TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. TORONTO
The Toronto Maple Leafs visit Nashville for just the third time in franchise history tonight at the Sommet Center, the only game between the Preds and Leafs this season, and just the 11th matchup ever. The Predators are 6-3-1 all-time against Toronto, including a perfect 2-0-0 mark on home ice – the Leafs are the only team to never win a game in the Music City. The last time these clubs squared off – on Jan. 13, 2009 – the Predators claimed a 2-0 victory on Air Canada Centre ice thanks to a 17-save performance by Pekka Rinne. It was Steve Sullivan, however, that stole the headlines as he recorded his first point (assist) in nearly 23 months in his second game back from injury. In the teams’ lone meeting of 2007-08, Jason Arnott put a franchise-record 12 shots on goal as the Predators outshot the Maple Leafs 35-15, but fell by a 3-1 decision. Predators forward Wade Belak, at that time with the Leafs, scored his last goal in the game. The last time Toronto came to town was Feb. 8, 2007 in a game Nashville claimed by a 4-2 score. Seven of Nashville’s 20 skaters from that game are still on its roster, including goal scorers David Legwand, J.P. Dumont and Sullivan. Arnott notched a pair of assists in the victory. The Leafs visited Nashville for the first time eight years and one day ago in a game that saw Greg Johnson pound a rebound past Leafs goalie Corey Schwab just 47 seconds into overtime as Nashville defeated Toronto 3-2.
Belak was a Maple Leaf from Feb. 16, 2001 to Feb. 26, 2008, suiting up for 318 games while posting 24 points (7g-17a) and registering 763 penalty minutes. He also appeared in 22 playoff games for them, scoring a goal and recording 36 PIMs… Sullivan is also a former Leaf – he was acquired by the club on Feb. 25, 1997 along with Jason Smith and Alyn McCauley in the trade that sent Doug Gilmour (along with Dave Ellett and a third-round choice in the 1999 Entry Draft) to New Jersey. He played 154 games for the club over four seasons (1996-2000), posting 85 points (35g-50a). In 1998-99, he posted his first career 20-goal, 40-point campaign, and suited up for 13 postseason games that spring, notching six points (3g-3a). Sullivan has
Nashville is 2-1-0 with one tie in four all-time in games played on January 18. After dropping an 8-1 decision to Boston in 1999, the Preds picked up a 4-4 tie in 2000 vs. Phoenix. Nashville won 3-2 on Jan. 18, 2003 and followed that up with a 4-0 shutout win vs. Columbus in 2006.
posted 13 points (6g-7a) against his former team, including three (1g-2a) in two games as a Predator… Arnott has an even 33 points (15g-18a) in 33 games against Toronto for his career… Martin Erat has five points (2g-3a) in six career games against Toronto.
Four current Predators have experienced notable “firsts” against Toronto. As a member of the Colorado Avalanche, Belak played his first NHL game against the Maple Leafs on Dec. 21, 1996. Francis Bouillon and J.P. Dumont did likewise – Bouillon on Oct. 2, 1999 with Montreal, and Dumont on Nov. 12, 1998 with Chicago. David Legwand scored his first career goal on Toronto’s Glen Healy on Oct. 11, 1999 in Nashville’s second and final trip to Maple Leaf Gardens. TEAM QUICK HITS
Nashville improved to 25-9-3 in games decided by two goals or less with the win in Calgary. Its win total in those situations is best in the League… The Predators are one of just five teams to have at least 14 wins both at home and on the road (14 home wins, 15 road wins)… Nashville is 26-10-2 in 36 games since Oct. 28, and currently sit at 29-16-3 (61 points) for the season – the third-best 48-game record in franchise history. The current pace is eight wins/16 points ahead of last season’s 48-game record (21-24-3), and six wins/11 points ahead of their pace set in 2007-08 when the club last made the playoffs (23-21-4)… The Predators have given up 15 goals in their last eight games, an average of 1.88 per game. In the 15 games prior to the current stretch, they gave up 53 goals, an average of 3.53 per game… The Predators have scored in 20 of its last 22 third periods (28 goals)… Nashville is also ninth in the NHL in even-strength goals (94)… The Predators are first in the NHL in fewest penalty minutes per game (9.0), and rank third in fewest times shorthanded (156)… The Predators have scored four-or-more goals in 16 of the last 30 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 98 goals in the last 30 games, an average of 3.27 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… Nashville is 19-3-1 when scoring first, which is good for third in the NHL, 17-3-1 when scoring on the power play and 28-5-3 when scoring more than one goal… The Predators have the League’s second-best record when leading after one period (16-1-0)… Nashville is 15-5-2 when outshooting the opposition – the second-best record in the NHL.
THE HORNQVIST SHOW CONTINUES Patric Hornqvist notched Nashville’s lone goal of the game in Friday’s 1-0 victory at Calgary, giving him six goals in his last six games, and nine points (6g-3a) in seven outings since the calendar turned to 2010. His current hot streak, however, started on Dec. 14 in a 5-3 win at Columbus. Since then, he has 13 goals (in addition to six assists) in 16 outings, the most in the League since that date, and has accounted for nearly one-quarter of Nashville’s goal production (24 percent, 13-of-54 goals) in that span. Each of the final pick (230th overall) in the 2005 Entry Draft’s last two goals have been game winners, boosting his season total to six game-winning goals in 2009-10 – tied for third in the NHL. Heading into Sunday’s games, 24 NHLers had notched 19-or-more goals, and Hornqvist was the only one with less than 100 career games to his credit (75). He has experienced a 17-goal increase from his rookie season of 2008-09 – tops in the NHL among players who skated in at least 20 games last season. Eleven of his 19 have come in the third period.
A Swedish Olympian, Hornqvist is tied for second among countrymen in goals. He also leads the Predators – and ranks among the League’s Top 25 forwards – in both plus/minus rating (+12) and shots on goal (152). PLAYER QUICK HITS Shea Weber has 11 points (2g-9a) in his last nine games dating back to Dec. 29 – the day before being named to the Canadian Olympic Team – the most among NHL defensemen since that date. Weber ranks among the defensive league leaders in points (9g-20a), goals, power-play goals (5) and shots (127)… Marcel Goc has 12 points (5g-7a) in his last 15 games, that’s one point more than his 55-game total with San Jose for the entire 2008-09 season (2g-9a)… Martin Erat has 19 points (11g-8a) in his last 18 games played dating back to the beginning of December. His 18.8 shooting percentage ranks ninth in the League… Ryan Jones has four points (2g-2a) in his last three games… J.P. Dumont has five points (2g-3a) in his last five outings… In the first month of 2010, Dan Ellis has posted a 2-1-0 record with a 1.34 GAA and a .954 save percentage.