TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
The Nashville Predators play the Phoenix Coyotes for the first time in 2009-10 tonight at Jobing.com Arena, making them the final Western Conference team to play Nashville – this in game No. 50 of the season. These same two teams meet again in 12 days in the Music City, then twice in the Preds final eight games of the campaign. After falling in the first meeting of 2008-09, the Predators rallied to take the final three meeting of these two clubs last season, including the last time they visited the desert on March 14, 2009. On that night, Pekka Rinne turned aside all 18 shots he faced for the seventh shutout of his rookie season, setting a franchise record, in a 2-0 victory. J.P. Dumont scored in the first period and David Legwand pitched in an empty netter to lead the offensive attack. The Predators allowed just four goals in the four games against Phoenix last season, giving up a pair in the first meeting, and one each in wins at Nashville on Feb. 3 (2-1) and Feb. 26 (4-1). All 13 goals scored in the series in 2008-09 were at even strength. In addition to winning three straight, Nashville has also earned the decision in five of the last six matchups dating back to Feb. 2, 2008 in Glendale. Going back to the start of the 2005-06 season, it has largely been a homer series when the Preds and Desert Dogs clash, with the host team winning 12-of-16.
All-time series highlights: Two notable franchise firsts involving Predator netminders have occurred when playing the Coyotes. The first was on Jan. 15, 1999, when Tomas Vokoun – who started the team’s inaugural season third on the goaltending depth chart stopped all 31 shots he faced to author the first shutout in franchise history against the Phoenix Coyotes in the team’s 42nd game. Cliff Ronning, who started the season with the Coyotes, came back to haunt his former team by scoring a power-play goal in the first period, and sealed the deal with an empty netter at 19:01 of the third. The then-22-year-old Vokoun was lights out in just the 15th start of his rookie season, withstanding 24 shots over the final two periods, which included stoning Juha Ylonen and Shane Doan on breakaways in the second frame.
The Preds have a three-game winning streak in January 21 contests to improve to 4-2-1 all-time in games played on this date. The winning streak started in 2003 with a 3-2 home win vs. Vancouver and was followed with big wins vs. Columbus in 2006 (7-2) and vs. St. Louis in 2008 (6-3). Nashville lost to Tampa Bay 2-3 in 1999 before picking up an overtime point against Calgary in 2000, 4-5.. The Predators picked up a 3-1 win at home to St. Louis in 2001, but was shut out by Phoenix 0-1 in 2002.
The second came in the second-to-last game of the 2005-06 season, on April 15, 2005, when Chris Mason was credited with the first-ever goal by a Nashville goaltender as the Predators defeated the visiting Phoenix Coyotes by a 5-1 score. Mason, who was the last Nashville player to touch the puck before Phoenix inadvertently passed it into their vacated net on a delayed penalty call, won his fifth straight game and became only the ninth NHL goaltender to be credited with a goal.
Joel Ward and current Coyote Vernon Fiddler tied for the team lead in points against Phoenix last season (1g-2a each)… With 53 points (20g-33a) in 52 games, Jason Arnott has more points against the Coyotes than any other team over the course of his career. This includes 11 points (5g-6a) against them as a Predator… Steve Sullivan has 14 points (6g-8a) in 11 contests against Phoenix while wearing a Nashville sweater… Rinne went 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average and a .973 save percentage against Phoenix a season ago. TEAM QUICK HITS
Tonight is the first game of the Predators annual Father’s Trip. A season ago, the club shutout Minnesota in the first game of the Dad’s Trip – 2-0 on Feb. 6 – before falling at Dallas 4-1 two days later. Like this year, the Predators made the trek to Phoenix and Denver for their 2007-08 trip, winning 4-0 in Colorado on Jan. 22 before dropping an overtime decision to the Coyotes, 4-3, on Jan. 24… Nashville is 26-11-2 in 39 games since Oct. 28, and currently sit at 29-17-3 (61 points) for the season – the third-best 49-game record in franchise history. The current pace is seven wins/14 points ahead of last season’s 49-game record (22-24-3), and five wins/nine points ahead of their pace set in 2007-08 when the club last made the playoffs (24-21-4)… Nashville is 25-10-3 in games decided by two goals or less. Its win total in those situations is best in the League… The Predators have given up 19 goals in their last nine games, an average of 2.11 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 21 of their last 23 third periods (30 goals)… The Predators are first in the NHL in fewest penalty minutes per game (8.9), and rank third in fewest times shorthanded (159)… Nashville is averaging 3.26 goals-per-game in the last 31 games. In this season’s first 18 games prior to the current stretch, they were averaging just 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 28-6-3 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 15-6-2 when outshooting the opposition – the fourth-best record in the NHL.
