HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER
Tonight represents the Nashville Predators Hockey Fights Cancer Night, an extension of the NHL's league-wide Hockey Fights Cancer campaign. To help promote the fight against cancer, the Predators Foundation will hold a blind auction of 12 Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys worn and autographed by the players during pregame skate (the second set will be auctioned off on March 3, 2011 at the second We Care for Kids Night.), Preds coaches and broadcasters will don lavender Hockey Fights Cancer ties, players will have Hockey Fights Cancer stickers on their helmets and the silent-auction table will offer Hockey Fights Cancer themed Mystery Pucks, Mystery Sticks and bracelets as well as Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt autographed hats. All proceeds from the silent auction – and 25 percent of every single-game ticket sold – will be donated back to Children’s Hospital. Check out NashvillePredators.com/BeatCancer to donate or click here to learn more about the Preds Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PITTSBURGH
The Pittsburgh Penguins pay a visit to the Music City for the first time since Jan. 8, 2009 tonight at Bridgestone Arena, the lone contest between the Predators and Pens this season. Nashville has won the last two meetings of these teams – on Feb. 14, 2010 at Mellon Arena and in that January 2009 clash. On Valentine’s Day 2010, in the Preds’ last game before the Olympic break, the club rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the final eight minutes of regulation to claim a 4-3 shootout victory. Cal O’Reilly and Martin Erat tallied in the breakaway competition, while a Shea Weber goal forced overtime. The Canadian Olympian also posted an assist and dished out a game-high five hits before boarding a plane to Vancouver. The Predators showed a flare for the dramatic the last time they hosted Pittsburgh as well, rallying from a three-goal deficit to claim a 5-3 decision. The string of five unanswered goals started eight minutes into the middle frame, and saw shorthanded (David Legwand), power-play (Ryan Suter), empty-net (Greg Zanon) and even-strength (Jerred Smithson) goals scored. Pekka Rinne earned the victory in relief of Dan Ellis, stopping 17-of-18 shots in 36:31 of work. That was the last time the club has rallied from three down to win on home ice. Nashville has won five straight when hosting Pittsburgh, dating back to Nov. 23, 2001, and is 9-4-(2)-0 against the Penguins all-time.
Erat has posted seven points (7g-1a) in seven career games against Pittsburgh… Legwand has amassed nine points (6g-3a) in 10 career contests vs. the Penguins… Shea Weber has amassed four points (1g-3a) in just three games vs. Pittsburgh… Steve Sullivan has four points (1g-3a) in four contests against the Pens since joining the Predators.
ALL-TIME SERIES FLASHBACK: March 4, 2004: Six power-play goals leads to a 9-4 rout
As a soft-spoken rookie, defenseman Dan Hamhuis let his play speak for itself in an early-Spring game in the Steel City, scoring the game-winning goal and adding four assists to set a record for points by a first-year player and tie a team mark for points in a game. The performance was part of nine-goal eruption for the Predators, which included a franchise-best six power play goals. Marek Zidlicky kicked off the flurry of man-advantage goals, scoring just 55 seconds into the contest. The power play finished six-for-nine on the night, receiving a pair of man-advantage goals from Adam Hall, while Steve Sullivan collected a goal and two assists. It gave Sullivan seven goals and nine assists in just nine games after being acquired from Chicago a couple weeks earlier. The 9-4 road victory was a crucial two points for the Predators in their drive to clinch the first playoff berth in franchise history.
Netminder Pekka Rinne was between the pipes for the first time since opening night on Tuesday vs. Calgary, stopping 34-of-35 shots in the 1-0 overtime loss. The performance lowered his goals-against average to 1.15 and his save percentage to .969, both of which rank in the top three among goalies playing at least 100 minutes. Since the 2010 Olympic break, the Kempele, Finland native has posted a 13-4-2 record with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage.
