TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. ST. LOUIS
The Predators visit the Gateway to the West for the third and final time in 2009-10 tonight – the first of three matchups between Nashville and St. Louis over the final three weeks of the regular season – the other two come in Nashville on April 1 and April 10. The visiting team undefeated through three games in the series this season. In the most recent matchup on Dec. 29, the Predators used four straight goals from 5:04 of the first to 5:16 of the third period to take a 4-3 victory at Scottrade Center. Shea Weber tied a career high with three assists in the game, and both J.P. Dumont and Marcel Goc notched a goal and an assist. In its first visit to St. Louis on Nov. 12, Nashville reeled off three unanswered goals – including the game winner by Jordin Tootoo at 16:17 of the third period – in a 3-1 victory. The scripts were flipped two weeks later in the Blues only trip to Bridgestone Arena thus far on Black Friday (Nov. 27), as they came away with a 3-1 win. Dave Scatchard scored Nashville’s lone goal, his first since Dec. 12, 2006 (with Phoenix at Vancouver), a span of 23 months and 15 days. The Preds have outshot the Bluenotes by a combined margin of 105-87 through three games, including 37-22 in the Nov. 12 victory.
Nashville is 4-1-1 in its last six games against the Blues, and 24-6-3 in the series since the start of the 2005-06 season. In St. Louis’ home barn, the Preds have posted a 12-5-0 mark since 2005. Four of the last eight meetings between the two clubs have needed overtime or a shootout to determine a winner, and the Predators have been to overtime/a shootout with St. Louis a club-record 18 times, going 9-5-4. The teams have played at least three overtime/shootout games in each of the past three seasons. Additionally, Nashville has gone 19-for-20 on the penalty kill over the past six games against St. Louis.
All-time series highlight: Chris Mason shut out the Blues twice in a five-day span on April 6 and 11, 2006 at the Scottrade Center. On April 6, Mason stopped 18 shots, while Kimmo Timonen, Shea Weber and Paul Kariya provided the offense in a 3-0 victory, and on April 11, Mason turned aside 27 shots, and both Mike Sillinger and Adam Hall scored in a 2-0 win in Nashville’s final road game of the 2005-06 regular season.
Weber’s three assists tie him with David Legwand (1g-2a) for the team lead in points against St. Louis through three games. Legwand has played more games against St. Louis (53) than any other individual against any other team in franchise history…Ryan Suter has five helpers in his last seven games against St. Louis – leaving him with 14 career assists against it – his highest total against a single team – and 15 points, tied with Chicago for the most in that category… Patric Hornqvist has a goal in each of the team’s games at Scottrade Center this season… Steve Sullivan has 45 points (18g-27a) in 53 career games against the Blues to lead all Predators… Pekka Rinne has played in all three games against St. Louis this season, posting a 2-1-1 record and a 2.36 goals-against average… For his career against St. Louis, Dan Ellis is 2-1-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average.
Career highs/highlights attained against the Blues Francis Bouillon – Career-high 15 penalty minutes on Jan. 13, 2004. First career goal on Jan. 6, 2000 on Roman Turek.
Dan Ellis – First game as a Predator on Oct. 10, 2007.
Dan Hamhuis – First NHL goal on Oct. 16, 2003 on Chris Osgood. Patric Hornqvist – First NHL game on Oct. 10, 2008. Joel Ward – First NHL goal on Oct. 10, 2008 on Manny Legace. Shea Weber – First NHL goal on April 6, 2006 on Reinhard Divis.
RINNE POSTS BACK-TO-BACK SHUTOUTS, THIRD IN EIGHT DAYS
Sophomore goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped all 33 shots he faced in Saturday’s 1-0 overtime victory over Columbus, giving him back-to-back shutouts after whitewashing Minnesota by a 5-0 score on Thursday (17 saves). It marked the first time a Predator netminder had posted back-to-back shutouts since Dan Ellis did so as part of a franchise-record 233:39 on March 25, 2008 vs. Columbus and March 28, 2008 at Columbus. Saturday’s blanking was the 13th of Rinne’s career – moving him into sole possession of second on the franchise’s all-time list – and was his sixth of the season, just one off of last season’s franchise-record total and good for fifth in the NHL.
All of the Kempele, Finland native’s shutouts have come since Dec. 1, 2008 – the most of any goaltender in that span. Of his 13, he’s received two goals or fewer in offensive support 11 times. The League’s second-tallest active goaltender signed a two-year, $6.8 million contract over the Olympic break, and since then, has posted an NHL-best 7-1-0 record with a 1.71 goals-against average, a .937 save percentage and a League-high three shutouts. He is also the reigning NHL Third Star of the Week.
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 (36), Detroit (34), Anaheim (33), New York Rangers (31) and Carolina (30) 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 222 wins over the last five seasons, the fifth-most in the NHL behind Detroit (247), San Jose (239), New Jersey (234), Buffalo (223). TEAM QUICK HITS
Tonight is the 12th of 17 games for Nashville during March – that is tied with Atlanta for the most this month. It is 8-3-0 thus far… Nashville’s 87 points through 72 games is 10 points ahead of last season’s pace and nine points ahead of its pace in 2007-08 when it last made the playoffs… Nashville is one of just five teams (along with Washington, San Jose, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh) with at least 20 home wins and 20 road wins… The Predators rank second in the League in even-strength road goals (83), and tied for fourth in the NHL in overall road goals (103)… The Predators are 36-17-3 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 26-5-1 when scoring first, good for third in the NHL… Nashville has the League’s fourth-best record (22-13-2) when outshooting the opposition… The Predators have gone 16-for-59 (27.1 percent) on the power play since Feb. 4, moving the unit from 29th in the NHL’s power-play rankings at the start of February, to 16th currently. Nashville is 26-8-2 when scoring on the power play as opposed to 15-20-3 when not registering a man-advantage goal. PLAYER QUICK HITS
The Predators have nine players with at least 30 points – only Philadelphia and Chicago have more… Cody Franson scored his first career overtime goal last night, giving him six markers during his rookie campaign, good for third among rookie blueliners. Three of Franson’s six goals have stood up as game-winners, which is tops among first-year defensemen. The Sicamous, B.C., native has accumulated 14 (4g-10a) of his 19 points (6g-13a) in 29 road games. He is a plus-13 on the road, which is tied for eighth in the entire NHL, and tied for fifth among League d-men… Colin Wilson notched his first career sudden-death point/assist last night, giving him three points (1g-2a) in his last two games, and eight points (4g-4a) in his last eight outings. Since being recalled for the first time in his career on Feb. 9, the seventh overall pick in the 2008 Entry Draft has 11 points (6g-5a) in 15 games. His goal total in that span is tied for first among first-year players, while his point total ranks second to Atlanta’s Niclas Bergfors… Martin Erat extended his point streak to four games (1g-4a) with his third career overtime point last night (1g-2a). He has points in 10 of Nashville’s last 12 games, amassing 12 points (2g-10a) in that span and 38 points (16g-22a) in 42 games played since the start of December after posting nine points (4g-5a) in his first 23 games of 2009-10… Jason Arnott has five points (1g-4a) in his last five games, and 10 points (4g-6a) in the last 12 games… Marcel Goc has points (1g-2a) in three of his last four games, 17 points (8g-9a) in his last 22 road games and 18 (8g-10a) of his career-high 25 points this season on the road… Shea Weber leads all NHL defensemen in road goals (10)… Steve Sullivan has three points (2g-1a) in his last four games, and his just one assist shy of 400 for his career… Patric Hornqvist has six points (4g-2a) in six games.