TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. ATLANTA
As one of its three Eastern Conference “wild card” opponents, Nashville will square off with the Thrashers for the second time this season tonight, the second straight campaign the teams have played a pair of games – they split the 2008-09 series with the road team winning both matchups. In the first contest against their closest geographical rivals, the Predators prevailed by a 4-3 score behind goals in the first 10 minutes of regulation by Joel Ward (3:59) and Jerred Smithson (9:27). Tied at 3-3 after 40 minutes, Jason Arnott would score the game-winning goal just seven seconds into the third period, tied for the fastest goal from the start of a regulation period in franchise history. Martin Erat scored Nashville’s other goal as part of a two-point night, earning him First Star honors. The victory improved Nashville to 6-4-(1)-1 all-time against the Thrashers, including a 3-1-0 mark over the past three seasons. In the Predators last trip to Philips Arena on Nov. 28 of last season, they picked up their first win at the venue in nearly 10 years – a 4-3 overtime result in the first-ever meeting of the teams on Dec. 6, 1999. Last fall’s game ended in a 4-3 overtime win as well thanks to Ryan Suter’s first career overtime goal at 1:44 of the extra session. Goaltender Pekka Rinne – who has been in net for all three games between the clubs over the last two seasons – picked up his first career point/assist on the extra time goal.
All-time series highlight: In his first start as a Predator – and only his second career start – Dan Ellis did not disappoint the hometown fans, posting a 20-save shutout on Oct. 25, 2007. Both Jordin Tootoo (1g-1a) and David Legwand (2a) notched multi-point games for the Predators, while Jerred Smithson opened the scoring with what would be his first of back-to-back games with the winning goal, the first time in his career he had scored in two straight contests.
The Preds are 0-3-0 with one tie in four all-time in games played on March 9. In 2002 the Preds tied the Florida Panthers, 2-2. Nashville suffered three one-goal losses: 3-2 vs. Boston in '04, 3-2 vs. Detroit in '06, and 4-3 vs. Detroit in '08.
Jordin Tootoo has seen greater success against the Atlanta Thrashers than any other NHL team. With an assist in the Jan. 30 game, he six points (3g-3a) in six career games against them. On Oct. 23, 2003, in his sixth career game, he scored his first NHL goal on goaltender Pasi Nurminen at Philips Arena… His game-winning goal gave Arnott four points (2g-2a) in four games against Atlanta as a Predator, and 16 points (6g-10a) in 18 career games against the Thrashers… As a Predator, Steve Sullivan has assists in each of his three games against Atlanta, and six points (3g-3a) in eight career games against the Thrashers…Wade Belak played his first game as a Predator in the Nov. 28 game last season… In his first start as a Predator – and only his second career start – Dan Ellis stopped all 20 shots he faced as part of a 3-0 Nashville victory over Atlanta on Oct. 25, 2007at the Bridgestone Arena.
Career highs/highlights attained against the Thrashers Wade Belak – First game as a Predator on Nov. 28, 2008.
Dan Ellis – First NHL shutout on Oct. 25, 2007. Jordin Tootoo – First NHL goal on Oct. 23, 2003 on goaltender Pasi Nurminen.
TROTZ CLOSES IN ON 400
Head Coach Barry Trotz – Nashville’s head coach since Day 1 – won his 399th game behind the Predators bench on Thursday vs. Los Angeles. His next win will make him just the seventh coach in NHL history to win 400 games with one team.
HAMHUIS PLAYS SET-UP MAN
Dan Hamhuis tied a career high by recording an assist for the fourth consecutive game on Sunday, in addition to putting four shots on goal for just the second time in the last 48 games going back to mid-November. The assist streak, which ties the longest by a Predator this season, is part of a stretch that has seen the Smithers, B.C., native post assists in six-of-eight games (6a) after after recording just three points (1g-2a) in his previous 23 games. Nineteen (4g-15a) of Hamhuis’ 20 points this season have come at even strength. The 12th overall pick in the 2001 Entry Draft also ranks sixth among NHL defensemen in takeaways (39). TEAM QUICK HITS
Nashville is 9-4-2 against the Eastern Conference this season, including a 4-0-1 mark against teams from the Southeast Division. The Predators have only won by three-or-more goals four times this season, and two of them have come in five games against the Southeast – Florida (4-1 on Nov. 28) and Tampa Bay (7-4 on Dec. 15)… Tonight is the fifth of 17 games for Nashville during March – that is tied with tonight’s opponent for the most this month… Nashville is third in the league in even-strength road goals (75), and tied for sixth in the NHL in goals on the road (92)… It is also a plus-9 in non-power-play goals scored away from home, tied for third-best in the League… Nashville’s 17 road victories in 2009-10 is the third-highest total in franchise history. The club record is 23 road wins in 2006-07, while the Predators racked up 18 victories away from home in 2007-08 and 2000-01… Since the start of February (10 games), the Predators have scored 11 of their 32 goals on the power play (34.4 percent). In the previous eight games from Jan. 12-30, the club scored 19 of its 20 goals at even strength (5 percent of production on the power play)… The Predators have scored in 10 straight second periods, amassing 16 middle-frame markers in that span… Overall, Nashville has been shorthanded 217 times this season (average of 3.34 per game), fourth-fewest in the League. It is averaging the fewest penalty minutes per game in the League (9.2)… The Predators are a 19-1-0 when leading after one period, and 21-4-1 when scoring first – both rank second in the NHL… The Predators are 31-17-3 in games decided by two goals or less – the most wins in the NHL in that situation. PLAYER QUICK HITS
The Predators have eight different players with 30-or-more points – only Washington (10), Chicago (9) and Philadelphia (9) have more. Nashville also has nine different players with 10-or-more goals – only Washington (11) has more… Jason Arnott has points (3g-1a) in four of Nashville’s last five games, and nine points (4g-5a) in his last 10 outings. Fourteen of Arnott’s 17 goals this season have come on home ice, including eight straight dating back to Dec. 5. Additionally, each of the Nashville captain’s last two goals have been on the power-play after scoring eight straight at even strength between Dec. 2 and March 2… Martin Erat tied Kimmo Timonen for second on the franchise’s all-time assist list (222) with a helper on Arnott’s power-play goal on Sunday. He has five points (1g-4a) in his last five games, and 31 points (15g-16a) in 35 games played since Dec. 2 after posting nine points (4g-5a) in his first 23 games of 2009-10… Jordin Tootoo has goals (4g) in four of his last seven games, matching his output from his previous 92 NHL games played from Oct. 28, 2008-Feb. 9, 2010… Both Ryan Suter and Steve Sullivan have assists (3a) in three of their last four games… Since being recalled on Feb. 9, rookie Colin Wilson has four points (2g-2a) while playing in all eight of Nashville’s games in that span. He had two points (1g-1a) in his first 10 NHL games from Oct. 12-31 prior to the current stretch… Marcel Goc has 16 points (8g-8a) in his last 18 road games, and 17 (8g-9a) of his 22 points this season have come on the road. A season ago, he posted five points (1g-4a) in 27 road games for San Jose. Goc has also scored eight of his career-high 11 goals on the road… Patric Hornqvist has 212 shots through 64 games – good for 19th in the NHL – putting him on pace for 268 shots in 2009-10. The franchise record is 251 shots set by Shea Weber last season. In the past three months (since Dec. 8), Hornqvist has eight power-play goals, tied for third in the League behind only Steven Stamkos and Ryan Kesler’s nine PPGs.