TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. ST. LOUIS
Nashville hosts the St. Louis Blues for the first of two times in the team’s final five games of the regular season tonight at Bridgestone Arena. The visiting team in undefeated through four games in the series this season with the Predators sweeping their three games at Scottrade Center, and falling by a 3-1 score on “Black Friday” to end a seven-game winning streak from Nov. 12-25, 2009 – the second-longest such streak in franchise history. In the last meeting of the clubs on March 21 in St. Louis, the Preds rallied with both the game-tying goal (Patric Hornqvist) and the game-winning goal (Dustin Boyd) in a 48-second span late in regulation of a 3-2 victory. Boyd also scored Nashville’s opening goal – his first as a Predator – while the game winner came with just 2:46 left on the clock, the latest a game-winning goal has come for Nashville this season. In their Dec. 29 win in the Gateway City, 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. 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. Nashville outshot St. Louis by a 37-22 margin in the opening game of the series (Nov. 12), and by a 39-35 margin in the most recent matchup (March 21), giving them a combined 144-112 advantage through four games this season.
Nashville is 5-1-1 in its last seven games against the Blues, and 25-6-3 in the series since the start of the 2005-06 season – including a 12-1-3 mark on home ice – a but will be looking for its first win over the Blues on home ice since Feb. 12, 2009 tonight. Of the last 11 games between the two teams in the Music City, seven have gone to overtime/a shootout, with Nashville going 4-3 in those extra-session games. Overall, the Predators have been to overtime/a shootout with the Bluenotes a club-record 18 times, going 9-5-4. Additionally, Nashville has gone 21-for-23 (91.4 percent) on the penalty kill over the past seven games against St. Louis.
The Preds are 3-2-1 all-time on games played on April 1, earning points in their last four April Fools Day contests. Nashvlille dropped games to Philadelphia in 1999 (2-1) and at Colorado in 2002 (5-1). The Preds picked up an overtime point in 2003 vs. Anaheim, before rattling off wins versus Chicago (3-1 in '04), St. Louis (2-1 in '06), and St. Louis again (4-3 OT win in '08).
Tootoo is in a four-way tie for the points lead against St. Louis this season, but has done it in one fewer game (3). He has 13 points (6g-7a) in 26 games against the Blues, twice as many goals as he has against any other opponent, and the most points vs. a single team… David Legwand has played more games against St. Louis (54) than any other individual against any other team in franchise history. He has three points (1g-2a) through four games vs. the Blues in 2009-10… Ryan Suter has five helpers in his last eight 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… Boyd has five goals in 11 career games against St. Louis – his highest total against any team… Steve Sullivan has 46 points (18g-28a) in 54 career games against the Blues to lead all Predators… Hornqvist scored a goal in all three of Nashville’s games at Scottrade Center this season… Pekka Rinne has played in all four games against St. Louis this season, posting a 3-1-0 record, a 2.27 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage… For his career against St. Louis, Dan Ellis is 2-1-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average.
PREDATORS SET FRANCHISE RECORD FOR WINS IN A MONTH
With and 11-5-1 record in March, the Predators set a franchise record for wins and points in a single month. The previous marks were 10 wins attained four times (January 2004, November 2006, January 2007 and February 2009), and 22 points set with a 10-4-2-0 record in January 2004. Nashville’s banner March included a six-game winning streak from the 12th to the 21st and a 4-1 mark in overtime, which five of the last nine games of the month required. It was also just the second time in franchise history the Predators played as many as 17 games in a single month – they went 6-8-3-0 in January 2002, another Olympic year. Additionally, the Preds went 9-0-1 in one-goal games during the month. TEAM QUICK HITS
The Predators are one of just four teams (with Detroit, San Jose and New Jersey) to record 40 wins in each of the last five seasons… The Predators are one of just three teams (with Washington and San Jose) that have at least 22 home and road wins this season… Nashville has allowed just 18 regulation/overtime goals in the last 11 games, posting a team goals-against average of 1.59 over that span. Nashville has allowed just one second-period goal in the last 11 games, outscoring the opposition 6-1 in that span. It has also amassed a 9-4 advantage in the opening frame in the last 11 contests… The Predators are 39-19-6 in games decided by two goals or less – the most wins in the NHL in that situation… Nashville has gone 12-6 in overtime/shootouts this season. Its .667 winning percentage in games that go beyond 60 minutes is tied for second-best in the League… 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 Preds have the League’s second-best record when scoring first (27-5-1). RINNE POLISHES OFF BANNER MARCH Pekka Rinne was among the NHL’s top performers in March in helping the Predators to a franchise-record 11 wins in a single month. Rinne led the NHL in shutouts during the month with four, and ranked second among NHL netminders in wins, posting a 9-3-1 record. Additionally, Rinne’s 1.81 goals-against average was first among goalies making at least five starts, while his .934 save percentage was second. He was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on March 22, and garnered Third Star of the Week honors on March 15.
The Kempele, Finland native started a stretch of four shutouts in a nine-game span with a 31-save effort at Anaheim on March 12. Six days later he posted whitewashes in back-to-back games, blanking Minnesota in a 5-0 win on March 18 (17 saves), and Columbus in a 1-0 overtime victory on March 20 (33 saves). He stopped all 38 shots he faced against Detroit on March 27 for his seventh shutout of the season, tying the franchise mark he set last season as a rookie. All 14 of Rinne’s shutouts have come since Dec. 1, 2008, the most in the League since that date.
Just one win shy of the third 30-win season in Predators history (Tomas Vokoun: 36 in 2005-06, 34 in 2003-04), the 6-5, 207-pounder was also clutch in extra time for his team, posting a 3-1 record in games that went beyond 60 minutes in March. This included a 2-1 mark in shootouts, where he stopped 15-of-17 shooters (.882).
MARCH’S OFFENSIVE LEADERS
With 13 points (3g-10a) in 17 games, Steve Sullivan paced all Predators in points for the season’s busiest month. Sullivan kicked-off the post-Olympic break stretch run with assists in his first three games (March 2-5), then finished the 2010’s third month with nine points (3g-6a) in the last 10 games. Patric Hornqvist also finished the month strong, scoring seven goals (to go with three assists) in the last 12 games to reach the 30-goal plateau. He is just the fourth player in franchise history to reach the mark, and the first Predators draft pick. His next tally will tie him with Sullivan and Paul Kariya’s total from the 2005-06 campaign (31) for second-most in a season. Hornqvist has experienced a 28-goal increase from his rookie season in 2008-09, making him just the second 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. The Swedish Olympian 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 (15:44) among the NHL’s Top-20 goal scorers. Hornqvist has put five-or-more shots on goal in six of the last eight games, bring his franchise-record total to 267, eighth-highest in the NHL.