TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. SAN JOSE
The Nashville Predators make their first trip of 2010-11 to Silicon Valley for tonight’s early evening tilt. The Preds and Sharks play once a month from December-March, with the next clash coming the day after Valentine’s Day at Bridgestone Arena. The Sharks have had the upper hand against the Predators at HP Pavilion of late, winning 10-of-12 games at the venue since 2003-04. Five of the Preds’ last six trips, and eight of the last 11, have been determined by one goal. Nashville’s wins in Northern California during that stretch – on Feb. 28, 2007 and Nov. 11, 2008 – were both dramatic, extra-time wins that ended in 4-3 scores. In the teams’ final regular-season game before meeting in the 2007 playoffs six weeks later, Nashville overcame a second-intermission deficit to force overtime, then claim a shootout decision. Then as part of a six-game road trip that saw it sweep the three California teams for the first time in franchise history, Dan Ellis made a franchise-record 54 saves and faced a club-record 57 shots in a 4-3 overtime victory.
This has largely been a homer series of late however, with the host team winning six of the last seven matchups, including the first this season, a 3-2 Predators win on Dec. 15. The fourth win in a five-game winning streak, Nashville gave up the first goal of the game, and trailed after two periods, only to see Sergei Kostitsyn tie the game with 3:16 left in regulation and Colin Wilson win it with a goal 44 seconds later. Rookie netminder Anders Lindback stopped 25-of-27 shots in the victory. Going back to Feb. 9, 2008, nine of 11 games played between these clubs have been decided by a single goal, and five of the nine have been a 4-3 result.
His game-winning goal in the Dec. 15 matchup gave Wilson three points (2g-1a) in two career games against the Sharks… Joel Ward – who notched a career-high three points (1g-2a) against San Jose in a 4-3 win on Nov. 17, 2009 – has five points (3g-2a) in eight career games against S.J… J-P Dumont scored his first goal against Steve Shields on March 6, 1999 as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. He has 17 points (11g-6a) in 26 games against them during his career, and led Nashville in points and goals during the 2007 playoff series with six (4g-2a) in five games… Cody Franson has three assists in four career games against the Sharks… Marcel 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 contests, 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. Goc scored his first goal as a Predator against the Sharks on Nov. 10, 2009, and set a career high for shots on goal (7) against them on March 11, 2010.
HORNQVIST AND KOSTITSYN POST CAREER-HIGH FOUR-GAME GOAL STREAKS
Both Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn scored for the fourth consecutive game on Thursday at Los Angeles, which is a career high for both players.
Hornqvist netted his second two-goal game of the season on Thursday, giving him five goals and seven points during the hot streak. He has the game-winning goal in three of those games, moving him into a tie for 10th in the NHL in that category. Paired with his franchise-record tying eight game winning goals from 2009-10, the Sollentuna, Sweden native is tied with Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin for the most game winners since the start of last season (12). His first goal vs. Los Angeles was also a power-play marker, giving him a team-leading four man-advantage tallies.
For Kostitsyn, Thursday was his third career three-point (1g-2a) performance and first since Feb. 10, 2010 at Washington (3a). He also played more than 20 minutes (20:02) for the second time in his career in the 5-2 win. The career-high goal streak is part of a five-game point streak that’s seen him amass eight points (4g-4a). Paired with a career-high six-game point streak (3g-6a) from Dec. 1-15, the Novopolotsk, Belarus native now has been held off the scoresheet just three times in Nashville’s last 17 games, amassing 18 points (8g-10a) in that span. Prior to Dec. 1, Kostitsyn had three points (1g-2a) in 21 games. The 6-0, 207-pound winger’s 10 goals are a career high, and 22 points are just five off his career high set in 2007-08 with Montreal (9g-18a)
SUTER AND WEBER SHINING TOO
Nashville’s defensive duo of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber have also done their fair share of scoring, or setting up goals, during the team’s winning streak – Weber is riding a four-game point streak that’s seen him amass eight points (2g-6a), while Suter has points/assists in three straight (4a). Both notched two assists on Thursday.