The Predators (3-0-2) are the only Western Conference team – and one of just two teams in the NHL (Toronto, 4-0-1) – still undefeated in regulation time… Nashville has given up just 10 goals in five games, the fourth-lowest average (2.00) in the League. Additionally, the team has relinquished the second-fewest five-on-five goals (4), doubling up the opposition at full and even strength (8-4)… The Preds have put 34-or-more shots on goal in three of their first five games, and are averaging 34.2 shots per game thus far, fifth-highest in the NHL. A season ago, the team ranked 12th in average shots (30.6)… Nashville has posted no worse than a 50 percent success rate in the face-off circle in its first five games, and ranks sixth in team face-off efficiency (53.8 percent). Leading the way is Jerred Smithson who – after going 8-for-11 (73 percent) on draws in Tuesday’s game – is now tops in the League in face-off success rate (70.9 percent)… The Predators have been shorthanded just 16 times this season (3.2 times per game), third-lowest in the NHL, and are averaging 9.6 penalty minutes per game, second fewest. A season ago, the Predators averaged the fewest penalty minutes per game (8.7) in the NHL (a franchise record) and were shorthanded the second-fewest times (258) in the League, also a franchise record. Excluding the shortened 1994-95 season, it was the fewest penalty minutes since the 1976-77 Pittsburgh Penguins (669). Nashville went down a man on home ice a League-low 113 times.
Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, who ranked second on the team and among the Top 20 in the League in average ice time entering Tuesday’s game (25:21), left after just one shift after sustaining an injury in a collision with Flames blueliner Cory Sarich, leaving the team with five defensemen for more than 60 minutes. Shea Weber led all skaters in ice time (29:11), playing nearly 3:30 more than his average (25:37), and is now ranked seventh in the League in average ice time (26:19). Francis Bouillon – who took Suter’s place on the power play (5:11 of man-advantage time) – logged 26:51, his highest total since Jan. 25, 2006 (26:54), and 6:49 above his average ice time. Shane O’Brien’s increase was even greater at 10:26 (13:23 average, 23:49 played), while Kevin Klein saw a boost of 4:23 (21:27 average, 25:50 played) and Cody Franson logged 17:23 after averaging 15:14 in Nashville’s first four games. Alexander Sulzer is expected to make his season debut in Suter’s absence vs. Pittsburgh.
PLAYERS REACHING OUT
The Nashville Predators participate in a number of community outreach initiatives each year. This season boats special involvement from Wade Belak and Jordin Tootoo with Belak’s Battalion and Team Tootoo – player sponsored ticket programs which work to bring local community organizations to Nashville Predators games. Also this season, forwards J-P Dumont and Steve Sullivan are putting their best skate forward with the creation of their new joint program, Kids Come First, in which both players joined together to purchase a suite for every single home Nashville Predators game in the 2010-11 season. Sullivan has designated his suite for use by member s of the youth hockey community, while Dumont will be proudly offering his suite to patients from Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. In addition to the ticket programs, President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile donates $100 to Operation Homefront – which provides emergency assistance and morale to our U.S. Troops – for every Predators victory, while Head Coach Barry Trotz gives $500 to My Friend’s House (a United Way agency) for each win.
PREDATORS IN ELITE CLASS WITH FIVE STRAIGHT 40-WIN/23 HOME-WIN SEASONS
The Predators finished the 2009-10 season with a 47-29-6 record (100 points), making them one of just five teams who have reached the 40-win mark in five consecutive seasons (San Jose, New Jersey, Calgary and Detroit are the others). In five NHL seasons since 2005-06, the Predators have amassed 229 victories, the fifth-most in the League, and third-most in the Western Conference. Additionally, the club has 132 home victories since the start of the 2005-06 campaign, tied for the second-most in that span behind only Detroit (137). The Predators are one of just four teams (with Detroit, New Jersey and Minnesota) to have at least 23 home victories in each of the last five campaigns. Going back one more season to 2003-04, Nashville is one of just four Western Conference teams, and one of eight teams overall, to make the playoffs at least five times.