TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
Central Division rivals Nashville and Columbus tussle for the first time this season tonight at the Sommet Center, the first of four matchups between now and New Year’s Eve between the clubs. Nashville has put together a string of 11 consecutive home victories together against the Blue Jackets, dating back to Nov. 18, 2006. Since 2001-02, the Predators are 20-1-2 against the Jackets on home ice, outscoring them 85-43 in that span. A season ago, the Preds posted a 3-2-1 record in the series, their seventh consecutive winning season against Columbus. The home team won all six games in 2008-09, with two (Dec. 11 at Columbus, 2-1 and April 4 at Nashville, 5-4) being determined via shootout. Ten of the last 11 meetings have been won by the home team dating back to Dec. 27, 2007. Of the combined 36 goals the teams scored last season, only four came on the power play (NSH 1, CBJ 3).
All-time series highlights: On Jan. 31, 2008, J.P. Dumont capped off arguably the most successful month in franchise history by notching a point in his 16th consecutive game in a 4-2 Nashville win over Columbus. Eight weeks later, on March 28, 2008, Dan Ellis stopped all 43 shots he faced, finishing off back-to-back shutouts over the Blue Jackets. It was part of the longest shutout streak in franchise history, and was also a franchise record for saves in a shutout victory.
The Predators are 2-2-0-1 in all-time games played on November 21. Nashville dropped its first Nov. 21 game, a 3-6 decision at home to the NY Islanders in 1998. The Preds rebounds with a 4-3 home win over Chicago in 2001, an 1-1 tie at Colorado in 2002, and a 4-3 OT win at Anaheim in 2003. Last year the Preds dropped a 1-4 decision at Tampa Bay.
Despite playing only half the team’s six games against Columbus a season ago, Jason Arnott tied for the team lead in points (2g-3a) with Dumont (2g-3a). Arnott posted three points (2g-1a) in Nashville’s 5-4 shootout win on April 4 and has 34 points (14g-20a) in 33 career games against the Blue Jackets… Shea Weber notched a career high four points (1g-3a) against the BJs on Oct. 18 of last season, a 6-3 Nashville win… Steve Sullivan has 39 points (13g-26a) in 36 games against Columbus in his career… In five career appearances against Columbus, Ellis has given up just six goals on 161 shots for a 1.25 goals-against average, a .963 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.
Career highs/highlights attained against the Blue Jackets David Legwand – Put a career-high nine shots on goal on Nov. 23, 2005. Jerred Smithson – A career high two goals on Jan. 13, 2007. A career high three points/assists on Jan. 21, 2006. Steve Sullivan – Sixth career penalty shot on Dec. 23, 2005 against Marc Denis (no goal). A career-high four assists on Feb. 15, 2003. Joel Ward – A career high six shots on goal on March 31, 2009. Shea Weber – A career high four points and three assists on Oct. 18, 2008. QUICK HITS
The Predators four-game winning streak is a season high. A season ago, Nashville didn’t win four straight until games 49-52, Feb. 1-6… By killing off 11 consecutive man disadvantages dating back to Nov. 7 at Los Angeles, and going 26-for-29 (89.7 percent) on the penalty kill over the past nine games, the Predators have moved from 27th in the NHL’s PK rankings on Oct. 29, to 16th prior to Friday’s games… Nashville scored its 10th power-play goal in the last 12 games on Thursday vs. the Devils, and is clicking at a 20.8 percent clip in that stretch. The Predators have scored at least one power play goal in eight of last 12 games after going goalless while a man up in the seven games prior to the current stretch. They are 9-0-0 when they score a man-advantage goal… The Predators have scored four first-period goals in the last three games after scoring four first-period goals in the previous eight games… Nashville is tops in the NHL in fewest penalty minutes per game (8.7), and have been shorthanded the third-fewest times (66, 3.3 per game) entering Friday’s games… The Predators are 11-2-1 when scoring more than one goal… Nashville is 8-1-0 when scoring the first goal of the game, the League’s second-best winning percent (.893) in that situation… All 11 of Nashville’s wins have been decided by two goals or fewer. Of the 11, six of the wins have been by one goal, and two have been by two goals with one being an empty netter… Nashville has held the opposition to less than 30 shots in eight of the last 10 games, and rank seventh in shots allowed per game (28.6). PLAYER QUICK HITS Ryan Suter – who ranks 15th in the league in average ice time (24:19) – notched his third assist in two games in Thursday’s win after being pointless in the previous seven. Suter is second on the club in assists (8)… Six of Jason Arnott’s eight points – including four of his five goals – have come on home ice… All 10 of Patric Hornqvist’s points (5g-5a) have come at even strength… After starting the season with just one assist in his first 10 games, David Legwand now has seven points (2g-5a) in his last 10 games, including four points (2g-2a) in his last four outings… Joel Ward has nine points (3g-6a) in his last 12 games – including four points in his last four games (1g-3a) – after starting the season without a point in his first six appearances. The Predators are 7-0-0 in 2009-10 when Ward records a point… Francis Bouillon ranks seventh among NHL defensemen in hits (56), while defensive partner Kevin Klein is tied for 20th in the league in blocked shots (40).
Injuries kept Nashville’s top line for being united for any length of time in the first 15 games of 2009-10, but since spending their first full game together on Nov. 12 at St. Louis, the trio of J.P. Dumont, Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan have gotten rolling offensively, helping the club to a 4-0-0 record in that span. Arnott notched his 15th multi-goal game as a Predator – second only to David Legwand’s 18 multi-goal games – on Thursday vs. his former team, New Jersey, to move him into a tie for the team goal-scoring lead. Dumont assisted on both of Arnott’s goals, giving him assists in three consecutive games (4a) – the first time a Predator has done it all season. Dumont’s .92 assists per game ranks eighth in the NHL and his 1.15 points per game is 15th-best in the League. After scoring three goals in a pair of games last Saturday and Tuesday vs. San Jose, Sullivan extended his point streak to three games with an assist on Thursday. Those four points in three games equals his output from the previous 16 games.
RINNE WINS AGAIN Pekka Rinne stopped 26 shots in Thursday’s win – outdueling his childhood idol Martin Brodeur – to improve his record to 8-1-0 in his last eight appearances. Since an Oct. 28 shutout at Minnesota, the 258th overall selection in the 2004 Entry Draft has seven wins – which entered Friday’s games first in the League in that span – to go with a 1.56 goals-against average and a .939 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.