TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. VANCOUVER
Nashville makes its final trip of the 2011-12 season to the Canadian Pacific Coast tonight. In the last six seasons, the Predators and Canucks have split the season series on Rogers Arena ice. Nashville is 11-12-2 overall against Vancouver since 2005-06.
In their first meeting of the year on Oct. 20, the Canucks scored four goals on 16 shots in the opening period. Matt Halischuk tallied the lone goal for the Predators, tying the game 1-1 at 4:01 of the first period. Anders Lindback saw his first action of the season in relief of Pekka Rinne, stopping 23-of-24 for shots in the final 40 minutes, cutting the final margin to 5-1.
A season ago, both teams won twice in four regular season meetings – Vancouver took home a 3-1 victory on March 29 in Nashville, while the Predators dropped the Canucks 3-0 on March 3 behind Rinne’s 19th career shutout and Blake Geoffrion’s first-career game-winning goal. Neither team could muster a first-period goal in the four games, but Nashville outscored Vancouver 8-6 despite being outshot 132-99.
Martin Erat has 12 points (5g-7a) in his last 11 games against the Canucks including his second career hat trick and a career-high four points (tie) on Dec. 8, 2009… Rinne has gone 4-5-0 against the Canucks, but has 2.31 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in those nine career appearances.
Jonathon Blum spent four seasons with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants from 2005-09, and ended his junior career as the Giant’s all-time leader in defensive scoring, in addition to ranking third overall on the franchise’s scoring list with 204 points (49g-155a) in 248 regular season games. The Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., native also posted 42 points (14g-28a) in 67 postseason contests, helping the team claim four division titles, two conference titles, a WHL Championship and a Memorial Cup Championship. He was named the 2009 Canadian Hockey League Jack Link’s Defenseman of the Year and captained the Giants to their best season in franchise history in 2008-09.
Nashville continues to be a team that prides itself on homegrown talent, as its current roster boasts 16 players who were drafted and developed under the guidance of President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile and his staff after 2008 second-round pick Roman Josi was recalled on Nov. 25 and subsequently made his NHL debut the following night at Detroit. No fewer than 13 Nashville draftees have been in the lineup for a game this season, including the home opener on Oct. 15 vs. Phoenix when all six defensemen were of the homegrown variety.
Learning from veterans like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Nashville’s first-ever draft selection David Legwand, the younger players are seeing increased roles in 2011-12. Colin Wilson averaged 13:17 a season ago, but is up to 16:58 per game this season; Nick Spaling’s ice time has increased roughly four minutes this season; and Matt Halischuk has gone from 10:07 per game in 2010-11, to nearly 13 minutes in 2011-12.
The Predators are also one of the three youngest teams in the NHL with an average age of 26 years, seven months, and currently have six Calder-eligible rookies on the roster – forwards Craig Smith and Blake Geoffrion; defensemen Jonathon Blum, Josi and Teemu Laakso; and goaltender Anders Lindback. Smith has 17 points (7g-10a) this season, putting him second among all first-year players in the League, while his three power-play markers are tied for the lead among the rookie class and only Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche has totaled more than his 68 shots on goal. The Madison, Wis., native also leads the team in both points and goals (tie).
In 24 games this season, the Predators have outscored their opponents 43-37 in the final 40 minutes of play – 18-13 (plus 5) in the second period and 25-24 (plus one) in the third. Nashville has scored 25 of its 60 total goals in the third period, that total is good enough for eighth in the NHL. Those goals come despite a shot disadvantage of 499-437 (minus 62) in the final two frames. Away from Bridgestone Arena, the Predators have outscored their opposition 25-22 (plus three) in the final 40 minutes, despite being outshot 294-246 (minus 48).
Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand lead the Predators with three third-period goals each.
Overall, Nashville has been outshot in 18 of its 24 games this season. The Predators are now 9-7-2 when being outshot, the League’s second-most wins in that situation. In the four games where the Predators have outshot their opponent, they hold a 2-0-2 record.
The Predators have scored five power-play goals in the last six games, including their second game this season with multiple man-advantage goals on Nov. 19 against Columbus, after being held scoreless on power play in the four previous games from Nov. 9-17. Ryan Suter and Craig Smith lead the way for Nashville with three power-play goals each.
Nashville has climbed to 18th in the League in success rate (15.7 percent). The team has been consistent both at home and on the road. The Predators have posted six goals on 37 chances (16.2 percent) at Bridgestone Arena, while the team ranks 15th in the League on the road – posting eight goals on 52 man-advantage opportunities (15.4 percent).
• Nashville finished November with a 6-5-2 record, topping its record from the same month a year ago when it went 5-6-2. The Predators have posted no worse than a .500 points percentage in the month of December eight times in the last nine seasons, going 8-5-1 in 2010 and 9-4-2 in 2009.
• Nashville has allowed an average of 23.5 shots against in its last two games, after allowing an average of 33 shots against in the previous 22 games.
• Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have each posted 13 points – Weber (4g-9a) and Suter (3g-10a) – in Nashville’s last 15 games.
• Jordin Tootoo has five points (2g-3a) in the last five games.
• Mike Fisher has posted six points (1g-5a) in eight games dating back to Nov. 15 against Washington.
• Martin Erat has posted 11 points (5g-6a) in 15 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29.
• The Predators are 11-4-3 when they score at least two goals, and are 9-1-2 when holding their opponent to two goals or less.
• Pekka Rinne’s 10 wins on the season are tied for eighth among all goaltenders, and he paces all goalies in shots against (681) and saves (631). He ranks third in minutes played (1,251:26).
• Jonathon Blum ranks among the League’s Top 10 in blocked shots (56).
• In their 11 victories this season, the Predators have received game-winning goals from 10 different players.
• The Predators roster boasts five players who cut their teeth in the Western Hockey League – Shea Weber (Kelowna), Martin Erat (Saskatoon/Red Deer), Jerred Smithson (Calgary), Jordin Tootoo (Brandon) and Jonathon Blum (Vancouver). Assistant Coach Lane Lambert played for Saskatoon and coached both Moose Jaw and Prince George.