TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
The Predators make their third and final trip to Columbus tonight, for the fifth of six games between the Preds and Jackets this season – the teams will wrap up the 2009-10 slate on March 20 at the Sommet Center. Nashville has won each of its first two trips to Ohio’s capital city, most recently on New Year’s Eve, when David Legwand scored the third-fastest overtime goal in franchise history (0:28), and Dan Ellis stopped 31-of-32 shots in a 2-1 win. Andreas Thuresson scored his first career goal in the win, while Joel Ward tied a career high with a pair of assists (2), the second being his first career OT point. Two weeks prior on Dec. 14, Steve Sullivan notched his seventh career hat trick in a 5-3 win. Patric Hornqvist also scored, the first of what would be a career-high five-game point streak for the sophomore Olympian (5g-3a). In the first two games of the season slate, both at the Sommet Center, both ended in identical 4-3 shootout victories for Nashville on Nov. 21 and Dec. 10.
Overall, Nashville has won five straight games against Columbus dating back to April 4, 2009. Three of the five wins have come via shootout, while another in overtime. Ten of the last 11 games in the series have been decided by two goals or less. Nashville has won the season series in all but Columbus’ first year in existence (2000-01), going 37-8-(1)-4 since 2001-02 and 22-2-2 overall since the start of the 2006-07 campaign. The Predators are 9-2-2 in their last 12 visits to Ohio’s capital city.
Sullivan (3g-1a), Legwand and Martin Erat (2g-2a) are tied for the team lead in points against Columbus this season, with Erat playing in only three of the four games. Sullivan has 43 points (16g-27a) in 40 games against Columbus in his career, while Erat has 15 points (8g-7a) in his last 16 games against Columbus, including points (6g-5a) in nine of his last 11. He has more points (12g-24a) against Columbus than any other team in his career… Dating back to Nov. 12, 2007, Arnott has points in 11 of the last 14 games he has played against Columbus, amassing 15 points (7g-8a) in that span. He has 36 points (16g-20a) in 37 career games against the Blue Jackets… Kevin Klein has three assists in three games against Columbus this season, meaning half his career point total (5g-7a) has come in 42 games against the Central Division… Shea Weber has more points against Columbus (5g-9a in 22 games) than any other team in his career… In seven career appearances against Columbus (5-1-1 record), Dan Ellis has given up just 10 goals on 224 shots for a 1.47 goals-against average, a .955 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. On March 28, 2008, 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
Nashville is 1-3-0 all-time in games played on January 26. The Predators fell to Detroit 4-1 in 1999, to Anaheim 3-1 in 2002 and to Minnesota 5-1 in 2005. Nashville picked up a 3-1 win at Chicago on Jan. 26, 2007 , its most recent game played on this date.
On Nov. 21, Martin Erat (1g-1a) and David Legwand (1g-1a) led the way for the Predators, and on Dec. 10, it was Jason Arnott, Martin Erat and Dave Scatchard that provided the offense. Ryan Suter pitched in two assists while Arnott, Marcel Goc and Sullivan (shootout-deciding goal) scored in the five-round shootout, snapping Mathieu Garon’s 13-game winning streak in the breakaway competition. The three shootout goals were the second-most shootout tallies in franchise history, and the most since notching four goals in a franchise-record six-round shootout on March 21, 2006 at Detroit.
PREDATORS ON THE ROAD
Tonight is the sixth of seven road games for the Predators in a 19-day span between Jan. 11-29 – their only home game in the stretch came Jan. 18 vs. Toronto. In Nashville’s last 16 road games dating back to Nov. 12, it has gone 11-4-1. The stretch has included a seven-game road point streak (6-0-1, Nov. 12-Dec. 19) – tied for the longest road point streak in franchise history – and a five-game road winning streak (Dec. 29-Jan. 15), good for the second-longest road winning streak in club record books. Overall, the Predators are 15-9-2 away from home in 2009-10, just one win shy of last season’s road win total, and three victories away from the second-highest mark (18), attained two seasons ago, and in 2000-01 (18). The franchise record is 23 road wins attained in 2006-07. Additionally, the win total is tied for fourth in the League, just two off of the League high (New Jersey, San Jose and Pittsburgh, 17).
