TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. SAN JOSE
Nashville and San Jose renew acquaintances for the first time in 2010-11 tonight at Bridgestone Arena, with the Predators in search of their first victory over the Sharks in 13 months. A season ago, San Jose took three-of-four games, including its most recent trip to the Music City on Feb. 6 by a 4-3 score. In fact, each of the first three Preds-Sharks games ended in with 4-3 on the scoreboard. In Nashville’s win on Nov. 17, 2009, Joel Ward posted a career-high three points (1g-2a) and linemate David Legwand matched his production (1g-2a) in the home win. The first meeting of 2009-10 just seven days before the Predators victory, Dan Boyle scored at 19:00 of the third period to lift San Jose to a 4-3 win. The game saw Marcel Goc score his first goal as a Predator against the team he played the first 265 games of his NHL career with from 2005-09. Nashville’s power play went 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) in the 2009-10 season series.
Going back to Feb. 9, 2008, eight of 10 games played between these clubs have been decided by a single goal, and five of the eight have been a 4-3 result. The Predators are 11-10-(1)-0 all-time when hosting San Jose, including a 6-4-0 mark in its last 10 visits.
J-P Dumont led all Predators with four goals and five points against the Sharks a season ago… Ward (2g-2a), Legwand (1g-3a) and Ryan Suter (4a) all clicked at a point-per-game rate against San Jose a season ago. Suter has six points (1g-5a) in his last eight games against San Jose… Cody Franson has three assists in as many career games against San Jose… For his career, Steve Sullivan has 28 points (10g-18a) in 36 career games against the Sharks.
Goc was drafted 20th overall in 2001 (highest ever by a German) by the Sharks. In 265 games with the Sharks from 2005-09, he posted 54 points (20g-34a), and in 37 postseason contested, he amassed eight points (3g-5a). One of the three playoff goals sent San Jose to its last appearance in the Western Conference Finals – he scored the series-clinching goal in Game Six of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals against Colorado.
LINDBACK POSTS SECOND CONSECUTIVE SHUTOUT
For the second consecutive game, rookie goaltender Anders Lindback was perfect in the Nashville net, stopping all 28 shots he faced on Monday against the New York Islanders. It is the first time a rookie netminder has recorded back-to-back whitewashes since Columbus’ Steve Mason had three straight from Dec. 27-31, 2008, and the first time a Nashville netminder had two straight since Pekka Rinne blanked Minnesota (5-0 on March 18, 2010) and Columbus (1-0 in overtime on March 20, 2010) last season. Lindback’s pair of shutouts, combined with Rinne’s three this season, gives Nashville the League’s second-highest total (tied with the New York Rangers).
Lindback is now 7-1-2 in his first NHL/North American season with a .931 save percentage – tied for fifth in the League – and a 2.18 goals-against average – good for seventh in the NHL. His number have been even better during Rinne’s current stint on Injured Reserve, going 4-0-1 with a 1.40 goals against average and a .955 save percentage.
TEAM DEFENSE STAYS STRONG
Regardless of whether it has been Anders Lindback or Pekka Rinne in net this season, the Predators have been among the League’s elite in keeping pucks out of their net. Nashville has allowed just 20 non-shootout goals in the last 13 games, good for a 1.50 goals-against average. Rinne and Lindback have stopped 362-of-382 shots in that span, good for a .948 save percentage and four shutouts. For the season, Nashville is allowing 2.34 goals per game, fifth 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 13 contests, good for a 1.64 goals-against average. The Predators have put up the stingy numbers with balance; they are one of just three teams (along with Montreal and Los Angeles) to allow 22 goals or fewer in each period.
MOVING UP A COUPLE WINS LISTS
Nashville is riding its third three-game winning streak of the season, has collected points in eight straight (6-0-2) and is 10-3-3 in its last 16 games, helping move up a couple of wins list. Since the start of the 2005-06 season, the Predators have 243 wins, which is now good for fourth-best in that span behind only Detroit (276), San Jose (262) and New Jersey (249). A 7-1-5 home record has helped Nashville move into third on the home wins list in that same span (138) behind only Detroit (146) and San Jose (140). The Predators’ 13 home games in 2010-11 is tied for the lowest total in the Western Conference with Colorado.
KOSTITSYN MAKES IT SIX STRAIGHT
With a goal and an assist on Monday against the New York Islanders, Sergei Kostitsyn extended career high points (six games) and assist streaks (five games), the longest such streaks by a Predators player this season. Playing predominantly on a line with Martin Erat and Marcel Goc, the Novopolotsk, Belarus native has amassed eight points (2g-6a) in six games since the start of December, posting a +8 rating while averaging 14:58 of ice time. Kostitsyn’s plus/minus rating is tied for third in the NHL since the start of the month, while his point and assist totals also rank among the League’s Top 10. Prior to the streak, he had three points (2g-1a) and a -7 rating while averaging 10:14 in 19 2010-11 games. Erat – who assisted on Kostitsyn’s goal against the Isles, has eight points (1g-7a) in his last six outings as well.
ANOTHER STELLAR OUTING BY THE KILLERS
The Predators penalty kill extended their stretch of not allowing a goal on home ice to seven games on Monday against the Islanders (three-for-three), tied for the third-best stretch in franchise history behind a 12-game streak from Feb. 12-March 24, 2009 and a nine-gamer Dec. 13, 2008-Jan. 17, 2009. The killers last allowed a power-play goal on Oct. 28 vs. St. Louis, and have extinguished 33-of-34 times shorthanded since Oct. 19 vs. Calgary (97 percent), helping them to the second-best home unit in the NHL (89.4 percent). Overall, the PK has been perfect 12 times in the last 13 games – including a franchise-record stretch of nine games from Nov. 18-Dec. 4 – and for the 14th time in 16 outings since Nov. 11. Having killed 45 of the last 46 chances against (97.8 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 (86 percent). The man-down unit is aided by Nashville’s discipline – the club has been shorthanded 107 times this season, tied for the fewest in the Western Conference (107), 47 times on home ice, fewest in the West, and are averaging 10.1 penalty minutes per game are fewest in the West and third fewest in the League.
SHARING THE WEALTH
Nashville has received 11 goals from 10 different players during its current three-game win streak, with only Patric Hornqvist notching more than one. During Nashville’s 6-0-2 run, the Predators defensive corps has amassed 18 points (5g-13a) on 25 goals, including four points (2g-2a) on the Preds’ five game-winning goals and six points (1g-5a) on the club’s five power-play tallies during the run. The defense has been especially good at home – Shea Weber has three times as many points on home ice as on the road (4g-5a vs. 1g-2a) while both Cody Franson (2g-6a vs. 2g-2a) and Ryan Suter (1g-5a vs. 3a) have twice as many home points as road points.