TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
The Predators finish off the month of November the same way they started it 28 days ago – with a contest against the Phoenix Coyotes. This time, however, they’ll be hosting the ‘Yotes and trying to avenge a 4-3 loss in the desert on Nov. 3. That night at Jobing.com Arena, the Preds carried a one-goal lead into the final frame, but relinquished a pair of power-play goals early in the third in what proved to be the team’s first one-goal loss in regulation time in 24 outings. Francis Bouillon scored his first goal of the season for Nashville, and Sergei Kostitsyn gave the club a 2-1 lead after one period. Patric Hornqvist tallied his second man-advantage marker of the season, and Jordin Tootoo registered his third career two-assist performance as well.
The Predators have picked up points in Phoenix’s last five trips to Bridgestone Arena dating back to Feb. 2, 2008 (4-0-1 record), and 12 times in the Coyotes 13 trips to the Music City since Jan. 11, 2003 (10-1-(1)-1 record). In the last Predators-Coyotes matchup in Nashville on March 25, 2010, Pekka Rinne stopped 32 shots in 65 minutes of action, then 2-of-3 shooters in the breakaway competition, in a 4-3 victory. Steve Sullivan and Patric Hornqvist posted a goal and an assist each, while Cal O’Reilly and David Legwand converted in the shootout to lead the offensive attack. The game prior on Feb. 2, 2010, Rinne stopped all 26 shots he faced and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 25-of-25 shots in a contest that needed a 10-round shootout to determine a winner. Both goaltenders recorded shutouts in the 1-0 Phoenix win.
Since joining the Predators, Steve Sullivan has 18 points (8g-10a) in 16 games against Phoenix. For his career, Sullivan has 33 points (13g-20a) in 38 games vs. the Coyotes… With his goal in game No. 1 of the season series, Hornqvist now has four points (3g-1a) in six career games against Phoenix… Kostitsyn has a pair of markers in just three career games against the Desert Dogs… Rinne is 4-2-1 against Phoenix for his career with a 1.82 goals-against average, a .932 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.
All-time series highlight, January 15, 1999: Vokoun posts first shutout in franchise history
After starting the Predators inaugural season third on the goaltending depth chart behind Mike Dunham and Eric Fichaud, Tomas Vokoun stopped all 31 shots he faced to author the first shutout in franchise history against the Phoenix Coyotes in the team’s 42nd game. Cliff Ronning, who started the season with the Coyotes, came back to haunt his former team by scoring a power-play goal in the first period, and sealed the deal with an empty netter at 19:01 of the third. The then-22-year-old Vokoun was lights out in just the 15th start of his rookie season, withstanding 24 shots over the final two periods, which included stoning Juha Ylonen and Shane Doan on breakaways in the second frame.
PENALTY KILL GETS STINGY
The Predators penalty kill has not allowed a goal in six consecutive games and in eight of the last nine outings. It is the sixth time in club history that the PK has gone six-or-more games without a chink in their armor, and first since a seven-game stretch – the franchise record, hit three times – Feb. 19-March 5, 2009. The Preds have put out 21 straight opposition power plays during the run, which started in a 3-2 shootout win at St. Louis on Nov. 11, helping the man-down unit improve from 78.7 percent (23rd NHL) to 83.3 percent (13th NHL). Also aiding matters in Nashville’s discipline – it has been shorthanded 84 times and averaged 10.9 penalty minutes through 22 games, both of which rank among the Top 10 in the NHL.
DEFENSE CRACKS DOWN
The Predators have held the opposition to two goals or fewer in five of the last six games. Excluding shootout tallies, Nashville has a 1.60 goals-against average in that span. The Preds have allowed just two third-period tallies in their last eight games, and opponents have found the back of the net only 18 times in the club’s 22 contests, tied for the seventh-lowest total in the NHL. Additionally, the Predators have relinquished two second-period goals in the last six games, and their 17 goals against in the middle frame is tied for second fewest in the League.
MORE EXTRA TIME
The Predators have gone to overtime in six of their nine home games this season, and in five of their last nine games overall. Despite being tied for the fewest home games played in the NHL, the Preds are tied for the most overtime/shootout games on home ice with Washington. They are tied with the Capitals and St. Louis for the most extra-time games overall (8), going 3-5 in those eight games.
The Nashville Predators have won the face-off battle in each of their last six games, posting a 58 percent success rate in that span (174-of-300 draws won). Jerred Smithson – who won 12-of-16 draws on Saturday against the Rangers, and 48-of-71 (67.6 percent) over the five-game stretch – has been at the forefront of the team’s success. Smithson’s 58.1 percent success rate in 2010-11 is eighth-best in the NHL.