TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
Nashville and Columbus hook up for the sixth and final time in 2009-10 tonight at the Bridgestone Arena with the Predators having claimed four of the first five matchups. All but one of the five have been decided by one goal, with the Predators claiming identical 4-3 shootout victories in each of the Blue Jackets first two visits to the Music City on Nov. 21 and Dec. 10. The Predators won by a 2-1 score on New Year’s Eve at Nationwide Arena behind David Legwand’s overtime goal just 28 seconds into the extra frame and Dan Ellis’ 31 saves, while Columbus claimed the most recent clash by a 3-2 decision on Jan. 26 in Ohio’s capital city. The lone two-goal victory in the series came on Dec. 14 when Steve Sullivan notched his seventh career hat trick en route to a 5-3 Predators win. Nashville has outshot Columbus by a combined 179-140 in the five 2009-10 games, putting a high of 48 shots on net in the Nov. 21 contest, while holding the Jackets to 17 shots in the most recent game, tied for a season low by a Predators opponent.
With 13 consecutive wins over the Blue Jackets on home ice dating back to Nov. 18, 2006, the Predators have the NHL’s longest active home winning streak against a single opponent. During the run, Nashville has three shutouts, scored four-or-more goals 10 times, and claimed four shootout victories. The Predators have outscored the Jackets 50-26 (avg. 3.85-2.00) despite being outshot 397-401 in the 13 games. Nashville is 23-3-(1)-1 all-time when hosting Columbus.
The Preds are 2-2-0 with one tie in five all-time in games played on March 20. In 1999 the game against Pittsburgh ended in a 1-1 overtime tie. Nashville split Mar. 20 games in '03 and '04, falling at Vancouver (7-3) before rebounding to win at Calgary (3-1). In 2006, the Preds knocked off St. Louis 4-2, but fell 6-3 at Detroit in 2008.
Eleven of the last 12 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 37-9-(1)-4 since 2001-02 and 22-3-2 overall since the start of the 2006-07 campaign.
Despite missing one of the five games against it this season, Martin Erat (3g-3a) paces the team in points against Columbus this season. He has 17 points (9g-8a) in his last 17 games against Columbus, including points (7g-6a) in 10 of his last 12. He has more points (13g-25a) against Columbus than any other team in his career… Legwand has five points (2g-3a) against the Blue Jackets this season. His 17 career goals against Columbus are second only to his total against Chicago (18)… Sullivan has 43 points (16g-27a) in 41 games against Columbus in his career… Jason Arnott has 15 points (7g-8a) in his last 15 games against Columbus, and 36 points (16g-20a) in 38 career games against the Blue Jackets… Shea Weber has more points against Columbus (5g-10a in 23 games) than any other team in his career… Kevin Klein tied a career high in assists/points with two in the Dec. 14 win… 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.
FIVE STRAIGHT TO 40
The Predators won their 40th game of 2009-10 on Thursday vs. Minnesota, joining San Jose and New Jersey as the only teams to win at least 40 for five consecutive seasons. Montreal (36 in 2009-10), Calgary (35), Detroit (34), Anaheim (32), New York Rangers (31) and Carolina (29) are the only other teams that can attain the feat. The 71 games it took Nashville to hit 40 is the third-fastest in franchise history, and it happened on the four-year anniversary of the first time the franchise hit the mark – March 18, 2006. The Predators have 221 wins over the last five seasons, the fifth-most in the NHL behind Detroit (247), San Jose (239), New Jersey (234), Buffalo (222).
Additionally, Thursday’s win was the team’s 20th on home ice, making it one of just four teams to hit the 20-win mark at both home and on the road (Washington, San Jose and Pittsburgh are the others). The Predators have 127 home wins in the last five seasons, third-most in the League behind only Detroit (131) and New Jersey (129).
RINNE POSTS SECOND SHUTOUT IN SEVEN DAYS, TIES FOR SECOND ON FRANCHISE LIST
Sophomore goaltender Pekka Rinne turned aside all 17 shots he faced on Thursday against the Wild, posting his 12th career shutout and fifth of the season. His season total is tied for fifth-highest in the NHL, while his dozen whitewashes in a Predators sweater moves him into a tie with Chris Mason for second on the franchise’s all-time list. All of the Kempele, Finland native’s shutouts have come since Dec. 1, 2008, tying him with Columbus’ Steve Mason and Florida’s Tomas Vokoun for the most since that date. Of his 12 blankings, Thursday marked just the second time he’s received more than two goals in offensive support.
This month, the reigning NHL Third Star of the Week has posted a 6-1-0 record with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
HORNQVIST GOES PLUS-25
With his 27th goal of the season on Thursday, Patric Hornqvist topped his rookie goal output from a season ago by 25, becoming just the 12th player in the last nine seasons dating back to 2000-01 to experience such an increase when playing at least 20 games the season prior. His goal total is also tied for the most by a homegrown Predator, tying David Legwand’s output from the 2006-07 campaign.
Hornqvist has five points (4g-1a) in his last five games. He is tied for the League lead in game-winning goals (8), and his 10 power-play goals since Dec. 1 is tied for second in the League behind only Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos (11). The Swedish Olympian has the fewest NHL games experience (98) and the lowest average ice time (15:34) among players with at least 26 goals. TEAM QUICK HITS
Tonight is the 11th of 17 games for Nashville during March – that is tied with Atlanta for the most this month. It is 7-3-0 thus far… Nashville’s 85 points through 71 games is nine points ahead of last season’s pace and seven points ahead of its pace in 2007-08 when it last made the playoffs… 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 an NHL-best 23-1-0 when leading after one period… The Predators are 25-5-1 when scoring first, good for third in the NHL… Nashville has the League’s fourth-best record (22-13-2) when outshooting the opposition… Nashville is 7-0-0 in one-goal games since Feb. 10. PLAYER QUICK HITS
Rookie Colin Wilson registered his second multi-point performance in the last five games on Thursday, giving him seven points (4g-3a) in his last seven games, and 10 points (6g-4a) in 14 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. Of Wilson’s seven career goals, three have been game winners, and three have been unassisted… Jason Arnott has assists in four straight games, tying the longest such mark by a Predator this season. The Nashville captain also has points in nine of the last 11 contests (4g-6a). Arnott also has 10 points (5g-5a) in his last seven games in Bridgestone Arena. Fifteen of Arnott’s 18 goals have come on home ice, including the last nine… Martin Erat has points in nine of Nashville’s last 11 games, amassing 11 points (2g-9a) in that span and 37 points (16g-21a) in 41 games played since the start of December after posting nine points (4g-5a) in his first 23 games of 2009-10… Marcel Goc extended his career high in goals to 12 and his personal best in points to 25 with a goal on Tuesday. He has points in three consecutive games (1g-2a)… Steve Sullivan registered his 399th career assist on Thursday, and has points in 11 of Nashville's last 13 home games, amassing 13 points (3g-10a) in that span… Dustin Boyd notched his first point/assist as a Predator on Thursday, and played 16:17, his highest since joining the team on March 7.