TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. MINNESOTA
The Nashville Predators will face-off at Xcel Energy Center for the 20th time in franchise history tonight, the team’s second and final visit to the Twin Cities during the 2010-11 season. This is the third time the Predators have played on New Year’s Eve, with the club picking up wins on each of the previous two contests. Last year, Andreas Thuresson forced overtime with his first career goal, and David Legwand scored just 28 seconds into the extra session to lift Nashville to a 2-1 win at Columbus. In 2007 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, former Star Dan Ellis stole the show with a 22-save shutout and J-P Dumont scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 victory.
The Predators fell in the previous trip to St. Paul on Black Friday, Nov. 26, by a 5-2 score, but they turned things around less than 24 hours against the N.Y. Rangers, and proceeded to tie a franchise record by posting points in their next 10 games (8-0-2). Both of Nashville’s goals in the first contest came on the power-play, with Patric Hornqvist assisting on both. The Preds are 2-2-1 in their last five trips here, with their last road win in the series coming by a 4-3 decision on Oct. 28, 2009. That victory sparked a hot streak that saw the team go 11-2-0 in a 13-game stretch until Nov. 25. Jerred Smithson played hero on that night, scoring the game winner while shorthanded with 9:16 left in regulation.
Steve Sullivan scored Nashville’s first of two goals in the Nov. 26 contest. He has 21 points (7g-14a) in 14 games against Minnesota in a Predators sweater, and an even 27 points (10g-17a) in 27 career games against the Wild… As a Predator, J-P Dumont has 19 points (6g-13a) in 16 games against the Wild, and is also averaging nearly a point-per-game against the club for his career with 21 points (7g-14a) in 22 games… Hornqvist has four points (1g-3a) in five career games against the Wild… Joel Ward started his professional career in the Wild organization, playing three seasons in Houston (2005-08) and dressing for his first 11 NHL games with Minnesota in 2006-07… Martin Erat (Oct. 30, 2001 against Dwayne Roloson), Matthew Lombardi (currently injured; on Oct. 21, 2003 against Roloson) and Smithson (on Dec. 1, 2005 against Roloson) all scored their first career goals against the Wild.
PLAYING ON NEW YEAR’S EVE
The Nashville Predators have had some memorable games on January 1 during the franchise’s first 10 seasons, playing nine times on that date between the 1998-99 and 2008-09 seasons. On the first day of the new millennium, the team posted a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena. Then two years apart in 2002 and 2004, the club overcame third-period deficits to first salvage a tie against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche behind two Cliff Ronning goals (4-4), then notch a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh on a pair of goals by Kimmo Timonen.
This year, however, is just the third time the Preds will play on New Year’s Eve. Last season at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, the Preds overcame a one-goal deficit in the third period, then used a David Legwand goal just 28 seconds into overtime to pick up the “W.” In their first-ever Dec. 31 game in 2007, Dan Ellis stopped 22 shots and J-P Dumont scored the game’s only goal as the Predators won in Dallas, 1-0, for the first time in four and a half years.
WILSON NETS FIRST CAREER TWO-GOAL GAME Colin Wilson potted two goals in Tuesday’s game vs. Dallas, his first career two-goal game and the fifth multi-goal game by a Predator this season. His tallies came at 19:00 of the second period and 32 seconds of the final frame, making him just the second player in the NHL this season to score a goal in the final minute of one period and again in the first minute of the next period. The other player to accomplish the feat this season was Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, who did it on Dec. 20 against Phoenix. Wilson now has nine goals on the season, with four coming in both the first and third periods, leaving him just one off the team high currently held by Steve Sullivan. The Greenwich, Conn., native now has 10 points (7g-3a) in his last 16 games after posting six points (2g-4a) in the first 20 contests of 2010-11. Additionally, Wilson played 18:20 against the Stars, his second-highest ice time of the season behind only 18:40 registered on Nov. 3 at Phoenix.
FRANCHISE SHOTS RECORD FALLS
Predators forward Patric Hornqvist put 14 of the team’s 46 shots on goal in Tuesday’s game, breaking the franchise record previously held by Jason Arnott, who put 12 shots on net at Toronto on Dec. 4, 2007. Hornqvist’s performance marks just the third time in Nashville’s 938-game history that a player has put more than 10 shots on goal. The only other occurrence was Steve Sullivan’s 11-shot game as part of a club-record 55 shots against Montreal on Nov. 14, 2009. Hornqvist put six shots on goal in both the first and third frames, tied for the second-highest single period count, and the most since he did it in the third period against Colorado on Oct. 9, 2009.
DEFENSE CARRIES THE LOAD
The Predators have allowed 2.47 goals per game through the first 36 contests of 2010-11, putting them fifth in the League in goals-against average. The Predators’ goals allowed have been evenly distributed – opponents have tallied 28 goals in the first and second frames, and 29 in the third. Their second-period total is tied for second in the NHL, while their third-frame total is tied for fifth, just two goals shy of third place.
Netminders Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback have been integral components to the team’s stinginess, especially in the past 20 games. Since Nov. 18, Rinne has posted a 1.70 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, while the rookie Lindback has posted a 2.15 goals-against average and .925 save percentage during the stretch. The tallest goaltending tandem in NHL history has combined for five shutouts, second only to Boston’s six.
RYAN ELLIS SETS WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS RECORD
Predators prospect and Team Canada captain Ryan Ellis etched his name in the World Junior Championships record book on Wednesday night during the club’s 10-1 victory over Norway, becoming the tournament’s all-time leader in points by a defenseman. Selected 11th overall by Nashville in 2009, Ellis notched three assists during the rout, giving him 23 points (4g-19a) in just 15 WJC games, and moving him past Finland's Reijo Ruotsalainen (9g-12a-21pts, 24gp, 1977-80). The Freelton, Ont., native current leads all tournament blueliners – and ranks second among all skaters – in points with eight (2g-6a) through just three games. This is Ellis’ third time representing Canada at World Juniors, held this year in Buffalo, N.Y., making him just the seventh player to do so. The 5-10, 179-pound defender earned a silver medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships, tying for fourth in the tournament in assists (7), while finishing second among defenseman in points (1g-7a-8pts). In 2009, he won a gold medal while donning the Maple Leaf, posting seven points (1g-6a) in six games. At only 17 years old, he was the youngest defenseman to play for Canada since Jay Bouwmeester in 2001, and was one of just three draft-eligible players on the 2009 team.
Tonight is just the third time the Predators have played a Northwest Divisional opponent. Aside from Nashville’s trip to the Twin Cities on Black Friday, it hosted Calgary on Oct. 19… Nashville alternates four home and four 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… Nashville plays its 20th road game of the season tonight, second only to Phoenix (21) and tied with Calgary.