TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
The Phoenix Coyotes visit the Sommet Center for the first time in 2009-10 tonight, the second of four games between the Predators and Coyotes this season. In their first clash a week-and-a-half ago on Jan. 21 in Glendale, the Desert Dogs claimed a 4-2 victory behind three third-period goals by former Predator first-round pick Scottie Upshall. It was the first time in franchise history an opponent notched a hat trick against Nashville in a single period. The Predators led the game 2-1 after 40 minutes behind two goals in a 40-second span by 2010 Olympian Patric Hornqvist (Sweden) and Martin Erat (Czech Republic). Hornqvist’s goal was his 20th of the season, making him just the seventh Predators draft pick to hit the mark for the club. Nashville outshot the home team 43-23 for the contest, and were not assessed a penalty for the first time since March 22, 2008 vs. Chicago. The four-goal output by the Coyotes matched their four-game offensive output from 2008-09, a season series Nashville claimed three games to one.
The last time these teams met at the Sommet Center was Feb. 26 of last year in a game that saw the Predators outshoot Phoenix by 21 (47-26), and win by a 4-1 score. Joel Ward led the way with a goal and an assist, while Pekka Rinne stopped 25 shots in the victory. The Predators have won the past three meetings between the clubs in the Music City dating back to this day two years ago (Feb. 2, 2008), and are 8-1-(1)-0 hosting the ‘Yotes since the start of the 2003-04 campaign. Nashville has outscored Phoenix 31-16 in those 10 games. 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 13-of-17.
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 Nashville Predators are 3-0-0 all-time in games played on February 2. The Preds came up with a road win at the New York Islanders in 2000, 6-4. Nashville went on to win games on Feb. 2 in 2006 (4-3 over Colorado) and in 2008 (3-2 over Phoenix in overtime).
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.
With an assist in the Jan. 21 game, and 54 points (20g-34a) in 53 games, Jason Arnott has more points against the Coyotes than any other team over the course of his career. This includes 12 points (5g-7a) in 10 games against them as a Predator… Steve Sullivan, who had the only other assist in the Jan. 21 game, has 15 points (6g-9a) in 12 contests against Phoenix while wearing a Nashville sweater… Pekka Rinne went 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average and a .973 save percentage against Phoenix a season ago, his only three games against them in his career. His 18-save shutout of the Coyotes on March 14, 2009 was the seventh of his rookie campaign, a franchise record.
TEAM QUICK HITS
The Predators won for the 30th time this season in their 54th game of 2009-10 on Saturday – the third fastest to 30 wins in franchise history. Since a 3-6-1 start to the season, the Predators have gone 27-15-2. With 63 points (30-21-3), the club is five wins/10 points ahead of last season’s 54-game pace (53 points, 25-26-3)… Nashville has won three-of-four home games against Pacific Division opponents… The Predators are 26-15-2 in games decided by two goals or less. That is the second-most wins in the NHL in that situation behind only New Jersey… The Predators are 17-1-0 when leading after one period, which is tied for first in the NHL with tonight’s opponent and the New Jersey Devils… Nashville is 20-3-1 when scoring first, which is good for second in the League behind only Phoenix… The Predators have posted a 17-4-1 record when recording a power-play goal… Since a stretch from Jan. 5-11 (four games) that saw the Predators score 8-of-10 goals via special teams (six power-play goals, two shorthanded goals), they have scored 19-of-20 at even strength over an eight-game span from Jan. 12-30… Nashville is among the League’s Top 10 in both five-on-five goals (102) and even-strength tallies (107)… The Predators are third in the NHL in fewest times shorthanded (179) and are averaging a League-low 9.1 penalty minutes per game.
PREDATORS RACK UP THE SHOTS
Nashville outshot the opposition for the sixth consecutive game on Saturday vs. Atlanta (31-26), amassing a 213-140 edge (plus-73) in that span. The Predators have put 30-or-more shots on net in each game, including two 40-shot performances – at Phoenix on Jan. 21 when they racked up the second-highest shot advantage in a road game in franchise history (43-23) and Friday at Detroit when they set a franchise record for shots in road game (48-29). The Predators have posted a double-digit shot count in five consecutive periods. Prior to the current six-game stretch, Nashville had put 30-or-more shots on goal just three times in the previous 15 games, and hadn’t posted a 40-shot performance in 28 outings.
The Predators are among the League’s Top 10 teams in both average shots for (30.3) and fewest average shots against (29.1). They are 16-10-2 when outshooting the opposition, 12-10-1 when being outshot and 2-1-0 when posting an even number of shots.
SCORING BY COMMITTEE
Nashville has nine different players with at least 25 points – only Chicago and Washington with 10 each have more – and five of those nine have already surpassed 30 points. Seven Predators have hit double-digits in goals with J.P. Dumont and Joel Ward just one shy of the mark. PLAYER QUICK HITS Martin Erat notched a goal and an assist on Saturday vs. Atlanta, giving him five points (3g-2a) in his last five games, and 23 points (14g-9a) in his last 24 games played dating back to the beginning of December – he missed four games in that span due to injury. Thirteen of Erat’s 18 goals this season have been scored at home, while 12 of his 15 assists have come on the road. The Czech Olympian is also ranked ninth in the NHL in shooting percentage (18.6), and is in a four-way tie for tops on the team in scoring with J.P. Dumont, Patric Hornqvist and Steve Sullivan… Sullivan has recorded an assist in six consecutive home games (1g-6a), while defenseman Ryan Suter has notched assists in three straight at the Sommet Center… Jason Arnott has 10 of his 13 goals this season on home ice… Cody Franson has 12 (4g-8a) of his 16 points (5g-11a) on the road, but three points (1g-2a) in the last two home games. Franson is third among rookie blueliners in goals and fourth in points. His plus-11 rating is tops among all NHL rookies… Shea Weber has 13 points (4g-9a) in his last 15 games. The Canadian Olympian is tied for fifth among NHL defensemen in goals (10) and tied for 13th at the position in points (31). His 154 shots on goal are the most among NHL blueliners… Patric Hornqvist has 15 goals and 22 points in the team’s last 22 games dating back to Dec. 14. The Swedish Olympian’s 19-goal increase from his rookie season of 2008-09 is tops in the NHL among players who skated in at least 20 games last season.