TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DALLAS
The Predators visit Dallas for the first of four times tonight at American Airlines Center, their first trip to Texas since Oct. 14, 2009. Nashville’s first two road games of the 2009-10 season came against the Stars, as it also opened the season there on Oct. 3. That season-opening contest saw the Predators jump out to a two-goal lead, then earn two points via a shootout decision on tallies by David Legwand and Mike Santorelli. After dropping a 6-0 decision in their return trip to “Big D” 11 days later, the Predators rebounded on Halloween with a 4-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville trailed 2-1 entering the final frame, but three unanswered goals by Steve Sullivan, Patric Hornqvist and Kevin Klein and a pair of assists by J-P Dumont helped close out the month in winning fashion. While the Preds have not fared particularly well at the Stars’ home venue, they’ve righted the ship of late. Nashville is an even 3-3-0 in Dallas since the start of the 2007-08 campaign after posting a 2-13-1 record there in the franchise’s first eight seasons of existence.
A season ago, Sullivan (2g-1a) and Dumont (3a) paced the team in points vs. Dallas, with Dumont doing it in one fewer game (3gp). Since joining the Preds in 2006, Dumont has 13 points (4g-9a) in 15 games against the Stars. Sullivan has five goals in 11 games against Dallas as a Pred, including his fifth career hat trick on Nov. 10, 2005… Joel Ward posted the first multi-goal/point game of his career with a pair o goals, including the game winner, in a 3-0 victory over Dallas on Dec. 13, 2008. He has three points (2g-1a) in six games against Dallas as a Predator.
The Predators are the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss, going 3-0-3. Nine points through six contests is the second-highest total in franchise history, behind only a 6-0-0 (and eventual 8-0-1) start by the 2005-06 squad… The Predators have a five-on-five goals for/against ratio of 1.43, fifth-best in the League. Nashville’s seven five-on-five goals allowed is tied for the fourth-fewest in the NHL… Nashville has given up 14 goals in six games, the seventh-lowest average (2.33) in the League… With a goal on Thursday, David Legwand bumped his season point total to four points (2g-2a) in six games. Last season, it took Nashville’s first-ever draft pick 15 games to hit the four-point mark (4a), and 19 games to reach two goals… Jordin Tootoo posted his third point of the season with an assist on Thursday (1g-2a), his quickest start since posting four points (1g-3a) in his first six games in 2005-06 (Oct. 5, Dec. 15-23)… With a 7-for-11 performance in the face-off circle on Thursday, Jerred Smithson maintained his hold of first in the League in face-off efficiency (69.7 percent)… Shea Weber is ranked among the Top 13 defensemen in hits (19) and blocked shots (17) and average ice time (25:58)... Pekka Rinne is ranked ninth among NHL netminders in save percentage (.942) and 11th in goals-against average (2.14). Since the 2010 Olympic break, he’s posted a 13-4-4 record with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
2010-11 PREDATORS CHOCKED FULL OF DRAFTEES Alexander Sulzer made his season debut on Thursday vs. Pittsburgh, becoming the 15th Predators draft pick to suit up for the team this season. A season ago, Nashville set a franchise record with 17 draftees dressing for at least one game, a mark it is sure to break as the 2010-11 campaign progresses. The breakdown of the draftees is as follows: First-rounders include David Legwand (2nd overall, 1998), Ryan Suter (7th overall, 2003) and Colin Wilson (7th overall, 2008), second-rounders include Kevin Klein (37th overall in 2003), Nick Spaling (58th overall in 2007) and Shea Weber (49th overall in 2003), Cody Franson (79th overall in 2005) and Alexander Sulzer (92nd overall in 2003) were taken in the third round, Jordin Tootoo was picked in the fourth round (98th overall in 2001), Mark Dekanich (146th overall in 2006) and Cal O’Reilly (150th overall in 2005) were tabbed in the fifth round, Martin Erat (191st overall in 1999), Patric Hornqvist (230th overall in 2005) and Anders Lindback (207th overall in 2008) were selected in the seventh round and goaltender Pekka Rinne was an eighth-round pick (258th overall in 2004).
BEGIN SIGNS A TWO-WAY DEAL
The Predators added a veteran forward to their system on Wednesday, signing center Steve Begin to a one-year, two-way contract. He’ll report directly to the team’s primary developmental affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL). Begin, 32 (6/14/78), has played 486 career NHL games since 1997-98, posting 100 points (52g-48a) and 535 penalty minutes. The Trois-Rivieres, Que., native spent the 2009-10 season with the Boston Bruins, posting 14 points (5g-9a) and 53 penalty minutes while playing a career-high 77 games. Selected 40th overall (second round) by Calgary in the 1996 Entry Draft, Begin spent parts of six seasons with the Flames (1997-2003) before joining his home-province Montreal Canadiens from 2003 until a trade to the Dallas Stars (for defenseman Doug Janik) on Feb. 26, 2009. The 6-0, 192-pound center was a teammate of Predators forward J-P Dumont for three seasons (1996-98) with the QMJHL’s Val d’Or Foreurs, notching 117 points (44g-73a) and 520 penalty minutes in 157 games. The duo, along with Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, helped Val d’Or win the 1998 President’s Trophy as QMJHL champions.
During the summer of 2010, defenseman Shea Weber was named the fifth captain in franchise history, succeeding Jason Arnott (2007-10), Kimmo Timonen (2006-07), Greg Johnson (2002-06) and Tom Fitzgerald (1998-2002). He is the first Predators draftee to receive the honor.
Regarded as one of the top blueliners in the game today, Weber, 24 (8/14/85), has posted the second-most goals at the position since the start of the 2006-07 season (62) – he’s tied for second among NHL d-men in tallies the past two campaigns with 16 a season ago, and a franchise-record 23 in 2008-09. The 6-4, 230 pounder finished fourth in voting for the 2009 Norris Trophy, and seventh in voting for the League’s top defenseman in 2010. After becoming the first homegrown Predator to land a spot in the All-Star Game in 2009, Nashville’s fourth choice, 49th overall (second round), in the 2003 Entry Draft earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Weber was named to the Olympic All-Star Team in the process, tying for second among all tournament defensemen in points (2g-4a) while ranking second on the team in average ice time (20:37).