TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
The last Western Conference team the Predators played their first game against back on Jan. 21, Nashville wraps up its season series with the Phoenix Coyotes in game No. 81 tonight at Jobing.com Arena. Each of the last two contests between the Preds and ‘Yotes have been tightly contested affairs that needed shootouts to decide a winner. On March 25 at Bridgestone Arena, Phoenix overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period to force extra time, but it was the home team who prevailed, using shootout tallies by Cal O’Reilly and David Legwand, in addition to two saves on three attempts by Pekka Rinne, a 4-3 victory. Nashville gave up the first goal of the game, then scored three straight, led by the trio of Patric Hornqvist (1g-1a), Steve Sullivan (1g-1a) and Marcel Goc (2a). A shootout was also required when Phoenix visited the Music City on Feb. 2. That night, both Rinne (26 saves) and Ilya Bryzgalov (25 saves) recorded shutouts – the fourth time in franchise history the Predators have played a game that featured no goals in regulation/overtime. The subsequent shootout went 10 rounds/20 shooters, with the Desert Dogs eventually prevailing 2-1 in the breakaway competition, and 1-0 in the game. In the first meeting of the season – and the Predators last trip to Arizona – the visitors held a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes, but gave up three goals to a single player (Scottie Upshall) for the first time in franchise history in the third, and fell by a 4-2 score. The Preds outshot the ‘Yotes 43-23 for the game, marking just the third time in franchise history the club has outshot the opposition by 20-or-more in a road game.
Discipline has a common theme through three games of the season slate, with the teams combining for just seven minor penalties. Each team was assessed a single minor on Feb. 2, and the Predators went without a penalty in a road game for the first time in franchise history on Jan. 21. Neither team has a power-play goal in the combined seven man-advantage attempts. Nashville is 14-6-3 in its last 23 games against Phoenix going back to the start of the 2003-04 campaign, including a 5-5-1 record in the desert over that span.
The Preds are 0-3-0 all-time on games played on April 7. Nashville dropped road games at Colorado in 1999 (4-1) and at St. Louis in 2001 (1-0). Last year the Preds suffered a 4-2 home loss to Chicago.
Hornqvist (2g-1a) and Sullivan (1g-2a) each have three points in three games against Phoenix this season. Sullivan has 17 points (7g-10a) in 14 contests against Phoenix while wearing a Nashville sweater… With a helper in a pair of games against the ‘Yotes this season, Jason Arnott has an even 54 points (20g-34a) in 54 games against them – the most points against a single team for his career. This includes 12 points (5g-7a) in 11 games against them as a Predator… For his career against Phoenix, Rinne has a 4-0-1 record with a 0.97 goals-against average, a .970 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.
PREDATORS TIE FRANCHISE RECORD FOR ROAD WINS
With their 23rd road victory of the season on Saturday at Detroit, the Predators tied the franchise mark for wins away from Nashville set in 2006-07. The club has won five consecutive road games dating back to March 12 at Anaheim, tied for the second-longest road winning streak in franchise history. The team also put a five-gamer together Dec. 29-Jan. 15, and a four-game road winning streak from Dec. 4-19 of this season. The franchise record is seven games from Oct. 16-Nov. 4, 2006. Nashville’s 2009-10 road win total is tied for the NHL lead with San Jose and Washington.
TROTZ HITS SIXTH ON PAIR OF ALL-TIME LISTS
Predators head coach Barry Trotz reached a couple of milestones on Saturday at Detroit. At the drop of the puck, he recorded his 900th game coached – all behind Nashville’s bench – becoming just the sixth coach in NHL history to reach the mark with a single team. Al Arbour (1,499 with N.Y. Islanders) ranks first on the games coached with a single team list, while Billy Reay (1,012 with Chicago), Lindy Ruff (979 with Buffalo), Jack Adams (964 with Detroit) and Toe Blake (914 with Montreal) round out the top five. The victory was the Dauphin, Man., native’s 410th, tying him with Scotty Bowman’s win total with Detroit for sixth on the wins with a single team list. Arbour’s 739 wins with the Islanders tops that list, followed by Ruff (481), Glen Sather (464 with Edmonton), Dick Irvin (431 with Montreal) and Bowman’s 419 wins with Montreal. TEAM QUICK HITS
The Predators have 10 players with 30-or-more points. Only Washington (11) has more 30-point players, while Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh also have 10. Nashville also has 10 players who have scored at least 10 goals… The Predators are one of just five teams – along with New Jersey, San Jose, Detroit and Calgary – to have amassed 40 wins in each of the past five seasons. Their 227 wins since the start of the 2005-06 season is the fifth-most over that span… The Predators’ 13-5-1 record since the Olympic break is fourth-best in the NHL behind Detroit (13-3-2), Washington (10-2-4) and Phoenix (11-4-1). Their 27 points in that span is second only to Detroit’s 28… Nashville has scored its last 19 goals while skating five-on-five. Its 91 even-strength road goals rank second to Washington, and its 113 total road goals rank fifth. Additionally, the Preds have a +13 advantage in non-power-play goals away from home, second-best in the NHL… Nashville has allowed just 23 regulation/overtime goals in the last 13 games, posting a team goals-against average of 1.73 over that span… The Predators are 41-19-6 in games decided by two goals or less – the most wins in the NHL in that situation. Their 27 one-goal game wins are second-best… Nashville is tied for the NHL lead (23-1-0) when leading after one period (with Phoenix), and has the League’s second-best record (to Phoenix) when scoring first (27-5-1)… The Predators are averaging the fewest penalty minutes per game (8.8), and have been shorthanded the third-fewest times in the League (253, 3.16 per game)… The Nashville penalty kill has successfully extinguished 23 of the last 26 chances against (88.5 percent). PLAYER QUICK HITS Shea Weber scored his 15th goal of the season on Saturday at Detroit, moving him back into a tie for second among NHL blueliners in goals. He’s also tied for fourth at the position in power-play goals (7) and tied for fifth in game winners (3). Since the start of the 2006-07 season, Weber has 67 goals, which ranks second only to Washington’s Mike Green (70) in goals by a defenseman… Since the Olympic break, goaltender Pekka Rinne has posted an 11-3-1 record (second-most wins in that span), with a 1.90 goals-against average (third among goalies with at least five starts) and a .932 save percentage (fourth among goalies with at least five starts). He also has a League-high four shutouts in that span, all of which have come in his last 12 starts, moving him into a tie for second in the NHL with seven whitewashes this season, and second in club history with 14 shutouts for his career… Martin Erat scored his 21st goal of the season on Saturday, the second-highest total of his career. It was also his 49th point, bringing him within one of his fourth consecutive 50-point season… Patric Hornqvist has 13 points (7g-4a) in the last 14 games. Hornqvist is just the fourth player in franchise history, and the first Predators draft pick, to reach the 30-goal mark, and his next tally will tie him with Steve 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 (105) and the lowest average ice time (15:47) among the NHL’s Top-20 goal scorers. Hornqvist has put five-or-more shots on goal in seven of the last 10 games, bringing his franchise-record total to 275, eighth-highest in the NHL… Both Cody Franson and J.P. Dumont have +13 ratings on the road. Franson is tied for sixth among NHL defensemen in road plus/minus, while Dumont is tied for sixth among forwards.