TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. MINNESOTA
The Predators wrap up their 2009-10 season series with the Wild tonight at the Bridgestone Arena, the first time the teams have met since playing twice in a four-day span during the first week of December. Minnesota won both of those games, claiming a 5-3 decision on Dec. 5 at the Bridgestone Arena and a 5-4 overtime victory on Dec. 2. The extra-time loss saw the trio of Steve Sullivan (1g-3a), Jason Arnott (2g-1a) and J.P. Dumont (2a) produce most of Nashville’s offense, as they combined for three of the team’s four goals and nine of its 12 points. It was Sullivan’s third four-point game as a Predator, and first since Feb. 21, 2004 at Phoenix. The season’s first and only other meeting, which came Oct. 28 at Xcel Energy Center, was a see-saw battle, as the Predators jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 5:33 of the game, on goals by Dumont and Shea Weber, then fell behind on three Minnesota goals in a span of 1:47 in the second period’s opening minutes. Nashville would come back to tie the game on Mike Santorelli’s first career goal at 5:44 of the second, then receive the game winner on a shorthanded goal from Jerred Smithson at the 10:44 mark of the third. Pekka Rinne stopped 12-of-12 shots in 37:42 to pick up the victory in relief of Dan Ellis.
A win tonight would give Nashville its third straight home split with the Wild. The Predators are 9-5-3 all-time when hosting Minnesota, and 14-13-(5)-3 in 35 games against it since the Wild broke into the league in 2000-01.
All-time series highlights: On Nov. 16, 2006 at the Bridgestone Arena, Nashville pelted Niklas Backstrom and Manny Fernandez with a combined 45 shots and Minnesota put the same number on Chris Mason in what
Tonight marks just the second time in franchise history the Preds are playing a game on March 18. The only other March 18 game day occurred in the franchise’s inaugural 1998-99 season, a one-goal loss at Montreal, 3-2.
proved to be a franchise record for most combined shots in a game (90). On March 21, 2001, Mike Dunham (23 saves) and Jamie McLennan (27 saves) both recorded shutouts in the first of two scoreless ties in team history.
Since the start of the 2006-07 season, Sullivan has 17 points (5g-12a) in nine games against Minnesota – he posted eight points (3g-5a) in four games in 2006-07, three points (1g-2a) in two games last season, and six points (1g-5a) in two games this season… Dumont has three points (1g-2a) in three games against the Wild this season, giving him 20 points (6g-14a) in 20 career games against Minnesota, including 18 points (5g-13a) in 14 games as a Predator… Since joining the Predators, Arnott has 15 points (8g-7a) in 14 contests against Minnesota… Marcel Goc had goals in both of Nashville’s December games against Minnesota … Dan Hamhuis has more points against Minnesota than any other non-Central Division opponent. He has 11 points (4g-7a) in 23 career games against the Wild… Joel Ward started his professional career in the Wild organization, playing three seasons in Houston (2005-08) and dressing for his first 11 NHL games with Minnesota in 2006-07.
Career highs/highlights attained against the Wild Martin Erat – First career goal on Oct. 30, 2001 against Dwayne Roloson. Jerred Smithson – First career goal on Dec. 1, 2005 against Roloson.
PREDATORS CONTINUE SHOOTOUT SUCCESS
Nashville won its sixth shootout competition of the season on Tuesday vs. Philadelphia, tied for its most wins in the tiebreaker since it was established in 2005-06. After a 1-for-2 performance against the Flyers, Nashville shooters have gone 14-for-36 (38.9 percent) this season – tied for the most shootout goals in franchise history and good for the seventh-best conversion rate in the NHL. Martin Erat tallied the Predators shootout goal, his third straight conversion and second shootout-decider this season. Erat has gone 11-for-27 in his career, just one shy of the club record for shootout conversions held by Paul Kariya (12). The Trebic, Czech Republic native’s eight shootout-deciding markers are a team record. At the other end of the rink, Predators goaltenders Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne have stymied five straight shooters, and 15 of the last 19 attempts they’ve faced. The duo’s combined .737 save percentage is fifth-best in the League. TEAM QUICK HITS
Tonight is the 10th of 17 games for Nashville during March – that is tied with Atlanta for the most this month. It is 6-3-0 thus far… The Predators are 11-7-1 this season against the Northwest Division after going 7-13-0 against its teams in 2008-09… Nashville is 39-26-5 (83 points), the third-best record in franchise record through 70 games. It was 35-30-5 (75 points) at this time last season, and 35-27-8 (78 points) with 12 games remaining in the 2007-08 season, the last in which it advanced to the postseason… The Predators have gone 15-for-53 (28.3 percent) on the power play over the last 15 games moving the unit from 29th in the NHL’s power-play rankings at the start of February, to 17th currently. Since Jan. 5, the power play has gone 11-for-34 (32.4 percent) at Bridgestone Arena, and has scored in five of the last six games. In that span, its home power play efficiency has improved from 17.3 percent (20th in the NHL) to 21.7 percent (sixth in the NHL). Nashville is 25-8-2 when scoring on the power play as opposed to 14-20-3 when not registering a man-advantage goal… The Predators are 35-17-3 in games decided by two goals or less – the most wins in the NHL in that situation… Nashville is also an NHL-best 22-1-0 when leading after one period… Nashville has been shorthanded just 94 times through 33 home games – an average of 2.85 times per game – the fewest in the League. Overall, it has been shorthanded 227 times this season (average of 3.24 per game), tied for third-fewest in the League. It is averaging the fewest penalty minutes per game in the League (9.0)… The Predators are 24-5-1 when scoring first, good for third in the NHL… Nashville has the League’s sixth-best record (22-13-2) when outshooting the opposition. PLAYER QUICK HITS
With a goal on Tuesday, Martin Erat hit the 20-goal mark for the third time in his career. He is just three goals from a career high in the category, and six points away from hitting the 50-point mark for the fourth consecutive season. The Czech Olympian has points in eight of Nashville’s last 10 games, amassing nine points (2g-7a) in that span and 35 points (16g-19a) in 40 games played since the start of December after posting nine points (4g-5a) in his first 23 games of 2009-10… Steve Sullivan has points in 10 of Nashville's last 12 home games, amassing 12 points (3g-9a) in that span… Marcel Goc has helpers in back-to-back games for the fifth time in his career – he’s never had assists in three straight contests. His assist on Tuesday stretched his career high in points to 24, and left him just one shy of his personal best in assists set during his rookie season of 2005-06 (14)… David Legwand has assists in three of the last four games. On Tuesday, he played 19:00 for the first time in 22 games – the team is 25-7-2 when he receives at least 19 minutes of ice time… Jason Arnott has assists in three straight, and points in eight of the last 10 contests (3g-5a). Arnott also has eight points (4g-4a) in his last six games in Nashville. Fourteen of Arnott’s 17 goals have come on home ice, including the last eight… Dan Hamhuis has assists in eight of Nashville’s last 13 games. He had 10 assists in his first 53 games of the season… Ryan Suter has a point in seven of Nashville’s last nine outings (1g-6a), and assists in four of his last five games at Bridgestone Arena… Patric Hornqvist has four points (3g-1a) in his last four games. He is tied for the League lead in game-winning goals (8), and has the fewest NHL games experience (97) and the lowest averaged ice time (15:35) among players with at least 26 goals... Rookie Colin Wilson has five points (3g-2a) in his last six games and eight points (5g-3a) in 13 games since being recalled from Milwaukee for the first time in his career on Feb. 9. He started the season with the Predators, notching two points (1g-1a) in his first 10 career games… Pekka Rinne is 5-1-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in the month of March.