The Predators have scored 62 even-strength goals on the road, second only to Washington, and with 76 goals in 26 road games, the Predators are averaging 2.92 per away game, the fourth-highest average in the NHL. Also, the club is plus-12 in non-power play goals on the road, the third-best mark in the League. TEAM QUICK HITS
Nashville is 26-13-2 in 41 games since Oct. 28, and currently sit at 29-19-3 (61 points) for the season – the third-best 51-game record in franchise history. The current pace is five wins/10 points ahead of last season’s 51-game record (24-24-3), and four wins/six points ahead of their pace set in 2007-08 when the club last made the playoffs (25-21-5)… In 13 games between Dec. 4-29, Nashville outscored its opposition by an average of 3.85-3.31. In 11 games since then, it has gone defensive, outscoring its foes by an average of 2.45-2.27… Twenty-five of Nashville’s 29 wins have come by two goals or less, second only to New Jersey for most wins in that situation … Despite being shorthanded a season-high nine times and being assessed a 2009-10 high 28 PIMs last game, the Predators are still second in the NHL in fewest times shorthanded (168) and are averaging a League-low 9.1 penalty minutes per game… Nashville is 19-3-1 when scoring first, which is good for third in the NHL, 17-4-1 when scoring on the power play and 28-7-3 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 15-8-2 when outshooting the opposition, the sixth-best record in the NHL in that situation.
Several Predators have seen the majority of their production in 2009-10 come on the road. Defenseman Cody Franson scored for the second time in three games on Friday at Colorado (2g-1a), and ranks third among rookie blueliners in both points (15) and goals (5). Twelve of Franson’s 15 points, and four of his five goals have come in 23 road games, which ranks among all defensive leaders, a category that fellow Sicamous, B.C., native Shea Weber leads – seven of his nine goals have come away from the Sommet Center. Also seeing significant success on the road is forward Marcel Goc. He has 14 points (8g-6a) in his last 16 road games, and 15 of his 19 points this season have come away from Nashville.
HORNQVIST’S PRODUCTION CONTINUES
In the past 19 games dating back to Dec. 14 – Nashville’s first trip of the season to Nationwide Arena, sophomore forward Patric Hornqvist has been held off the scoresheet just four times, amassing 14 goals and 21 points in that span. Additionally, he became the seventh Nashville draft pick to score 20 goals in a Predators sweater on Thursday at Phoenix, then assisted on the club’s lone goal of the game on Friday night at Colorado, giving the final pick of the 2005 Entry Draft (230th overall) seven goals and 11 points since the calendar turned to 2010. The Swedish Olympian has experienced an 18-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 Martin Erat has 20 points (12g-8a) in his last 21 games played dating back to the beginning of December. Twelve of Erat’s 16 goals have been scored on the road this season, while 11 of his 13 assists have come on home ice. His 18.6 shooting percentage ranks among the NHL’s Top 10… Steve Sullivan has assists in seven of his last 10 games, amassing eight points in that span (1g-7a)… Both Ryan Jones (3g-2a) and Jason Arnott (1g-4a) have five points in their last six games played, while J.P. Dumont has six points (2g-4a) in his last seven outings… Francis Bouillon (106) and Shea Weber (102) have both surpassed the century mark in hits, making Nashville one of just three Western Conference teams, and seven in the League, with two-or-more blueliners with 100-or-more hits… Kevin Klein is just one blocked shot away from 100, putting him among the League’s Top 20 in that category. Prior to 2009-10, he had 71 blocked shots in 81 career games… Since the start of the new year, Dan Ellis has posted a 1.88 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.