The Predators enter tonight’s contest on a five-game road winning streak going back to Dec. 29, second-longest such streak in franchise history. This comes after the club tied a club record for consecutive road games with a point (6-0-1) between Nov. 12 and Dec. 19, putting Nashville’s road mark at 11-2-1 in their last 14 away from the Sommet Center. In its last time on the road, Nashville swept all three Western Canadian teams in a single trip for the second time in franchise history. In the 14 games, the team has scored 51 goals (3.64 per game). Nine times in the 14 games the Predators have scored four-or-more goals. The Predators have 15 road wins on the season, tied for fourth and just two off the League lead, and are second to only Washington in the League in even-strength road goals (60). Additionally, Nashville is third behind Chicago and Washington in road goal plus/minus (+14).
Individually, Marcel Goc has 14 points (8g-6a) in his last 14 road games, and 15 of his 19 points this season have come away from Nashville… Shea Weber has seven of his nine goals away from the Sommet Center, putting him tops among NHL d-men in road goals (7), and has six points (2g-4a) in his last five road games.
Nashville has scored by committee this season – it has six players with 10-or-more goals (Hornqvist, Erat, Arnott, Sulllivan, Legwand and Goc) and two more within one goal of double-digits (Dumont and Erat). Nine Predators have 20-or-more points, and Goc is just one point shy of his second career 20-plus-point season.
FRANSON’S OUTPUT IN PERSPECTIVE
Rookie defenseman Cody Franson scored and registered an assist in Monday’s game, his fourth multi-point outing in his 37th career game. Only two Predator draftees (Alexander Radulov, 5 and Adam Hall, 4) have had that many multiple-point games in their first season – David Legwand, Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis and Ryan Suter all had three. The Sicamous, B.C., native is tied for fourth among rookie blueliners in points (4g-10a), and tied for third in goals. His plus-9 rating is tied for second among all rookies.
NASHVILLE’S NOT SO MR. IRRELEVANT
Though Patric Hornqvist – the final pick of the 2005 Entry Draft (230th overall) – was held off the scoresheet for just the fourth time in the last 17 games on Monday vs. Toronto, he has 19 points (13g-6a) in that span, including six goals and nine points since the calendar turned to 2010. 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. The Swedish Olympian 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. PLAYER QUICK HITS
In four appearances since the start of January, goaltender Dan Ellis has posted a 1.30 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage… In his 30th game of the season on Monday, Ryan Jones equaled his goal output from his 46-game rookie season (7). Jones has five points (3g-2a) in his last four games… Steve Sullivan has assists in six of his last eight games, amassing seven points (1g-6a) in that span… J.P. Dumont has six points (2g-4a) in his last six outings… Martin Erat has 19 points (11g-8a) in his last 19 games played dating back to the beginning of December. His 18.5 shooting percentage ranks 10th in the League… Shea Weber has 11 points (2g-9a) in his last 10 games dating back to Dec. 29 – the day before being named to the Canadian Olympic Team. Weber ranks among the defensive league leaders in points (9g-20a), goals, power-play goals (5) and shots (130).