TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. N.Y. ISLANDERS
The Predators play host to the New York Islanders for just the eighth time in their history – and the second time in the last four-plus seasons – tonight at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville holds an 8-3-2 edge all-time in the series, and has garnered points in all seven since the start of the 2002-03 campaign, posting a 5-0-2 record. On home ice, the Preds have fared even better, winning the last four games while posting a 5-2-0 mark all-time. The last time the Isles visited the Music City was two seasons ago, on Dec. 20, 2008, and saw Pekka Rinne stop all 23 shots he faced in a 1-0 victory. It was Rinne’s third shutout in his fifth start of December, and Nashville’s fifth whitewash in a 12-game span between Nov. 25-Dec. 20, 2008. In last season’s lone matchup on Feb. 9, the Islanders tied the game with just 12 seconds remaining then won the game in a shootout, 4-3. Steve Sullivan, Cal O’Reilly and Joel Ward scored for Nashville.
J.P. Dumont was the Islanders’ first selection, third overall (first round), in the 1996 Entry Draft, but was traded away before turning pro. On May 30, 1998 – just 29 days after helping Val-d’Or sweep Rimouski in the 1998 QMJHL Finals, winning the Guy Lafleur Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs in the process – Dumont was sent to Chicago along with the N.Y. Islanders’ fifth-round choice in the 1998 Entry Draft (traded to Philadelphia; Philadelphia selected Francis Belanger) for Dmitri Nabokov. Since then, he has 15 points (6g-9a) in 21 games against the Islanders… Sullivan has 19 points (8g-11a) in 15 career games against the Islanders, including four goals in three games against them as a Predator… Martin Erat has six points (2g-4a) in seven career games against N.Y. Islanders, including assists in each of the last two meetings... Against New York, Rinne is 1-0-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average and a .964 save percentage for his career.
All-time series highlight: On Oct. 15, 2002, at the Nassau Coliseum, Predators defenseman Karlis Skrastins pulled off an offensive feat rarely attained – scoring a goal while his team was two-men down. Forward Vladimir Orszagh and goaltender Tomas Vokoun were both penalized as the clock ran down in the first period, leaving the Predators two-men short against the Islanders heading into the middle frame. Just 21 seconds into the second period, Skrastins fired a shot from the blue line at Islanders netminder Chris Osgood. With his own player screening him, the shot caught the Islanders’ goalie off guard, giving Nashville a 3-1 lead. To this day, it is still the only 3-on-5 goal scored in the Predators’ 930-game existence. The Islanders would eventually rally for a 4-3 overtime victory.
ROOKIE ANDERS LINDBACK RECORDS HIS FIRST CAREER SHUTOUT
Nashville Predators first-year netminder Anders Lindback turned aside all 22 shots he face on Saturday vs. Florida to record his first career shutout, the 70th whitewash in franchise history. Combined with Pekka Rinne’s three shutouts, the Predators now have four shutouts, which is tied for the second highest total in the League. Lindback – who is the sixth goaltender in club history to notch a shutout – improved his season record to 6-1-2, lowered his goals-against average to 2.38 for the season (an identical mark to Rinne) and raised his season save percentage to .925, which ranks seventh in the NHL. 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 prior to his injury, but the Gavle, Sweden native has filled in admirably, posting a 3-0-1 mark with a 1.74 GAA and a .944 save percentage since that point.
The tallest goaltending duo in NHL history has led Nashville to a 5-0-2 mark in its last seven games and a 9-3-3 record since a 3-2 shootout win on Nov. 11 at St. Louis. For the season, Nashville is allowing 2.43 goals per game, sixth lowest in the NHL, and second lowest in the Western Conference. The number is even better on home ice – the Preds have allowed just 22 goals at Bridgestone Arena through 12 games, good for a 1.79 goals against average. The Predators have given up just 21 second-period goals, third fewest in the NHL.
FAST STARTS HELPS CAUSE Ryan Suter put the Predators on the board just 1:14 into Saturday’s win over Florida, the fourth time this season the club has scored in the opening 80 seconds of the game, and the third time (in 10 non-shootout wins) that the game-winning goal has been scored in the first four minutes of a game. Nashville is tied for sixth in the League in first-period goals (27), thanks in-large part to its play over the past seven games where it has outscored the opposition 11-1 in the opening 20 minutes.
PK PERFECT AGAIN
The Predators penalty kill was put to work just once in Saturday’s win, tying a season-low set in game No. 2 of 2010-11 at Chicago on Oct. 13, but were flawless just the same for the 11th time in the last 12 games and 13th time in 15 outings since Nov. 11. Having killed 42 of the last 43 chances against (97.7 percent), the Predators have moved from 23rd in the PK rankings on Nov. 11 (78.7 percent) to a tie for fourth-best in the NHL (85.6 percent). On home ice, the killers have extinguished 30-of-31 times shorthanded since Oct. 19 vs. Calgary (96.8 percent), and have the third-best home penalty kill (88.6 percent). The man-down unit is aided by Nashville’s discipline – the club has been shorthanded the second-fewest time in the Western Conference (104), and the Predators 10.1 penalty minutes per game are fewest in the West and third fewest in the League.
In the last five games, playing predominantly on a line with Martin Erat and Marcel Goc, first year Predator Sergei Kostitsyn has tripled his season point production thanks to a career-high five-game point streak (1g-5a) dating back to Dec. 1, and a personal best four-game assist streak that started on Dec. 4. Both streaks tie the longest marks by a Predators player this season. The Novopolotsk, Belarus native has posted a +7 rating while averaging 15:08 during the point streak after posting three points (2g-1a) and a -7 rating while averaging 10:14 in 19 games before the current streak.
OFFENSE FROM THE DEFENSE Shea Weber and Ryan Suter tallied Nashville’s first two goals in Saturday’s win, giving Nashville five straight victories when it receives a goal from the defensive corps. With the game-winning goal and an assist on Weber’s tally, Suter notched his first multi-point performance and first goal/game winner since an overtime victory at Detroit on April 3, 2010. Weber now has goals in three straight home games, and the team is 5-0-0 this season when he scores. Weber’s 67 goals since the start of the 2006-07 season ranks second only to Washington’s Mike Green (75) in goals by a defenseman, and he’s third in shots by a blueliner this season with 88. The Sicamous, B.C., native has eight points (4g-4a) in 12 home games versus three points (1g-2a) in 16 road games.
The Predators are 5-1-4 against the Eastern Conference this season. Since the start of the 2009-10 campaign, Nashville is 17-5-5 against the East. Tonight, Nashville winds down a stretch of playing four-of-five inter-conference games which started Dec. 4 vs. Carolina… The Predators have played just 12 home games, tied with Colorado for the fewest in the Western Conference… The Predators are 12-3-1 when scoring more than two goals, and 14-2-5 when holding its opposition to three goals or fewer… The Predators are 6-2-1 when scoring a power-play goal, and 12-3-4 when not giving up a power-play goal… 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… The Predators have had 18 of their 27 games this season determined by a single goal, going 9-3-6 in those games. Since the last time they faced the Islanders on Feb. 9, 2010, they’ve posted a 23-3-8 record in one-goal games… Martin Erat has seven points (1g-6a) in his last five outings… Cal O’Reilly had a career-high five-game point streak end on Saturday, but has five points (2g-3a) in his last six games. O’Reilly also leads all team forwards in ice time (17:57), playing more than 5:30 more than his career average entering 2010-11 (13:21)… Steve Sullivan has six points (3g-3a) in his last eight outings… Colin Wilson has six points (4g-2a) in his last eight games after posting the same total (2g-4a) in his first 20 games of the season.