TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DALLAS
The Predators and Dallas Stars clash for the second time in 2010-11, just the second time in the last 14 months the Stars have visited the Music City. Nashville will be looking to build on its 12-9-(1)-0 home record against Dallas all-time; it has won three of the Stars’ last four trips here, having outscored them 11-6 in those games. Last season, the teams split a pair of games at Bridgestone Arena. Dallas claimed its only road victory in the series in the last two-and-a-half years on March 23, 2010 (3-1), while Nashville doubled-up the Stars 4-2 on Halloween 2009 behind three third-period goals and a pair of assists from the First Star of the night, J-P Dumont.
The teams’ first clash of the season on Oct. 23 at American Airlines Center was also the first half of Nashville’s second back-to-back set this season, one that saw it play at Tampa Bay less than 18 hours later. In “Big D,” the Preds would get the only goal they needed from Cal O’Reilly just 42 seconds into the opening frame of a 1-0 victory. Pekka Rinne stopped all 30 shots he saw for his first shutout of the season, the 13th time in his career he’s received one or two goals in offensive support in a whitewash. The Predators would go on to top the Lightning by a 4-3 score on Oct. 24.
Since joining the Preds in 2006, Dumont has 13 points (4g-9a) in 16 games against the Stars… Steve Sullivan has four points (2g-2a) in his last five games against Dallas, and five goals in 12 games against it as a Pred, including his fifth career hat trick on Nov. 10, 2005… David Legwand also has a hat trick against Dallas, recording it on Opening Night of the 2007-08 season in a 3-1 victory… Both Patric Hornqvist and Marcel Goc recorded their first NHL goals against former Dallas goalie Marty Turco. Hornqvist did it on Oct. 15, 2008 in his second career game, while Goc scored his on Oct. 26, 2005 while with San Jose… Joel Ward posted the first multi-goal/point game of his career with a pair, including the game winner, in a 3-0 victory over Dallas on Dec. 13, 2008.
DEFENSE REMAINS STRONG Pekka Rinne stopped 24-of-25 shots on Sunday at St. Louis, the seventh time in his last 10 starts he’s allowed less than three goals. The Kempele, Finland native has posted a 1.45 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage in those games – which date back to a shutout on Nov. 18 at Montreal. The goal-against average is lowest in the League in that span, while the save percentage ranks second among goalies with at least five appearances. Rinne is ranked seventh among NHL goaltenders in goals-against average (2.23) and 10th in save percentage (.921). When Rinne went down for three weeks at the beginning of December, rookie netminder Anders Lindback filled in admirably, posting a 6-2-1 record with a 2.08 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. Lindback’s .922 save percentage on the season is good for seventh, tied with former Predator goalie Tomas Vokoun.
As a team, Nashville has allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the NHL (85) and has the League’s sixth-lowest goals-against average (2.43). The club is even better on home ice, allowing just 2.00 goals per game, second fewest behind only Los Angeles. The Predators are tied for second in second-period goals allowed (27), and tied for third in third-period goals allowed (26).
COMBINED TWO PENALTY MINUTES AN FRANCHISE LOW
The Predators and Blues combined for just a single minor/two penalty minutes in Sunday night’s game, the first time in Nashville’s history that only two penalty minutes has shown up on the final score sheet. Joel Ward was called for tripping at 15:13 of the third, while St. Louis was the first Predators opponent to go penalty-free since March 14, 2003 at Minnesota. Nashville has not been sent to the sin bin during a game on three occasions in its 937-game history, most recently on Jan. 21, 2010 at Phoenix. The Preds entered Monday’s games ranked third in the Western Conference in times shorthanded behind Vancouver and San Jose, and first in the Conference in fewest penalty minutes per game (9.4). Nashville has been assessed 10 penalty minutes or fewer in 14 consecutive games.
Nashville alternates home and road games between Dec. 17-Jan. 2 before to heading out West to play 10-of-12 on the road from Jan. 5 until the All-Star Break… The Predators have played 16 home games – only Phoenix (14) has played fewer among Western Conference teams. The Predators have just three regulation losses on Bridgestone Arena ice, one off the League low, shared by Tampa Bay and Los Angeles… The Predators are 15-3-1 when scoring three-or-more goals… Nashville has given up just four power-play goals in its last 13 home games, killing off 42-of-46 disadvantages in that span (91.3 percent). The home PK is ranked fourth in the League (86.4 percent)… The Preds have gone 6-for-26 on the power play over the last eight games (23.1 percent)… The Predators have the League’s fifth-best record when trailing after 20 minutes (5-7-1).
PLAYER QUICK HITS Ryan Suter has eight points (1g-7a) in his last eight games… Sergei Kostitsyn has 11 points (4g-7a) in his last 12 games… Martin Erat has 11 points (3g-8a) in his last 11 games after registering three points (2g-1a) in his previous 11 outings… Patric Hornqvist has scored six of his eight goals on home ice… Shea Weber has posted 10 (4g-6a) points in 16 home games vs. five points (1g-4a) in 19 road contests. Weber and Chicago’s Brent Seabrook are the only defensemen to have more than 10 points and more than 90 hits this season. The Sicamous, B.C., native also ranks second among NHL blueliners in shots (117), and 10th among all skaters in average ice time (24:45).