BLUE JACKETS (12-12-6)* at PREDATORS (12-13-6)
* Prior to Friday night's game vs. Calgary
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (Dish: 449/HD: 9519; 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
The defensive duo of Roman Josi and Shea Weber have been offensive catalysts for the Predators as of late – they have been in on nine of the Nashville’s last 17 goals (53 percent) since March 14.
With two assists on Thursday against Calgary, Josi has now posted points (1g-6a) in a career-high four consecutive games. That total includes three multi-point games. The Bern, Switzerland native led the team with 26:44 of ice time against the Flames, and has led the team in ice time in the seven games that Weber has not. Josi’s average ice time is up by more than four minutes from his rookie season (from 18:23 to 22:41).
Weber has posted 17 points (5g-12a) in his last 18 games, including 10 points (2g-8a) in his last nine outings. With that output, Nashville’s captain is now tied for 12th among NHL defenders in points (5g-13a-18pts) and tied for ninth in goals. Weber has also fired the third-most shots among d-men (82). The Sicamous, B.C., native has led the team in ice time in 24 of 31 games this season, and ranks third in the NHL in total minutes played (792:15).
Mike Fisher notched his first multi-goal effort of the season on Thursday against the Flames, giving him five markers in his last five outings – tied with Devin Setoguchi for the most in the NHL since his hot streak began on March 14. He last scored two goals in a game on January 31, 2012 at Minnesota. That pair of goals gives Fisher points in five consecutive games (5g-1a) – his longest streak of the season. The Peterborough, Ont., native has now posted eight points (5g-3a) in his last eight outings and ranks second on the team in goals this season (9).
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
After a road-heavy first 30 games, Nashville will play 12 home games in its last 18 contests of 2012-13, more than and other club. The Predators have posted a 7-2-4 record on Bridgestone Arena ice this season, and have been one of the League’s best teams on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, compiling 188 home victories, tied for third most in the NHL and just two behind San Jose for second. Nashville is the only team in the NHL to post at least 23 home victories in seven consecutive seasons.
The Preds have sold out a franchise-record 26 games dating back to March 6, 2012 vs. L.A. The team sold out the last eight games of 2011-12, all five 2012 playoff games, and the first 13 games of 2012-13 to bring the streak to 26.
POWER PLAY CLICKS
Nashville scored a power-play goal for the eighth time in as many games on Thursday against Calgary, with the man-advantage unit going 8-for-25 in that span (32 percent). The home power play has been even better, scoring in four consecutive games dating back to Feb. 25 – it has gone 5-for-14 since that date (35.7 percent). The home power play is now clicking at the NHL’s fifth best rate, converting 11 times on 42 opportunities (26.2 percent).
LAST TIME OUT: Calgary 3 at Nashville 5
- The Predators improved to 2-13-1 when allowing the first goal of the game, 4-6-2 when outshooting the opponent (they outshot the Flames 23-22), and 6-0-1 when leading after two periods.
- Nashville scored at least five goals in a game for the fifth time this season
- With a goal in the final frame, the Predators have scored in 10 consecutive third periods, amassing 14 goals in that span
- The Predators allowed two shorthanded goals in a single game for only the third time in franchise history (last on March 2, 2002 at Calgary), and the first time on home ice.
- Martin Erat recorded his second three-point game (1g-2a) of the season (last on February 5 at St. Louis), ending a 21-game goalless drought in the process. He also became the 10th Predator to score a power-play goal in 2012-13.
- Rookie defenseman Victor Bartley earned his first NHL point with an assist on Nick Spaling’s second-period goal. Bartley and defensive partner Kevin Klein were each +3. Klein had two points (2a) for the second time this season.
- Nick Spaling scored for the sixth time this season, with the team improving to 19-2-1 all-time when Spaling scores. His goal was the game winner – he joins Gabriel Bourque as the only players on the team with multiple game-winning goals.
- Nashville won the face-off battle, led by Chris Mueller, who went 8-for-11. In three games this season, Mueller has won 69.6 percent of his draws.
- Playing in his second career game, Taylor Beck led all skaters with four shots on goal.
- Rich Clune posted an assist and dished out a game-high nine hits, which is also the highest total by a Pred this season. He ranks among the NHL’s Top 20 in hits (88), and now has six points (2g-4a) in his last 12 games after posting three points (1g-2a) in his first 32 NHL contests.
- After going without a point in 13 games played between Feb. 9 and March 17, Brandon Yip scored his third goal of the season, giving him points in back-to-back outings.
- David Legwand has seven points (3g-4a) in his last eight games. Prior to the current stretch, he had registered just two points (1g-1a) in his previous 10 outings. His assist on Tuesday at Columbus moved him into a tie for seventh in points among Michigan-born NHLers with Brian Rafalski (515pts).
- In his second season in the League, Gabriel Bourque leads the team in goals with 10. He has four goals in his last six outings, and six in his last 20 games. Seven of Bourque’s 10 goals this season have come on the road. The Rimouski, Que., native is tied for first in man-advantage markers (3) and has also posted Nashville’s lone shorthanded marker on the year.
- Mike Fisher ranks second among NHL forwards in blocked shots (39).
- Matt Halischuk has four points (1g-3a) in six games since returning from a conditioning stint with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals on March 11.
- The Preds are currently without their leading point getter in 2012-13 (Colin Wilson, upper body), their leading goal scorer from two of the past three seasons (Patric Hornqvist, upper body), the League’s third-best face-off man (Paul Gaustad, upper body), and the team’s lone Stanley Cup winner and most experienced member (Hal Gill, lower body).
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets clash for the second time this week on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, the third of five games against each other this season. The Blue Jackets visit the Music City again in just 12 days, then the teams will wrap up the regular season against one another on April 27 at Nationwide Arena. On Monday, the Predators were dealt just their 15th regulation loss to Columbus in 71 games despite a late rally that saw Chris Mueller score his first career goal and Mike Fisher notch an extra-attacker mark, both in the final 2:01 of regulation. The final score was 4-3, marking the sixth one-goal game in the last eight meetings these teams.
In the Blue Jackets’ first visit to Nashville for Opening Night on Jan. 19, Martin Erat scored just 39 seconds into the contest, tying the record for fastest goal to start a season originally set by J-P Dumont in the 2006-07 season opener against Chicago, and Ryan Ellis notched a power-play goal late in the first period, but a shootout was required to determine a winner for the ninth time between Columbus and Nashville. Though the Preds fell 3-2, they hold a 6-3 record in those nine shootout games. The shootout loss marked the 21st consecutive game Nashville has garnered a point on home ice against the Blue Jackets dating back to Nov. 18, 2006. The Predators are 19-0-2 in that span.
Shea Weber assisted on both Mueller and Fisher’s goals on Tuesday, giving him 32 points (8g-24a) in 38 games against Columbus, his highest total against any team… Erat has 51 points (16g-35a) in 56 career games against Columbus, the second-highest point total by a Predator against a single team in franchise history… David Legwand has 19 goals against Columbus, tied with his total against Chicago for the highest by a player against a single team in club history… Mike Fisher has nine points (7g-2a) in 10 games against the Blue Jackets since joining the Preds… Sergei Kostitsyn has a pair of assists in the season opener, and has amassed 12 points (5g-7a) in 15 career games against Columbus… Pekka Rinne is 14-5-2 with a pair of shutouts against Columbus all-time, while Chris Mason has a 16-4-2 career record with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.