TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. N.Y. ISLANDERS
Tonight, the Predators make just their sixth visit all-time to Nassau Memorial Coliseum, the one-and-only meeting between Nashville and the New York Islanders in 2009-10. After visiting the Island in each of its first three seasons – posting a 2-1-0 record – the Predators have come to town just twice – once in 2002-03, a 4-3 overtime victory for the home team, and once in 2006-07 (Oct. 16, 2006) in a game that saw the Predators claim a 2-1 shootout decision behind a second-period goal and a shootout-deciding marker by Steve Sullivan. The lone clash of the Isles and Preds since that early 2006-07 matchup came on Dec. 20, 2008 at the Sommet Center. Pekka Rinne pitched a 23-save shutout and Vernon Fiddler scored Nashville’s lone goal that night, as the Predators picked up their fifth whitewash in a 12-game span between Nov. 25-Dec. 20. Overall, Nashville has won the last five meetings of the teams going back to Feb. 13, 2003, posting a 0.98 goals-against average in that span. It has a better winning percentage against the Islanders (.708, 8-3-1 record) than any other team in the League.
All-time series highlight: On Oct. 15, 2002, at the Nassau Coliseum Predators defenseman Karlis Skrastins pulled off an offensive feat rarely attained – scoring a goal while his team was two-men down. Forward Vladimir Orszagh and goaltender Tomas Vokoun were both penalized as the clock ran down in the first period, leaving the Predators two-men short against the New York Islanders heading into the middle frame. Just 21 seconds into the second period, Skrastins fired a shot from the blue line at Islanders netminder Chris Osgood. With his own player screening him, the shot caught the Islanders’ goalie off guard, giving Nashville a 3-1 lead. To this day, it is still the only 3-on-5 goal scored in the Predators’ 877-game existence. The Islanders would eventually rally for a 4-3 overtime victory.
Nashville is 1-3-0 all-time in games played on February 9. The Predators dropped a 5-2 decision on Feb. 9, 1999 to Detroit. The team won 1-0 in overtime at Columbus in 2002. Nashville then fell to the Red Wings in 2006, 3-2, and in 2008 to the Sharks, 4-3.
J.P. Dumont was the Islanders’ first selection, third overall (first round), in the 1996 Entry Draft, but was traded away before turning pro. On May 30, 1998 – just 29 days after helping Val-d’Or sweep Rimouski in the 1998 QMJHL Finals, winning the Guy Lafleur Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs in the process – Dumont was send to Chicago along with the N.Y. Islanders’ fifth-round choice in the 1998 Entry Draft (traded to Philadelphia; Philadelphia selected Francis Belanger) for Dmitri Nabokov. Since then, he has 15 points (6g-9a) in 20 games against the Islanders.
Steve Sullivan has 18 points (7g-11a) in 15 career games against the Islanders, including three goals in a pair of games against them as a Predator… Martin Erat has five points (2g-3a) in six career games against N.Y. Islanders – including an assist on Nashville’s lone goal in the game last season – while David Legwand as five assists in seven career games against the Isles.
BACK ON THE ROAD
After a four-game homestand from Jan. 30-Feb. 6, Nashville is back on the road for its final four games before the Olympic Break. In its last 18 road games dating back to Nov. 12, it has gone 11-6-1, giving the club a 15-11-2 mark away from Nashville this season – that win total is just one shy of last season’s road victory total, and three victories away from the second-highest mark (18), attained two seasons ago and in 2000-01. The franchise record is 23 road wins attained in 2006-07.
The Predators have scored 66 even-strength goals on the road, second only to Washington, and are averaging 2.86 goals per game in road contests, the fourth-highest mark in the league. Also, the club is plus-12 in non-power play goals on the road, the third-best mark in the League.
Individually, Shea Weber has eight of his 10 goals away from home, which is tops among League blueliners. Marcel Goc also has eight of his 10 goals, and 15 of his 19 points, on the road.
SHOTS PILE UP
Nashville outshot the opposition for the eighth time in nine games (38-29) in Saturday’s game vs. San Jose – it has racked up 30-or-more shots in all but one of those games while holding the opposition under 30 in all nine. In that span, the Predators have amassed a plus-91 shot differential, holding an average shot edge of 35-25 (total: 312-221). The Predators are eighth in the NHL in shot differential (plus-1.5), and 17-11-2 when outshooting the opposition. TEAM QUICK HITS
Nashville is 7-3-1 against the Eastern Conference this season, but has played only one time against an Atlantic Division foe – it topped New Jersey in a shootout (3-2) on Nov. 19… Since a 3-6-1 start to the season, the Predators have gone 28-16-3. With 66 points (31-22-4), the club is four wins/nine points ahead of last season’s 56-game pace (57 points, 27-27-3). The last time Nashville made the playoffs in 2007-08, it was 29-22-6 through 57 games… The Predators have six second-period goals in the last two games, equaling their middle-frame output from the previous 11 outings… Since the start of February, the Predators have scored four of their eight goals on the power play. In the previous eight games from Jan. 12-30, the club scored 19 of its 20 goals at even strength… The Predators are 27-16-3 in games decided by two goals or less – that’s tied for second in the NHL in wins in that situation … The Predators are 17-1-0 when leading after one period, which is tied for second in the League… Nashville is 20-4-1 when scoring first, which is tied for third in the League… The Predators have posted an 18-5-1 record when recording a power-play goal… Nashville is third in the NHL in fewest times shorthanded (187), and are averaging a League-low 9.0 penalty minutes a game.
SHARING THE WEALTH
In the last two games, Joel Ward and J.P. Dumont have joined the list of Predators with at least 10 goals, bringing the total nine – only Washington (10) has more players with 10-or-more goals. Also, Nashville has nine players that have reached 25 points – only Washington (10) and Chicago (10) have more – and seven who have hit 30 points – only Washington (8), Chicago (8) and Los Angeles (8) have more. PLAYER QUICK HITS Patric Hornqvist has 17 goals and 25 points in the team’s last 25 games dating back to Dec. 14. Prior to Monday’s games, Hornqvist’s goal total was fourth since that date behind the NHL’s top three in goals – Alexander Ovechkin (21), Sidney Crosby (19) and Patrick Marleau (18). Hornqvist has the fewest games of NHL experience, and at 15:16 per game, he has the lowest ice time among 20-goal scorers. The Swedish Olympian’s 21-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. Additionally, Hornqvist has scored eight of Nashville’s 14 power-play goals since Dec. 8, tied with Nicklas Backstrom and Eric Staal for the NHL’s highest man-advantage goal total since that date… Martin Erat has 25 points (14g-11a) in his last 27 games played dating back to the beginning of December. The Czech Olympian is also ranked among the NHL’s Top 15 in shooting percentage (17.5)… Since returning from a three-game absence due to injury from Jan. 22-29, Joel Ward has four points (3g-1a) in four games, including goals in back-to-back contests. Saturday was the first time Nashville has lost this season when Ward records a point – it is 19-1-0 this season when he registers a point, and 20-3-2 since the start of 2008-09 when he scores a goal… Shea Weber has 15 points (4g-11a) in his last 18 games. He’s is tied for fifth among NHL defensemen in goals (10) and power-play goals (5), and tied for 10th at the position in points (33). His 165 shots on goal are second among NHL blueliners to only Zdeno Chara… Predators defenseman Kevin Klein is averaging 20:13 this season – a more than seven minute increase over last season’s average of 12:39. Among skaters who played more than 60 games last season and have played more than 25 games this season, he’s the only one with an increase of at least 5:00 per game… Ryan Suter is a plus-15 since Dec. 1, tied for fifth among NHL d-men since that date.