TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DALLAS
Nashville and Dallas meet tonight for the first time since playing on three occasions during the first month of the regular season, the 44th matchup all time of the Stars and Predators. Nashville has claimed two of the three October games, both starting and closing out the month with a victory. In the season-opener on Oct. 3, the Preds claimed a 3-2 shootout victory with former Star Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan providing the goals, and Mike Santorelli notching the deciding tally of the shootout. Dan Ellis stopped four-of-five shooters and turned aside a season-high 38 shots in the win. In Dallas’s first visit to the Bridgestone Arena on Halloween 2009, the Predators overcame a 2-1 deficit in the third period behind goals by Sullivan, Patric Hornqvist and Kevin Klein. The Stars lone victory was sandwiched in between the two Nashville wins – a 6-0 decision on Oct. 14 at American Airlines Center. The home team has won six of the last seven games in the series, and the Predators have won three straight in their home venue dating back to Dec. 31, 2007. Nashville has accumulated 12 of its 17 all-time victories over Dallas at the Bridgestone Arena, going is 12-8-(1)-0 all-time when hosting the Stars.
Arnott was traded to Dallas (along with Randy McKay and a first-round selection in the 2002 Entry Draft) from New Jersey for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner on March 19, 2002. He played 236 games with the Stars from that point through the 2005-06 season, amassing 184 points (79g-10a). He notched a career-high 76 points (32g-44a) in his final season in Dallas. He was pointless in three games against his former team in 2006-07, but since then, has 10 points (4g-6a) in nine games against the Stars… Ellis has faced the team that drafted him 60th overall in the 2000 Entry Draft nine times since joining the Predators for the 2007-08 season, shutting them out twice – on Dec. 13, 2008 (27 saves) and Dec. 31, 2007 (22 saves) – and holding them to one goal on two other occasions – Oct. 11, 2008 (19 saves) and March 1, 2008 (24 saves).
The Nashville Predators are 1-2-1 all-time in games played on March 23. The Preds were defeated by the Red Wings 6-3 in 2000. Nashville played Mar. 23 games in three consecutive years from '02-04, beating Montreal 5-1 in 2002, picking up an overtime point vs. Edmonton in 2003 (2-3), and dropping a 4-1 decision to Anaheim in 2004.
J.P. Dumont (4g-8a) has 12 points in 10 games against Dallas, while Martin Erat has eight points (1g-7a) in his last 10 vs. the Stars.
PEKKA RINNE NAMED FIRST STAR OF THE WEEK
For the second consecutive week, Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne has been named one of the NHL’s Stars of the Week, earning First Star accolades on Monday just one week after taking home Third Star honors. Rinne went 4-0-0 with a 1.21 goals-against average, a .958 save percentage and two shutouts for the week of March 15-21. It included back-to-back shutouts and a whitewash streak of 149:04, the second-longest in franchise history. The Kempele, Finland native started the week by tying a season high with 42 saves, and stopping all three shootout attempts, in a 4-3 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday. He turned aside all 17 shots he faced in a 5-0 shutout of Minnesota on Thursday, then notched his 13th career shutout – second-most in franchise history – with 33 saves in a 1-0 overtime win over Columbus on Saturday. Rinne finished the week with his sixth consecutive victory by stopping 23 shots in a 3-2 win at St. Louis. It is the third time in 105 career appearances that Rinne has posted a win streak of six-or-more games.
For the month of March, Rinne is an NHL-best 8-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and a League-high three shutouts. The win Sunday was Rinne’s 28th of the season, leaving him just one shy of his total from 2008-09, and was the 58th of his career, tying him with Chris Mason for third on the franchise’s all-time wins list (Tomas Vokoun, 161; Mike Dunham, 81).
PREDATORS POST SIXTH STRAIGHT WIN, 42ND IN 2009-10
Not only did Sunday’s 3-2 victory at St. Louis extend Nashville’s winning streak to six straight dating back to March 14 at Los Angeles – tied for the third-longest such streak in franchise history – it was the team’s 42nd of the season, the third-most in franchise history (51, 2006-07; 49, 2005-06). The Predators are one of just three teams to record at least 40 wins in each of the last five seasons along with San Jose and New Jersey. Nashville has the fifth-most wins in the NHL over that span (223) behind only Detroit (248), San Jose (239), New Jersey (234) and Buffalo (224). Additionally, the Preds have the third-most home wins since 2005-06 (128), behind Detroit (131) and New Jersey (129).
HORNQVIST THE TOP SCORING PREDATORS DRAFTEE Patric Hornqvist scored for the fifth time in the last seven games on Sunday at St. Louis – his 100th career game – and has seven points in that span. With 28 goals this season, he has topped his rookie goal output from a season ago by 26, becoming just the ninth 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 the most by a homegrown Predator, surpassing David Legwand’s 27 goals from the 2006-07 campaign. Additionally, the Swedish Olympian 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 (12). He has has the fewest NHL games experience and the lowest averaged ice time (15:35) among players with at least 27 goals. PLAYER QUICK HITS
The Predators have nine players with at least 30 points – only Philadelphia (10) and Chicago (10) have more… Martin Erat has points in five straight games (1g-5a), tying the longest point streak by a Predator this season. The Czech Olympian has also posted a point in 11 of Nashville’s last 13 games, amassing 13 points (2g-11a) in that span and 39 points (16g-23a) in 43 games played since the start of December after posting nine points (4g-5a) in his first 23 games of 2009-10… Jason Arnott – who missed Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury – has five points (1g-4a) in his last five games, and 10 points (5g-5a) in his last eight games in Bridgestone Arena. Fifteen of Arnott’s 18 goals have come on home ice, including the last nine… Steve Sullivan notched his 400th career assist in the third period on Sunday, giving him four points (2g-2a) in the last five games. He also has points in 11 of Nashville's 15 home games since the calendar turned to 2010, amassing 13 points (3g-10a) in that span… Colin Wilson has three points (1g-2a) in his last three games, and eight points (4g-4a) in his last nine 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 16 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… Dustin Boyd has three points in his last three games (2g-1a) after going pointless in his first six games as a Predator… Dan Hamhuis tied with Atlanta’s Colby Armstrong for the League lead in plus/minus rating last week (+7). TEAM QUICK HITS
Nashville has allowed just seven goals in the last six games. It has outscored the opposition 8-3 in the first period, 2-0 in the second and 5-4 in the third in that span… The Predators are 26-5-1 when scoring first, good for second in the NHL, but also have 16 wins when giving up the first goal, tied for the third-highest total in the League… Since Jan. 5, the power play has gone 12-for-40 (30 percent) at Bridgestone Arena, and has scored in six of the last seven games. In that span, its home power-play efficiency has improved from 17.3 percent (20th in the NHL) to 21.5 percent (seventh in the NHL)… Tonight is the 12th of 17 games for Nashville during March – that is tied with Atlanta for the most this month… Nashville’s 89 points through 73 games is 11 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 four teams (along with Washington, San Jose and Pittsburgh) with at least 21 home wins and 21 road wins… The Predators are 37-17-3 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… Nashville has been shorthanded on home ice the fewest times in the League (99, 2.83 per game). Overall, it is averaging just 8.8 penalty minutes per game, fewest in the NHL.