TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. VANCOUVER
The Predators kick-off their second trip to Western Canada tonight at GM Place, the third of four meetings between Nashville and Vancouver in 2009-10. The last time these two teams met was at this same venue on Dec. 22, the Preds final game before the Christmas break. The Canucks took that game 4-1, ending a stretch of seven consecutive road games with at least a point by Nashville (6-0-1), which tied a franchise record. The first clash between the clubs occurred in the Music City on Dec. 8 in a game that saw Martin Erat notch a one goal in each period to post his second career hat trick. Erat also assisted on Nashville’s other goal by Patric Hornqvist in the 4-2 win to tie a career high in points. Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan both picked up a pair of assists in the game, while Pekka Rinne stopped 34-of-36 shots in the win. Since dropping six straight to the Canucks between Dec. 6, 2007 and Jan. 1, 2009, the Predators have claimed two of three games. Tonight, Nashville will be looking to post its fifth consecutive series split at GM Place. Overall in the past four-plus seasons, the Predators are 8-8-2 against the Canucks.
All-time series highlight: Nashville has shutout Vancouver three times since the start of the 2005-06 campaign, with most notable coming on Thanksgiving Day 2006. That night – in a 6-0 rout that saw Scott Hartnell lead the way with three points (2g-1a), and four other Predators post two-point outings – neither Nashville goaltender was awarded a shutout. Instead, Tomas Vokoun and Chris Mason split the white wash – the only time in team history that has occurred. Vokoun played the first two periods of the game, stopping 21 shots, before giving way to Mason because of a hand injury. Mason turned aside all 13 shots he faced in the final frame to secure the blanking.
The Predators are 1-4-1 all-time in games played on January 11. The Predators were unsuccessful in play on the road in 1999 losing to Philadelphia 0-8, in 2000 losing to Colorado 4-2, and in 2001 losing to Calgary 2-1. Nashville went to overtime in 2001 and 2006, beating Phoenix 4-3 in '01 and dropping a 4-3 shootout decision to Atlanta in '06. Last year, Jan. 11, 2009, the Preds fell 3-1 at Chicago.
With Nashville’s lone goal of the Dec. 22 game, Hornqvist now has two goals in three career games against Vancouver… Thanks in-large part to his four-point outing against the ‘Nucks on Dec. 8, Erat has seven points (4g-3a) in his last six games against Vancouver dating back to the start of 2008-09… Since joining the Predators, Steve Sullivan has 10 points (3g-7a) in 10 games against Vancouver, and 30 points (15g-15a) against the Canucks for his career… Arnott accounted for a game-high six of Nashville’s 21 shots in the last meeting on Dec. 22. He has 41 points (18g-23a) in 52 games against Vancouver for his career… The Predators have four B.C. natives on their currently roster, including three of seven defensemen. Shea Weber and Cody Franson grew up down the street from each other in Sicamous, and played in the province up until turning pro – Weber with the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) and Franson with the Vancouver Giants (WHL). Smithers-born Dan Hamhuis did likewise, playing his junior hockey in Prince George. Jerred Smithson is also from British Columbia, hailing from Vernon… Nashville Associate Coach Brent Peterson is a former Canuck, playing 146 games with Vancouver from 1985-87, amassing 53 points (15g-38a). TEAM QUICK HITS
Nashville is 3-4-0 on the front-end of back-to-backs, and 4-3-0 on the back end… The Predators are 4-1-1 on the road against Northwest Division teams in 2009-10 after going 3-7-0 in Northwest Division venues a season ago… Nashville is 23-10-2 in 34 games since Oct. 28, and currently sit at 26-16-3 (55 points) for the season – the third-best 45-game record in franchise history. The current pace is six wins/12 points ahead of last season’s 45-game record (20-22-3), and five wins/nine points ahead of their pace set in 2007-08 when the club last made the playoffs (21-20-4)… Nashville is 22-9-3 in games decided by two goals or less – tied with New Jersey for the most wins in that situation… The Predators have scored four-or-more goals in 15 of the last 27 games (including shootout winners). Prior to the current stretch, they had just three four-or-more goal games in the first 18 contests of 2009-10. Including three shootout winners, the Predators have scored 89 goals in the last 27 games, an average of 3.30 goals per game. In the first 18 games of 2009-10, Nashville scored just 40 times (including one shootout winner), an average of 2.22 goals per game… The Predators have scored in 43 of their last 55 regulation periods (78.2 percent). The team has a goal in 17 of its last 19 third periods (24 goals)… The Predators are first in the NHL in fewest penalty minutes per game (9.0), and rank third in fewest times shorthanded (146). They’ve been shorthanded just six times in the last four games… Nashville is 16-3-1 when scoring first, which is good for fourth in the NHL, 16-3-1 when scoring on the power play and 26-5-3 when scoring more than one goal… The Predators have the League’s second-best record when leading after one period (14-1-0)… Nashville to 15-5-2 when outshooting the opposition – the third-best record in the NHL.
Nashville has gone 8-2-1 in its last 11 road games dating back to Nov. 12, scoring 42 goals in that span (average of 3.82). The Predators have scored four-or-more goals in eight of the 11 games… Nashville is tied for second in even-strength road goals (54), behind only Washington... The Predators are also fourth in the League road goal differential (+9).
Individually, Marcel Goc has points in nine of his last 10 road games (7g-5a), and has 13 of his 16 points this season away from Nashville… Shea Weber is tied for 14th in goals among NHL blueliners, with five of his seven goals coming on the road – that total is tied for first among players at his position… Rookie defenseman Cody Franson is tied for sixth among first-year d-men in points (3g-8a), with 10 of his 11 (3g-7a) points coming on the road.
HORNQVIST’S HOT STREAK CONTINUES Patric Hornqvist lit the lamp for the third straight game (4g), and for the 11th time in the last 13 outings on Saturday vs. Anaheim, giving him 16 points (11g-5a) in that span. Since the hot stretch started on Dec. 14, no one in the NHL has more goals than the second-year forward. He also has five of Nashville’s last eight goals.
Named to the Swedish Olympic Team on Dec. 27, Hornqvist scored 11 of his first 13 goals this season while at even strength, but his last four have come on the power play, moving him into the team lead in that category (6), in addition to tops on the Predators in total goals (17) and game winners (4). Additionally, his goal total and power-play goal totals are good for fourth among countrymen playing in the NHL, while his four game-winning goals is tied for second among Swedes. The final selection in the 2005 Entry Draft (230th overall), Hornqvist has experienced a 15-goal increase from his rookie season of 2008-09 – tops in the NHL among players who skated in at least 20 games last season. PLAYER QUICK HITS Steve Sullivan has assists in four straight games (1g-4a), tying the longest such streak by a Predator this season, and one shy of his career high attained three times… After missing four straight games due to injury, Czech Olympian Martin Erat scored a goal in his return to the lineup on Saturday, giving him points in 13 of his last 15 games played (11g-8a). Erat is ranked fifth in the NHL in shooting percentage (19.7 percent)… Canadian Olympian Shea Weber has eight points (1g-7a) in his last six games after being held scoreless in the previous five. The Sicamous, B.C., native is tied for 12th among NHL blueliners in points (26) and tied for fourth in power-play goals (4).