TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. NEW JERSEY
The Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils hook up for their one and only meeting of 2010-11 tonight at Prudential Center, the Predators second trip to the venue, and eighth all-time visit to Jersey. Nashville is 4-2-1 at the Devils’ home barn, despite falling by a 5-2 score the last time it visited on Feb. 12 of last season. That was the second of two games in the 2009-10 series slate, with Nashville winning the first matchup by a 3-2 shootout decision on Nov. 19. That night, in what turned out to be the fourth of seven consecutive victories for the Predators, current Devil and former Predators captain Jason Arnott notched both of Nashville’s goals, while Mike Santorelli and Martin Erat converted for the club in the shootout. Pekka Rinne stopped 26-of-28 shots, while J-P Dumont assisted on both of the Predators tallies. The Devils and Predators have met five times since the start of the 2005-06 campaign, with three of those games needing the shootout to determine a winner. Back-to-back contests on Jan. 19, 2006 and Oct. 19, 2006 saw the road team win in the tiebreaker by a 4-3 score, with Nashville’s victory coming in the latter meeting. Overall, the road team has won 10 of the 15 all-time series meetings.
All-time series highlight: In a matinee game (12 p.m. CT start time) at Continental Airlines Arena on Jan. 30, 1999 – the day before Super Bowl XXXIII, Sebastien Bordeleau scored the game-winner (2:43) for Nashville in the franchise's first overtime victory.
Arnott was traded to the Devils on June 19, 2010 in exchange for forward Matt Halischuk and a second-round selection in the 2011 Entry Draft… Steve Sullivan started his career with New Jersey after being drafted 233rd overall (ninth round) by the club in the 1994 Entry Draft. After playing the 1994-95 season with its AHL affiliate in Albany, he split the next two seasons between New Jersey and Albany, posting 31 points (13g-18a) in 49 NHL games from his career debut on Feb. 23, 1996 vs. Montreal, until Feb. 25, 1997 when he was acquired by Toronto, with Jason Smith and Alyn McCauley, for Doug Gilmour, Dave Ellett and New Jersey’s third-round choice (previously acquired; New Jersey selected Andre Lakos) in the 1999 Entry Draft. The Timmins, Ont., native has nine points (5g-4a) in 17 career games against his former team… Erat has seven points (3g-4a) in 10 career games against New Jersey… David Legwand played his first NHL game against the Devils on April 17, 1999 – the final game of the Predators inaugural season.
PREDS MAKE IT FOUR STRAIGHT WINS, EXTEND POINT STREAK TO NINE
Nashville’s come-from-behind victory on Wednesday night vs. San Jose extended the club’s winning streak to a season-high four games, and its current point streak to nine contests (7-0-2) dating back to Nov. 27 against the New York Rangers. While the franchise record for consecutive games with a point is 10 (attained three times), it is the franchise’s first nine-game streak since the most recent 10-gamer (7-0-3) Feb.19-March 10, 2007. The 2010-11 edition of the Predators’ 16-8-6 record (38 points) through 30 games is the team’s best start since 2006-07 when they went 19-8-3 (41 points) en route to posting franchise records in points (110) and wins (51).
TWO OF THE LEAGUE’S ELITE GO AT IT
Tonight’s matchup pits two of the National Hockey League’s top teams since the start of the 2005-06 season. In the past six seasons (including 2010-11), New Jersey has amassed 250 wins – third most behind Detroit and San Jose – while Nashville ranks fourth on the list with 244 victories. The teams are flip-flopped on the home wins since 2005-06 list, with the Predators ranking third (139) and the Devils fourth (tied with Anaheim, 137), behind Detroit and San Jose.
DEFENSE GETS IT DONE
The Nashville Predators used a strong defensive effort to top San Jose on Wednesday, allowing two goals or fewer for the 11th time in the last 14 games dating back to Nov. 18 vs. Montreal. Nashville has given up just 20 non-shootout goals and posted a 1.39 goals-against average in that span while picking up points (9-2-3 record) in all but two of those games. The Predators now have the fourth-best goals against average in the League (2.33), allowing 22 goals in each period.
Much of the success is due to Nashville’s stingy penalty kill. The unit has been perfect in 12 of the last 14 games, extinguishing 46-of-48 chances against (95.8 percent) in that span. The streak has helped the PK move from 23rd in the PK rankings on Nov. 11 (78.7 percent) to fifth-best in the NHL (85.6 percent). On the road, the Preds have allowed just one man-advantage marker in the past seven games, killing off 25-of-26 (96.1 percent) in that stretch.
LINDBACK KEEPS WINNING
Though his shutout streak ended at 128:47 at the 7:25 mark of Wednesday game, rookie goaltender Anders Lindback picked up his fourth consecutive win and improved to 5-0-1 with a 1.50 goals-against average, a .950 save percentage and a pair of shutouts since Pekka Rinne went down with an injury. The Gavle, Sweden native is tied for the NHL lead in both wins and shutouts during the month of December, while his goals-against average and save percent rank third among netminders making more than one start. In his first North American season Lindback has posted an 8-1-2 record to this point with a .930 save percentage – fifth-best in the League – and a 2.16 goals-against average – good for sixth in the NHL.
KOSTITSYN STAYS HOT Sergei Kostitsyn score the game-tying goal at 16:44 of the third in Wednesday’s win, extending his point streak to a career-high seven games dating back to Dec. 1 at Columbus. He’s amassed three goals and six assists in that span to go along with a +8 rating – tied for first in the League this month – and has averaged 15:04 per game in the seven games. Prior to the streak, he had three points (2g-1a) and a -7 rating while averaging 10:14 in 19 2010-11 games. It is the longest point streak by a Predator since Ryan Suter reached the scoresheet in eight straight from March 3-18, 2009 (2g-8a).
Nashville plays an Eastern foe for the fifth time in the last seven games tonight. It is 6-1-4 against the East this season, and 18-5-5 against the other conference since the start of the 2009-10 campaign… The Predators are 14-3-1 when scoring three-or-more goals and 16-2-5 when allowing fewer than three goals… Nashville has outscored the opposition 12-2 in the first period over the last nine games. It has also outscored its foes 8-2 in the second period over the last six contests… Nashville has received 14 goals from 11 different players during its current four-game win streak… During Nashville’s 7-0-2 run, the Predators have seen seven different game-winning goal scorers… Martin Erat has eight points (1g-7a) in his last seven outings.