TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (DirecTV 644 SD, 644-1 HD; Dish 451 SD, 9519 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. CHICAGO
The Predators travel to Chicago for the second of three times in 2010-11 tonight to take on the Blackhawks, the third of six games the teams will play this season. Nashville has picked up wins in each of the first two meetings, the first coming in game number two of the season at the United Center on Oct. 13 by a 3-2 score, and most recently in a 4-3 shootout victory on Nov. 13. In the first game, the Preds rallied from a 2-1 second intermission deficit behind third-period markers from Colin Wilson and Joel Ward, the latter of which, the game-winner, came with just 26.7 seconds left in regulation. After coming into the season opener in relief of Pekka Rinne, rookie netminder Anders Lindback collected his first career victory in his first NHL start by stopping 23-of-25 shots that night. Five weeks ago in Nashville’s only home game between Oct. 30 and Nov. 22 (9-of-10 on the road), the defensive corps stole the show, as Shane O’Brien, Shea Weber and Cody Franson accounted for Nashville’s goals. This marked the first time since Oct. 22, 2009 at Ottawa that Nashville defensemen had scored more than two goals in a contest. This all after the Predators again relinquished the first goal of the game. In the breakaway competition, Rinne stymied all three Hawk shooters, and Cal O’Reilly notched the lone marker for the home team.
Nashville will be looking to reverse a trend against the Blackhawks that runs opposite to the rest of its season. The Predators have been one of the better teams in the League in the opening period thus far in 2010-11, but have been outscored 3-1 in the first in their two games against Chicago. Nashville has however, won the third period, scoring three goals to Chicago’s none while outshooting the Hawks 20-8. In the all-time series, Nashville holds a 33-31-(4)-3 record against Chicago, and tonight will be looking the finish with a winning record in the Madhouse on Madison for the first time since 2006-07. It has won one game at the venue in each of the past three seasons.
Martin Erat had a helper in the Nov. 13 game after sitting out the Oct. 13 clash, and now has 11 points (5g-6a) in his last 10 games against the Hawks… J-P Dumont, Marcel Goc and Kevin Klein all have a pair of assists against Chicago this season. Dumont, who started his career as a Blackhawk posting 33 points (19g-14a) in 72 games from 1998-2000, now has 25 points (6g-19a) in 35 career games against Chicago… All-time, David Legwand has more goals, assists and points (18g-28a-46pts) against Chicago than any other player against any other team in franchise history. He notched an assist in game No. 1 of the season series.
SULLIVAN SCORES 100
Not only did Steve Sullivan become the first Nashville Predator to hit double-digits in goals on Saturday vs. Los Angeles with his 10th of the season, but he also became the fourth player in franchise history to reach the 100-goal mark in Preds sweater joining David Legwand (154), Martin Erat (128) and Jason Arnott (107). The Timmins, Ont., native also surpassed the 250-point mark as a Predator on Nov. 13 vs. Chicago, and sits fourth on the franchise’s points list (100g-161a-261pts) behind Legwand (415), Erat (368) and Kimmo Timonen (79g-222a-301pts). The Predators are not the only team that Sullivan has hit these milestones with – he posted 118 goals and 303 points with tonight’s opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, from 1999-2004. Nashville acquired the 5-8, 163-pound winger from them on Feb. 16, 2004 in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2004 Entry Draft (Ryan Garlock) and a second-round selection in the 2005 Entry Draft (Michael Blunden). He’s posted a pair of points (1g-1a) in two games against Chicago this season, and has amassed 25 points (8g-17a) in 28 games against Chicago as a Predator.
Sullivan has goals in back-to-back games, points in four straight (2g-2a), and 10 points (5g-5a) in his last 12 outings. Seven of his 10 goals this season have come in the first period.
SUTER GETS THE OFFENSE GOING
Since a stretch from Oct. 16-Dec. 8 that saw him miss 11 games due to injury and post three assists in 13 games, defenseman Ryan Suter has gotten the offensive wheels spinning, posting assists in a career-high five consecutive games. He has seven total points (1g-6a) during that stretch, which started with a 3-0 shutout of Florida on Dec. 11. The Madison, Wis., native’s 166 career points (28g-138a) rank fourth all-time among club defensemen, and he’s only nine points shy of tying Marek Zidlicky (35g-140a-175pts) for third on the list. Suter is tied with Cal O’Reilly for the team lead in assists (12) and plus/minus rating (+8), and ranks second on the team in average ice time (23:51). The Predators are 13-3-5 with Suter in the lineup vs. 4-6-1 without him.
bbbbbbbbu RINNE AND LINDBACK ANCHOR STRONG DEFENSIVE SIDE
The Nashville Predators have allowed two goals or fewer in 12 of the last 16 games dating back to Nov. 18 vs. Montreal, posting a 10-3-3 record in that span. Nashville has given up just 27 non-shootout goals in that stretch, good for a 1.65 goals-against average. For the season, the Predators are averaging just 2.41 goals against per game, fifth-best in the National Hockey League. They are tied for third in both second period (24) and third period (23) goals allowed.
The penalty kill has been a large part of the team’s defensive success – in the last 16 games, the unit has extinguished 52 of the last 56 chances against (92.9 percent) and rank sixth in the League (84.6 percent).
After missing eight games with a lower-body injury, Pekka Rinne returns to the Predators’ active roster tonight. The Kempele, Finland native was on a roll prior to going on the shelf, posting a 4-2-2 record with a 1.44 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and two shutouts in his previous eight starts. Rookie goaltender Anders Lindback has filled in admirably since Rinne’s last start on Dec. 1 as well, posting a 6-1-1 record with a 1.91 goals-against average, a .932 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In his first season in North America, Lindback ranks among the League’s Top 10 in both goals-against average (2.27) and save percentage (.925).
Tonight marks the beginning of Nashville’s seventh set of back-to-backs this season; it plays 13 total in 2010-11. The Predators are 4-2-0 in game one and 3-2-1 in game two of back-to-backs this season… Nashville plays three home games and three road games in the next two weeks, then heads back out West to play 10-of-12 away from the Music City from Jan. 5 until the All-Star Break… The Predators are 3-0-1 in their last four road games, and 7-1-1 during the month of December. They went a combined 21-19-3 in the month from 2007-09, including a 9-4-2 mark last season… The Predators are 15-3-1 when scoring three-or-more goals and 17-2-5 when allowing fewer than three goals… The 2010-11 edition of the Predators’ 17-9-6 record (40 points) through 32 games is the team’s best start since 2006-07 when they went 21-8-3 (45 points) en route to posting franchise records in points (110) and wins (51)… Sergei Kostitsyn saw his career-best eight-game point streak come to a close on Saturday, but has 10 points (3g-7a) in his last nine games after posting three points (2g-1a) in the first 19 games of 2010-11… Martin Erat has 10 points (3g-7a) in his last nine games as well, playing predominately on a line with Kostitsyn and Marcel Goc… Shea Weber has points in four of his last five games, amassing five points (1g-4a) in that span. He and Chicago’s Brent Seabrook are the only defensemen in the NHL to have at least 80 hits and 10 points… Francis Bouillon ranks second among NHL d-men in hits with 96.