PREDATORS (2-2-3) at SHARKS (7-0-0)
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (Dish: 444/HD: 9514; 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. SAN JOSE
The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks clash for the first of three times during the 2012-13 season tonight at HP Pavilion. The Predators return to the Bay Area again on March 2, and the Sharks visit Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 12. While these teams have split the four-game season series the past two seasons, Nashville has picked up points in all but one of the eight games, posting a 4-1-3 record. Since Feb. 15, 2011, four of the six games between the Predators and Sharks have needed extra time, with San Jose winning two by overtime and one by shootout, and Nashville winning an overtime game of its own, 4-3, on Nov. 5, 2011.
Nashville’s two victories in the series last season came in two entirely different ways. First in the Nov. 5 win, the Predators rallied from a two-goal deficit early in the third period to force overtime before David Legwand finished the comeback on his second goal of the night. Then on Feb. 25, 2012, Nashville chased goalie Thomas Greiss with two goals in the first 3:23 en route to a 6-2 win, one of two wins by four-plus goals in 2011-12 (6-1 on March 25 at Chicago). The power play was particularly effective last season against San Jose, scoring in each of the four games to finish 4-for-13 (30.8 percent).
Shea Weber has the highest point-per-game output of his career against San Jose (.78), with 18 points (5g-13a) in 23 games. He led the team in points against the Sharks in 2011-12 with five (2g-3a) in four games… Martin Erat also produced above a point per game average against San Jose last season with four points (1g-3a) in three games… Scott Hannan was selected 23rd overall (first round) by the San Jose Sharks in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He played 508 regular season games and 58 playoff games for the club from 1998-2007, amassing 127 points (25g-102a) and 329 penalty minutes in the regular season and 13 points (1g-12a) and 79 penalty minutes in the postseason.
With four shootouts in its first seven games, Nashville has gone to the post-overtime tiebreaker more than any other team in the League this season, posting a 1-3 record in those contests. The Preds took home their first shootout win of the season on first-career shootout goals from Craig Smith (1-for-7 for his career), Gabriel Bourque (1-for-1) and Sergei Kostitsyn (1-for-5). Smith scored on Nashville’s second shot, while Bourque scored to force the seventh round. Then, in the eighth round, Kostitsyn beat Jonathan Quick to seal the win for the Preds. David Legwand also tallied in the shootout, giving Nashville four shootout goals in a game for to tie a franchise record set March 21, 2006 in a 3-2 win against Detroit.
A season ago, Nashville only needed the shootout 10 times (5-5) – tied for eighth fewest times in the League – and didn’t reach its fourth shootout of the campaign until Dec. 30, 2011 against St. Louis, game No. 38.
Both David Legwand and Mike Fisher find themselves ranked among the League’s top face-off men this season. On Thursday night, Legwand (8-for-15, 53 percent) won more than 50 percent of his face-offs for the fourth straight game – including 70 percent against Anaheim (Jan. 26) and 69 percent against Phoenix (Jan. 28). He now ranks 11th among all NHLers who have taken at least 100 draws this season (56.6 percent).
Fisher went 9-for-14 (64 percent) in the face-off circle on Thursday night and finds himself tied for 17th among players with at least 100 face-offs on the year (53.5 percent). The Peterborough, Ont., native has won more than 60 percent of his draws in back-to-back games – he went 8-for-13 (62 percent) against Phoenix on Monday.
Paul Gaustad – who missed three games earlier this season – has won 55.6 percent of this draws this season (40-for-72). Gaustad finished sixth in faceoff efficiency (57.3 percent) a season ago, his third consecutive season ranking among the League’s Top 10 in the category (third, 59.8 percent in 2010-11; sixth, 57.4 percent in 2009-10).
LAST TIME OUT: Nashville 2 at Los Angeles 1 (SO)
Brandon Yip opened the scoring for Nashville just 58 seconds into the contest. He is now tied for the team lead in goals in this season… David Legwand notched his first helper of the season on Yip’s goal and tallied in the shootout for the Preds… Gabriel Bourque recorded his second assist on the season. The Preds have won both games where Bourque has reached the scoresheet… Pekka Rinne recorded his first win of the season. He is now 22-17 all-time in the shootout… Weber led all Nashville skaters in ice time (28:58). He has logged more than 25 minutes in six of Nashville’s seven games this season, and is fifth in the league in average ice time (27:15)… Nashville blocked a season-high 24 shots on the night led by Kevin Klein (6) and Scott Hannan (6). Hannan leads the League with 22 blocks on the year… Nashville was shorthanded a season-high six times in the game…
Scott Hannan has played more games than any NHL defenseman in the last 10 seasons (805), and has averaged more than 20 minutes in nine of those 10 campaigns. In his first season with Nashville, he has played more than 20 minutes in six of seven games and is averaging 21:29… Mike Fisher leads all NHL forwards in blocked shots (12) and ranks eighth at the position in average ice time (21:32)… Shea Weber is tied for seventh in hits among NHL defensemen (19)… After pacing the club with a career-high 58 points (19g-39a) a season ago, Martin Erat is tied with the injured Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in points (2g-2a). The Trebic, Czech Republic native ranks second on Nashville’s all-time goals and points lists (161g-303a-464pts)… The Predators are sixth in the NHL in non-shootout goals against average (2.29) and rank ninth in fewest shots against per game (27.4)… The Predators have been shorthanded 25 times this season, fifth fewest in the League...
A FRANCHISE RECORD ROAD TRIP
Tonight marks the sixth stop of a franchise record tying seven-game road swing; the Predators also played seven straight on the road from Oct. 30-Nov. 12, 2002. The trip will last 15 days, and see the team go to Minnesota, St. Louis, Anaheim, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose, then back to St. Louis to wrap things up on Feb. 5. Nashville’s next game in the Music City will be Feb. 7 against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY
The Predators are the only team in the Western Conference to advance to the second round of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
The team is one of just five to reach the postseason in seven of the last eight seasons and one of three to post 40-plus wins in seven consecutive seasons.
The Preds enter this season with the third-most home victories since the start of the 2005-06 campaign (181), and the fifth-most overall (321).
Nashville has had four awards finalists each of the last two seasons. David Poile has been a finalist for the GM of the Year Award in each of the award’s three years of existence, while Pekka Rinne (Vezina) and Shea Weber (Norris) are back-to-back finalists.