Detroit win at Joe Louis Arena – and in Detroit’s last visit to the Music City – a 3-2 overtime decision. In that contest, Nashville rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the second-half of regulation on goals by Ryan Jones and Detroit native David Legwand
to force overtime, but Todd Bertuzzi ended the game just 24 seconds into the extra session, the quickest overtime goal against in franchise history. Nashville’s lone 2009-10 win over the Red Wings came on Nov. 23 by a 3-1 score, behind a pair of goals by Martin Erat
and a 30-save effort by Pekka Rinne
. Nashville is 15-15-(1)-2 all-time at home against Detroit, and 3-1-1 in its last five times hosting the Wings. Overall, the Predators are 5-4-1 against Detroit since the start of last season.
A theme in the Nashville-Detroit season series to this point has been Nashville’s ability to put shots on the Red Wing goal like never before. The Predators have outshot the Wings 130-121 through four games which includes an 99-75 advantage over the final 40 minutes of regulation. On the Jan. 29 game between the clubs, Nashville outshot the Wings 48-20, setting a franchise record for shots in a road game while tying the third-largest shot advantage in club history (plus-19) despite falling 4-2. In the first 10 seasons of Predators hockey, they never outshot Detroit in a season – Detroit had a 2,218-1,650 shot advantage (plus-568) from 1998-99 to 2008-09, which averages out to 35.2-26.2 over 63 games.
J.P. Dumont has points in all three games against Detroit this season (1g-2a), and 16 points (3g-13a) in 17 games against Detroit since the start of the 2007-08 campaign… Both Dan Hamhuis and Steve Sullivan
registered assists in three of the previous four meetings of these teams this season. Sullivan has 11 points (3g-8a) in nine games against Detroit since returning from a nearly two-year absence due to injury, and 20 points (6g-14a) in 20 games against Detroit as a Predator… Tonight is expected to be Legwand’s 50th career game against his hometown team. He has 32 (12g-20a) career points against the Wings… Since notching his eighth career hat trick against Detroit on Feb. 28, 2009, Jason Arnott has eight points (5g-3a) in nine games against Detroit … Joel Ward
has five goals in 12 career games against Detroit – his highest total against any team… Rinne is 4-1-1 in six career starts against Detroit, posting a 2.31 goals-against average and .931 save percentage… Predators Associate Coach Brent Peterson was Detroit’s second pick, 12th overall (first round), in the 1978 Entry Draft. He played 91 games with the Wings from 1978-82, amassing 28 points (8g-20a).
THE PREDATORS AFTER 60
The Predators won their fourth consecutive game decided in overtime/a shootout on Thursday vs. Phoenix, improving to 11-5 in extra-session contests this season. That .688 winning percentage is second-best in the NHL behind only the Coyotes’ .739 (17-6). Nashville has gone 4-2 in overtime and 7-3 in shootouts – the most shootout wins in franchise history. After their 2-for-3 performance on Thursday, shooters have gone 16-for-39 (41 percent), the seventh-best conversion rate in the NHL. On home ice, shooters are even better, with a 44 percent success rate (11-for-25, fourth in the League). At the other end of the rink, Predators goaltenders Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne
have stymied 17 of the last 22 attempts they’ve faced. The duo’s combined .732 save percentage is fifth-best in the League. While Ellis ranks fourth among netminders appearing in at least three shootouts (.800 save percentage), Rinne has done his best work on Bridgestone Arena ice, going 5-1 with a .741 save percentage.
RINNE TOPS THE LEAGUE IN WINS, SHUTOUTS SINCE OLYMPIC BREAK
Since the Olympic break, sophomore goalie Pekka Rinne
has started 11 of Nashville’s 14 games, going 9-2-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and three shutouts. His win total entered Friday’s action tied for first in the League (with Detroit’s Jimmy Howard), while his three whitewashes stood alone in first. The reigning NHL First Star of the Week, who had garnered Third Star of the Week honors the week prior, moved into sole possession of third on the franchise’s all-time wins list with his 59th victory on Thursday. Twenty-nine of those wins have come this season, tying his total from 2008-09 and leaving him just one away from the third 30-win season in Predators history (Tomas Vokoun: 36 in 2005-06, 34 in 2003-04).
HORNQVIST KEEPS ON SCORING
Second-year forward Patric Hornqvist
scored his sixth goal in the last nine games (6g-3a) against the Coyotes, leaving him just one tally shy of the fourth 30-goal season in club history (Jason Arnott: 33 in 2008-09, Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan
: 31 each in 2005-06). The Swedish Olympian’s 29 goals this season are the most by a Nashville draft pick in a Predators sweater, and a 27-goal increase from his rookie season in 2008-09, making him just the fifth player in the last nine seasons dating back to 2000-01 to experience such an increase when playing at least 20 games the season prior. Hornqvist is also tied for second in the League in game-winning goals (8), and has the fewest NHL games (102) and the lowest average ice time (15:38) among the NHL’s top 20 goal scorers. Additionally, his six-shot performance on Thursday raised his season total to a franchise-record 253 passing Shea Weber
’s 251 shots from a season ago. The total ranks 10th in the League.
TEAM QUICK HITS
The Predators are one of just three teams (with San Jose and New Jersey) to record 40 wins in the last five seasons… Tonight is the 15th of 17 games for Nashville during March – that is tied with Atlanta for the most this month… Nashville has allowed just 13 goals in the last eight games, posting a team goals-against average of 1.59 over that span. Nashville has allowed just one second-period goal in the last eight games, outscoring the opposition 5-1 in that span. It has also amassed a 9-4 advantage in the opening frame in the last eight contests… The Predators are 38-18-3 in games decided by two goals or less – the most wins in the NHL in that situation… Nashville is one of just three teams (along with WSH and S.J.) with at least 22 home wins and 21 road wins… The Predators are 23-14-2 when outshooting the opposition, fourth-best in the NHL… Nashville is an tied for the NHL lead (23-1-0) when leading after one period, but also has the League’s second-best record when trailing after one frame (8-9-2)… Overall, Nashville is averaging just 8.7 penalty minutes per game, fewest in the NHL… Nashville’s 91 points is tied for the third-highest total in franchise history (with 2007-08 and 2003-04). Its 43 wins are the third-most behind totals in 2006-07 (51) and 2005-06 (49).
PLAYER QUICK HITS
With a goal and an assist Thursday, Steve Sullivan
now has seven points (3g-4a) in the last seven games, and has points in 10 of Nashville’s 14 games since March 1 (3g-8a). Additionally, in Nashville’s 17 home games since the calendar turned to 2010, he has 16 points (4g-12a). The team is 10-0-2 when he finds the back of the net… Marcel Goc
set a career high in assists (15), and extended a career high in points (27) with his sixth multi-point performance of the season vs. Phoenix (2a). He entered 2009-10 with just four multi-point outings in the first 265 games (four seasons) of his career… Martin Erat
is tied for seventh in the NHL in assists since the Olympic break (11). He also leads the Predators in points in the 14-game span (12)… Since being scratched in nine straight games from March 7-18, Cal O’Reilly has played in three straight, posting assists in two of them… Jason Arnott – who’s missed the past three games with an upper-body injury – has five points (1g-4a) in his last five games, and 10 points (5g-5a) in his last eight games in Bridgestone Arena. Fifteen of Arnott’s 18 goals have come on home ice, including the last nine.