TODAY’S STORYLINES VS. FLORIDA
Florida is one of Nashville’s two inter-conference “wild card” opponents that it plays both at home and on the road – New Jersey and Atlanta are the other two – and tonight the Predators and Panthers will wrap up that two-game set at the BankAtlantic Center. The first meeting of the season came two days after American Thanksgiving during Nashville’s first set of two home games in as many nights since November 2003. On that night, 24 hours after seeing their seven-game winning streak come to an end, the Predators scored three unanswered goals in the third period en route to a 4-1 victory. Dan Hamhuis led the way with a pair of points (1g-1a), while J.P. Dumont registered his first game-winning goal of the season. The game marked the first time the Predators won by three-or-more goals since Feb. 28, 2009 vs. Detroit – a span of 23 straight wins by two goals or less. Dan Ellis stopped 23-of-24 shots in the victory, and notched the only assist by a Predator goaltender this season as well.
This is the 15th all-time meeting between the clubs dating back to Oct. 10, 1998, when the Predators played their inaugural game, a 1-0 loss at Bridgestone Arena. Kirk McLean posted the 25-save shutout that night, while Ray Whitney provided the lone goal. The home team has not lost in the series since Dec. 23, 2002, when the Predators notched their lone road win in the series, receiving an overtime goal from David Legwand just 48 seconds into the extra session in a 3-2 win. The last time Nashville visited South Florida on Dec. 23, 2008, former Predator Tomas Vokoun stopped all 27 shots he faced in a 3-0 Panther win.
Legwand – who scored Nashville’s third goal in the Nov. 29 victory – has eight points (2g-6a) in nine career games against the Panthers… Hamhuis’ multi-point performance against Florida earlier this season gives him four points (1g-3a) in six career games against Florida… Steve Sullivan has points in each of his two
The Predators are 2-3-0 all-time in games played on March 29. Four of the five games were decided by one goal. Nashville fell to Carolina 3-1 in 2000 before coming up with an overtime win in 2001 to Phoenix 4-3. The Preds then went on to drop games in 2003 to Atlanta, 3-2, and in 2007 to Detroit 2-1. On March 29, 2009 the Predators defeated the Wings in Detroit 4-3.
games played against Florida in a Nashville sweater (1g-1a), and has amassed 17 points (9g-8a) in 19 career contests against the Panthers… Jordin Tootoo picked up his first two fighting majors of 2009-10 in the Nov. 28 game, moving him past Scott Hartnell and into first on the franchise’s all-time penalty minutes list… Left wing Wade Belak was acquired by the Predators from Florida on Nov. 28, 2008 in exchange for Nick Tarnasky. Belak played 32 games for the Panthers from 2008-09, amassing 37 penalty minutes… Both Nashville netminders – Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne – have given up four goals in two career starts against Florida. Ellis is 2-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage while Rinne is 1-1-0 with a 1.94 GAA and a .938 SV%.
Career highs/highlights attained against the Panthers
J.P. Dumont – Notched his third career hat trick (and most recent) on Nov. 12, 2001 (with Buffalo).
Dan Hamhuis – Put a career-high seven shots on net on Dec. 13, 2005. Steve Sullivan – A career-high four goals on April 10, 1999 (with Toronto).
EXTRA TIME AGAIN
Overtime was necessary to determine a winner for the second straight game, and for the fourth time in the last seven outings, on Saturday vs. Detroit. The Predators have recorded a .647 winning percentage (11-6) in overtime/shootout games, the fifth-best mark in the League. Additionally, the 2009-10 squad’s 11 extra-time wins is just one shy of a franchise record recorded last season. Seven of the 11 wins have come via the shootout, where Nashville netminders Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne have led the charge. Rinne’s nine stops on 11 attempts vs. Detroit improved his shootout save percentage to .738, second-best among goalies who have faced at least 31 shooters. Rinne is even better on home ice, posting a .763 save percentage while seeing an NHL-high 38 attempts.
RINNE POSTS FOURTH SHUTOUT IN THE LAST 15 DAYS
Sophomore netminder Pekka Rinne’s hot stretch continued on Saturday as he turned aside all 38 regulation shots he faced to record his fourth shutout in the last nine outings going back to March 12 at Anaheim. The blanking brought his season total up to seven, which ties his franchise record from a season ago, and is also good for a tie for second in the NHL. All 14 of his shutouts have come since Dec. 1, 2008, the most in the League since that date.
Since the Olympic break, Rinne has started 12 of Nashville’s 15 games, including a season-high nine straight, going 9-2-1 with a 1.79 goals-against average, .934 save percentage. His goals-against average is tops among netminders with at least five appearances over that span, while his save percentage is second-best. The Kempele, Finland native’s four whitewashes rank first since March 1, while his nine wins are good for second. Rinne is just one win shy of the third 30-win season in Predators history (Tomas Vokoun: 36 in 2005-06, 34 in 2003-04). TEAM QUICK HITS
Tonight kicks off the Predators last set of 15 back-to-backs in 2009-10. So far, they’ve posted a 6-7-1 record on the front end, and a 9-5-0 record on the back end… Nashville is 11-4-2 against the Eastern Conference, including a 5-0-1 mark vs. the Southeast Division… The Predators are one of just three teams (with San Jose and New Jersey) to record 40 wins in each of the last five seasons… Tonight is the 16th of 17 games for Nashville during March – that is tied with Atlanta for the most this month… Nashville’s 21 road wins are just one off the League lead… The Predators 84 even-strength goals on the road rank second to only Washington, while their 106 road goals rank fifth in the League… Nashville has allowed just 13 regulation/overtime goals in the last nine games, posting a team goals-against average of 1.40 over that span. Nashville has allowed just one second-period goal in the last nine games, outscoring the opposition 5-1 in that span. It has also amassed a 9-4 advantage in the opening frame in the last nine contests… The Predators are 38-18-4 in games decided by two goals or less – the most wins in the NHL in that situation… The Predators are 23-14-2 when outshooting the opposition, fifth-best in the NHL… The Predators are averaging a League-low 8.7 penalty minutes per game…Nashville is tied for the NHL lead (23-1-0) when leading after one period, but also has the League’s second-best record when trailing after one frame (8-9-2)… The Predators have the League’s second-best record when scoring first (26-5-1)… Nashville’s 92 points and 43 wins are the third-highest totals in franchise history. PLAYER QUICK HITS Patric Hornqvist has nine points (6g-3a) in the last 10 games. He is just one goal shy of the fourth 30-goal season in club history (Jason Arnott: 33 in 2008-09, Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan: 31 each in 2005-06), and his 29 goals this season are the most by a Nashville draft pick in a Predators sweater. The Swedish Olympian has experienced a 27-goal increase from his rookie season in 2008-09, making him just the fifth 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. Hornqvist is also tied for second in the League in game-winning goals (8), and has the fewest NHL games (103) and the lowest average ice time (15:38) among the NHL’s top 20 goal scorers… Steve Sullivan now has seven points (3g-4a) in the last eight games… Martin Erat has a point in 11 of Nashville’s last 16 games, posting 13 points (2g-11a) in that span… J.P. Dumont is just one helper shy of the 300-assist milestone for his career. He hit the 200-goal mark on March 4, and the 500-point plateau on March 11… Dumont is tied for eighth among NHL forwards in road plus/minus rating, while rookie Cody Franson is tied for 10th in the League, and sixth among NHL blueliners, in road plus/minus (+13).