TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (DirecTV 644 SD, 644-1 HD; Dish 444 SD, 9514 HD;
Comcast Nashville 295; Comcast Chattanooga/Cleveland/Knoxville 401; Comcast Memphis Memphis 830) Radio: Preds Radio Network Flagship - 102.9-FM WBUZ Tom Callahan's Game Day Update
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. FLORIDA
Serving as one of Nashville’s three inter-conference “wild card” for the third consecutive season, the Panthers visit the Music City for the first of two games with the Predators this season, with the other coming in South Florida on Jan. 13. A season ago, the Preds swept both meetings with Florida, posting a 4-1 win at Bridgestone Arena two days after Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) and a 3-2 overtime decision at the BankAtlantic Center on March 29. In the first matchup, 24 hours after seeing their seven-game winning streak come to an end, the Predators scored three third-period tallies after entering the frame knotted at 1-1. The game marked the first time the Predators won by three-or-more goals since Feb. 28, 2009 vs. Detroit – a span of 23 straight wins by two goals or less. In the most recent clash in Florida, Nashville again made it happen in the third period, tying the game at the 16:53 mark on a goal by Patric Hornqvist, then winning 60 seconds into overtime on a Francis Bouillon tally.
This is the 16th all-time meeting between the clubs dating back to Oct. 10, 1998, when the Predators played their inaugural game, a 1-0 loss at Bridgestone Arena. Kirk McLean posted the 25-save shutout that night, while Ray Whitney provided the lone goal. The Preds are an even 6-6-(3)-0 in the previous 15 games, but have claimed four-of-five games since the start of the 2007-08 campaign. On home ice, the Predators are unbeaten in six games dating back to Oct. 27, 2000, winning four and tying twice in that span.
David Legwand has nine points (3g-6a) in 10 career games again Florida. He tallied in both games against the Panthers last season… Steve Sullivan posted three assists in last season’s games vs. the Panthers, and has points (1g-4a) in all three games he’s played against Florida since joining the Predators. He has 19 points (9g-10a) in 20 career games against the club, including a career-high four goals on April 10, 1999 as a Toronto Maple Leaf… J-P Dumont notched his third career (and most recent) hat trick against Florida on Nov. 12, 2001 as a Buffalo Sabre… Left wing Wade Belak was acquired by the Predators from Florida on Nov. 28, 2008 in exchange for Nick Tarnasky. Belak played 32 games for the Panthers from 2008-09, amassing 37 penalty minutes… For his career, Pekka Rinne is 1-1-0 with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage against Florida.
LINDBACK AND RINNE AID IN PICKING UP POINTS
With their win on Wednesday at Detroit, the Nashville Predators improved to 4-0-2 in their last six games and 8-3-3 since a 3-2 shootout win on Nov. 11 at St. Louis. Much of their success over this span has been due to the play of goaltenders Pekka Rinne and rookie Anders Lindback. Before going down with a lower-body injury, Rinne stopped 183-of-194 shots in eight appearances, from Nov. 18-Dec. 1, good for a 1.44 goals-against average, a .943 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. Lindback has picked up the torch since then, going 2-0-1 with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .933 save percent in three games.
For the season, Nashville is allowing 2.52 goals per game, sixth lowest in the NHL, and second lowest in the Western Conference. The Preds have given up just 21 second-period goals, tied for third fewest in the NHL, and 22 third-frame goals, which also ranks among the Top 10.
PENALTY KILL GETS BACK ON TRACK
Against a Detroit team ranked 10th on the power play and seventh in home power-play efficiency, the Predators were a perfect four-for-four while a man down, marking the 10th time in 11 games, and the 12th time in 14 games, that the Predators penalty kill has been perfect. Coming off a franchise-record streak of nine straight games without allowing a power-play goal (Nov. 18-Dec. 4), and a stretch of 37 straight penalty kills (Nov. 16-Dec. 6), Nashville is now ranked seventh in the NHL while a man down (85.4 percent) after being 23rd in those same rankings entering play one month ago (78.7 percent on Dec. 11). The club has successfully extinguished 41 of the last 42 times they’ve been shorthanded (97.6 percent). On home ice, the PK is fourth-best in the League (88.4 percent) – they’ve killed of 29-of-30 opportunities (96.7 percent) over an eight-game span going back to Oct. 19 vs. Calgary.
Several Predators players have found the scoresheet consistently over the past couple weeks, led by team points leader Cal O’Reilly, who is currently riding his second five-game point streak of the season (3g-2a), tying a career high and the high by a Predator set Oct. 30-Nov. 11. O’Reilly also leads all team forwards in ice time (17:59), playing more than 5:30 more than his career average entering 2010-11 (13:21)… Sergei Kostitsyn has also tied career highs with points in his last four games (1g-4a and a +6 rating) and helpers in his last three outings (4a). The only other time he’s attained those marks previously was Dec. 20-27, 2007 (four-game point streak, 2g-2a) and Feb. 3-7, 2009 (three-game assist streak, 3a). The Novopolotsk, Belarus native had three points (2g-1a) in 19 games before the current streak. He played a season-high 16:47 on Wednesday at Detroit and has averaged 14:51 over the four-game span after seeing 10:14 per game in his first 19 outings as a Predator… Colin Wilson scored for the second straight game on Wednesday, the second time in his career he’s put up goals in back-to-back contests (the other was March 9-11, 2010). He has six points (4g-2a) in his last seven outings after posting the same total (2g-4a) in his first 20 games of the season… Steve Sullivan has six points (3g-3a) in his last seven outings, while Martin Erat has six points (1g-5a) in his last four games.
The Predators are 4-1-4 against the Eastern Conference this season, including a 3-0-2 mark vs. the Southeast Division. Since the start of the 2009-10 campaign, Nashville is 16-5-5 against the East and 9-0-3 against the Southeast Division in that span. Nashville is currently in a stretch of playing four-of-five games against the East which started Dec. 4 vs. Carolina and ends Monday vs. the New York Islanders… The Predators have played just 11 home games, fewest in the Western Conference and tied with Tampa Bay and Florida for fewest in the League… The Predators have notched at least one first-period goal each contest of their six-game point streak, outscoring the opposition 9-1 in that span. They rank among the League’s Top 10 in first-period markers (25)… The Predators are 5-2-1 when scoring a power-play goal, and 11-3-4 when not giving up a power-play goal… Nashville is averaging 10.3 penalty minutes per game, tied with Detroit for the third-fewest in the League behind only Florida and Carolina, and fewest in the Western Conference… The Predators have been to extra time a League-high 10 times, and to the shootout an NHL high six times this season… Nashville is 4-4-1 when trailing after 20 minutes, tied for the NHL’s third-best record in that situation… Shea Weber has seven points (3g-4a) in 11 home games versus three points (1g-2a) in 16 road games. He is one of just two defensemen (Chicago’s Brent Seabrook is the other) that has at least 10 points and 70 hits. Weber also ranks second among NHL blueliners in shots (85)… In the past five games, the Predators have received goals from nine different forwards.
SELLING OUT SMASHVILLE
Heading into Saturday’s game, Bridgestone Arena has been sold out four times through 11 home games. A sellout against the Panthers (in game 12) would tie the fastest to five sellouts in franchise history (attained in 1999-2000). The second fastest was 22 home games in 1998-99 and in 2000-01). The Preds’ four sellouts in the first nine home games of 2010-11 marked the fasted to four full houses in club history, trumping the previous record which was set in 1999-2000.