With 13 points (3g-10a) in his last 13 games, Weber is now the team points leader (7g-16a-23pts), one of just three defensemen – along with Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien and Phoenix’s Keith Yandle – to be in sole possession of first in points on their respective teams. In addition to being tied for seventh among League blueliners in goals, the Sicamous, B.C., native is among the Top 20 defensemen in points, ranked second at the position in shots (133), tied for ninth in hits (103) and 10th in average ice time (24:47). The Predators are 7-0-0 this season when their captain scores, and 9-1-1 when he records a point. Since the start of the 2006-07 campaign, only Washington’s Mike Green (77) has more goals than Weber (69) among NHL defensemen.
Suter has 12 points (1g-11a) in his last 13 games, vaulting him into the team lead in assists (17). He also is a +8 over the last four games, moving him into the team lead – and tied for eighth among NHL defenders – in plus/minus rating (+14). Since returning from missing 11-of-14 games due to injury on Nov. 24, the Madison, Wis., native has played more than 25 minutes in 14-of-21 games,
WILSON KEEPS NOTCHING CAREER HIGHS Colin Wilson recorded his first career three-point game (1g-2a) on Thursday – the third career high he has set in the last five games. On Dec. 28 vs. Dallas, the Greenwich, Conn., native posted is first career two-goal game, then last Sunday vs. Columbus he notched his first career multi-assist performance (2a). Wilson now has seven points (3g-4a) in his last five outings and 15 points (8g-7a) in 20 games since American Thanksgiving. The second-year forward had six points (2g-4a) in his first 20 games of 2010-11.
Thursday night’s 5-2 victory marked the Nashville Predators fourth consecutive game scoring at least four goals and winning by a three-goal margin. The five-goal outburst not only tied a season high, but marked the first time they’ve scored five goals in a road victory since Jan. 12, 2010 at Edmonton. It was also the first time Nashville has overcome a two-goal deficit to win a road game since Dec. 17, 2009 at Edmonton (6-3). The Predators scored multiple power-play goals for the sixth time this season at Los Angeles going 2-for-3 and improving to 10-for-41 (24.4 percent) over the last 13 games. The power play was clicking at 11.1 percent prior to the current stretch (11-for-99).
The Preds have outscored the opposition 8-2 in the second period and 7-2 in the third in the four-game winning streak.
AND THE DEFENSIVE KEEPS ROLLING TOO Anders Lindback stopped 24-of-26 shots on Thursday at Los Angeles in his first start since Dec. 22 at Chicago, the 18th time in the last 24 games that the Predators have held the opposition to two goals or fewer. The stretch has put Nashville third in team goals-against average (2.35) and first in second-period goals allowed (30). The penalty kill has extinguished 72-of-79 chances against (91.1 percent) over the 24-game period to rise to fifth in the League (85.2 percent).
Leading the defense is goaltender Pekka Rinne, who has allowed only one goal in four of his last five starts, lowering his goals-against average to 2.20, fifth-best in the NHL, and upping his save percentage to .923, tied for seventh. Since Nov. 18 – the start of the aforementioned 24-game stretch, Rinne has posted a 1.54 goals-against average, a .941 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In that span, Lindback has been stellar as well, going 7-2-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and two shutouts. The win at Los Angeles improved Lindback’s record to 10-1-0 when receiving at least three goals in offensive support.
TROTZ MOVES INTO SIXTH ON WINS LIST
Barry Trotz – the Nashville Predators only head coach since entering the League in 1998 – collected his 432nd career win last time out, moving him past Hall-of-Famer Dick Irvin’s total with the Montreal Canadiens (431 wins from 1940-55) and into sixth on the all-time wins with one team list. Earlier this season, Trotz moved past Scotty Bowman’s tenure with the Canadiens (419 wins from 1971-79), and the last time Nashville visited California (Nov. 7 at Anaheim), he passed Montreal’s Toe Blake to move into fifth on the all-time games coached with one team list. The top five coaches on the wins list are Al Arbour (740, N.Y. Islanders), Billy Reay (516, Chicago), Blake (500, Montreal), Lindy Ruff (500, Buffalo) and Glen Sather (464, Edmonton), while the top four on the games coached list are Arbour (1,500), Ruff (1,024), Reay (1,012) and Jack Adams (964, Detroit).