New Jersey and Nashville clash for the first of two matchups in 2009-10 tonight at the Sommet Center. As one of Nashville’s three Eastern Conference Wild Card opponents (Atlanta and Florida are the others), the Predators play the Devils both at home and on the road – the second meeting comes two days before the Olympic Break (Feb. 12) at the Prudential Center in Newark. A season ago, New Jersey bested the Preds in the only game between the two, 3-1 in Nashville in the club’s final game before the All-Star break. The 2008-09 game was just the 13th all-time meeting of the teams, and only the third since the start of the 2005-06 season. Two of those three contests have been decided in a shootout, with the road team claiming victory both times – a 4-3 New Jersey win on Jan. 19, 2006, and a 4-3 Nashville win on Oct. 19, 2006. In fact, the road team has won 10-of-13 all-time meetings. Nashville’s only home victory in the all-time series came Jan. 3, 2004 by a 3-2 score, thanks to a pair of goals by David Legwand.
All-time series highlight: In a matinee game (12 p.m. CT start time) at Continental Airlines Arena on Jan. 30, 1999 – the day before Super Bowl XXXIII, Sebastien Bordeleau scored the game-winner (2:43) for Nashville in the franchise's first overtime victory.
Jason Arnott was acquired by New Jersey along with Bryan Muir from Edmonton for Valeri Zelepukin and Bill Guerin on Jan. 4, 1998 and proceeded to post 221 points (97g-124a) in 302 games with the club. His most notable accomplishments with the club came in the playoffs though, scoring the Cup-clinching goal at 8:20 of the second overtime period in Game Six of the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals vs. Dallas. That capped a 2000 postseason that saw him post playoff career-highs in games played (23), goals (8), assists (12), points (20) and penalty minutes (18), tying for third in the NHL in postseason points in 2000, and tying for fourth in goals and assists. In a return trip to the Cup Finals in 2001, the Collingwood, Ont., native tied playoff career-highs in games played and goals, in addition to leading the Devils and tying for first in the NHL with five playoff power-play goals. He also centered the famous “A Line,” combining with Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora to notch 96 goals and 136 assists for 232 points and a +104 rating during the 2000-01 season. His time as a Devil ended on March 19, 2002 when he was traded to Dallas with Randy McKay and a first-round choice in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft (traded to Buffalo; Buffalo selected Daniel Paille) for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner. For his career, Arnott has eight points (4g-4a) in nine games against New Jersey.
The Preds are 1-3-0 all-time in games played on November 19. Nashville picked up a home win against St. Louis in a 3-2 decision in 1998 -- the lone home game the Preds have played on this date. Nashville dropped road decisions at Los Angeles in 2003 (3-0), at Minnesota in 2005, (4-2), and at St. Louis in 2007 (2-1).
Steve Sullivan started his career with New Jersey after being drafted 233rd overall (ninth round) by the club in the 1994 Entry Draft. After playing the 1994-95 season with its AHL affiliate in Albany, he split the next two seasons between New Jersey and Albany, posting 31 points (13g-18a) in 49 NHL games from his career debut on Feb. 23, 1996 vs. Montreal, until Feb. 25, 1997 when he was acquired by Toronto, with Jason Smith and Alyn McCauley, for Doug Gilmour, Dave Ellett and New Jersey’s third-round choice (previously acquired; New Jersey selected Andre Lakos) in the 1999 Entry Draft.
Career highs/highlights attained against the Devils David Legwand – Played his first NHL game on April 17, 1999 – the final game of the Predators inaugural season. QUICK HITS
Nashville scored a pair of power-play goals for the second time in 2009-10 on Tuesday vs. San Jose, and has scored at least one power play goal in seven of last 11 games after going goalless while a man up in the seven games prior to the current stretch. The unit is 9-for-46 (19.6 percent) in those 11 games, and the Predators are 8-0-0 when they score a man-advantage goal… With its fourth consecutive perfect performance vs. San Jose, Nashville’s penalty kill has now killed 24-of-27 disadvantages (88.9 percent) over the last eight games… Nashville is tops in the NHL in fewest penalty minutes per game (8.8), and have been shorthanded the third-fewest times (64, 3.37 per game)… The Predators are 10-2-1 when scoring more than one goal… Nashville is 7-1-0 when scoring the first goal of the game, the League’s fifth-best winning percent (.875) in that situation… All 10 of Nashville’s wins have been decided by two goals or fewer. Of the 10, five of the wins have been by one goal, and two have been by two goals with one being an empty netter… The Predators rank among the league’s Top 10 in both average shots for (30.8) and fewest average shots against (28.7). The last three games, they’ve outshot the opposition by a combined 123-74. PLAYER QUICK HITS Steve Sullivan scored for the second consecutive contest on Tuesday, tying him for the team lead in goals (5) with Patric Hornqvist and Shea Weber. The Predators are 4-0-0 this season with Sullivan scores, and four of his five goals have come on home ice… With assists in back-to-back games, J.P. Dumont has 10 helpers in 12 games this season. His .83 assists per game ranks among the NHL’s top 15… After starting the season with just one assist in his first 10 games, David Legwand now has seven points (2g-5a) in his last nine games… Jerred Smithson scored his fourth goal in the last 12 games, equaling his 82-game output from 2008-09. He is just three goals from his career-high of seven set in 2007-08. Smithson also paces the team in plus/minus rating (+5), face-off winning percentage (54.2), penalty minutes (18), shorthanded time on ice per game (2:31), in addition to leading all Nashville forwards in hits (22).
WHEN WARD SCORES, THE PREDATORS WIN Joel Ward posted his first career three-point outing (1g-2a) on Tuesday vs. San Jose, giving the 6-1, 218-pound winger nine points (3g-6a) in his last 11 games after starting the season without a point in his first six appearances. The goal improved Nashville’s record to 13-2-2 when Ward scores dating back to the beginning of last season, and the Predators are 7-0-0 in 2009-10 when the Toronto native records a point.
RINNE’S ROLL CONTINUES
Sophomore Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped 29 shots in Tuesday’s win to improve his record to 7-1-0 in his last eight appearances. Since an Oct. 28 shutout at Minnesota, the 258th overall selection in the 2004 Entry Draft has six wins – which entered Wednesday’s games tied for first in that span – to go with a 1.51 goals-against average – second in that span among goalies playing at least three games – and a .940 save percentage. The Kempele, Finland native also has two shutouts in that stretch, and nine whitewashes since Dec. 1, 2008, tied with Evgeni Nabokov for the most since then.