PREDATORS HIT THE MIDPOINT HAVING WON FIVE STRAIGHT
With five consecutive wins, the Nashville Predators hit the midpoint of the 2010-11 season with a 22-13-6 record and 50 points, just one point shy of last season’s pace (24-14-3, 51 points) which saw the team finish with 100 points for the third time in club history. The Predators’ first-half success has come despite playing 23 road games, tied for the third-most in the League. The Predators are 7-2-1 in their last 10 road games, and their 13 road wins is also tied for third, and puts the Preds on pace for 23, which would tie the franchise record hit last season and in 2006-07. After next week’s six-game road trip, the Predators will have to leave Bridgestone Arena just 11 times, playing 21 at home from February-April. Since 2005-06, Nashville has amassed 140 home wins, just one shy of second-place Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver. Detroit ranks first with 150 home wins.
SWEEPING CALIFORNIA WITH A MILESTONE WIN
With its 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, the Nashville Predators completed the second sweep of California in franchise history. The other occurrence came with wins at San Jose (4-3 OT), Anaheim (4-3 OT) and Los Angeles (3-1) from Nov. 11-15, 2008. Nashville started the trip with a 4-1 victory over the Ducks on a 40-save performance by Pekka Rinne, and goals by Jerred Smithson and Patric Hornqvist which gave the club a 2-0 lead after two periods. The next night, Nashville dropped Los Angeles at Staples Center for the sixth time in its last seven trips there despite giving up the game’s first two goals. Hornqvist scored two – including his third game winner since Dec. 31, while both Colin Wilson and Sergei Kostitsyn tallied a goal and two assists. Saturday’s win was the Predators first regulation victory at HP Pavilion since Dec. 7, 2002 and the franchise’s 250th victory since the start of the 2005-06 campaign – only Detroit (284), San Jose (268) and Vancouver and New Jersey (251) have more.
MORE ON THE FIVE-GAME STREAK
Four of the Predators five straight victories have come on the road, tied for the fourth longest road winning streak in franchise history behind a seven-gamer (Oct. 16-Nov. 4, 2006) and a pair of five gamers (March 12-April 3, 2010 and Dec. 29, 2009-Jan. 15, 2010). Nashville’s second five-game winning streak of 2010-11 (the other occurred Dec. 8-17) has seen it outscore the opposition 19-6 despite being outshot 153-136.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne has held the opposition to one goal in each of his four starts during the streak including a 40-save effort on Wednesday at Anaheim and a season-high 42-save performance on Saturday vs. Los Angeles. He has a 1.00 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage in that span, lowering his 2010-11 goals-against average to 2.16 (fourth in the NHL) and boosting his save percentage to .926 (fifth in the NHL). Rookie Anders Lindback made the start in the second-half of a back-to-back situation on Thursday at Los Angeles, turning aside 24-of-26 shots to boost his record to 10-3-2.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
The Predators penalty kill was perfect for the 26th time this season on Saturday at San Jose, and has now successfully extinguished 19-of-20 (95 percent) chances against since the Christmas Break, and 74-of-81 man-down situations (91.4 percent) in the last 25 games, to move to fifth in the League (85.4 percent). The power play has also fared well of late, going 10-for-41 (24.4 percent) over the last 14 games after clicking at 11.1 percent in the prior 27 games (11-for-99). Nashville is 10-4-1 when scoring a power-play goal and 17-5-4 when not allowing a power-play marker.
KOSTITSYN EXTENDS GOAL STREAK Sergei Kostitsyn scored the game-winning goal on Saturday at San Jose, giving him goals in five consecutive contests. Only twice in franchise history has a player had a longer scoring streak – Alexander Radulov (7g) from Jan. 21-Feb. 2, 2008 and J-P Dumont (6g) from Dec. 29, 2007-Jan. 8, 2008 each recorded six gamers, which are also the two most recent goal streaks of at least five games. The Novopolotsk, Belarus native has scored seven of his career-high 11 goals this season in the third period, and the Preds are 9-2-0 when he records a goal. Since the calendar turned to December, Kostitsyn has been held off the scoresheet just three times in 18 games, amassing 20 points (9g-11a) and a +10 rating. Ten (3g-7a) of the points came during a career-high eight-game point streak from Dec. 1-15, and he has nine (5g-4a) points during an active six-game streak. With 23 points (11g-12a), the first-year Predator is just four points shy of a career high set in 2007-08 (9g-18a-27pts).
OTHER STREAKS Patric Hornqvist assisted on Kostitsyn’s goal on Saturday, extending his point streak to five games, tying a personal best. The Sollentuna, Sweden native has five goals and three assists during the stretch, including three multi-point outings and three game-winning goals. Hornqvist now has a team-leading 13 goals and paired with his franchise-record tying eight game winning goals from 2009-10, he is tied with Daniel Sedin and Alex Ovechkin for the most game winners since the start of the 2009-10 season (12).
Shea Weber also has points (2g-7a) in each of the five wins, tying a career high. Weber has 14 points (3g-11a) in 14 games, and is one of just three defensemen – along with Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien and Phoenix’s Keith Yandle – to lead his team in points. In addition to being tied for ninth 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 (135), tied for ninth in hits (107) and 10th in average ice time (24:45). The Predators are 7-0-0 this season when their captain scores, and 10-1-1 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.
Weber’s defensive partner, Ryan Suter, has assists in four straight games (5a), giving him 13 points (1g-12a) in his last 14 games and moving him into the team lead in assists (18). He also is a +9 over the last five games, moving him into the team lead – and tied for seventh among NHL defenders – in plus/minus rating (+15). 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 15-of-22 games.
DEFENSE STRONG AT HOME
The Predators have the third-lowest goals-against average in the League, and the lowest in the Western Conference at 2.32, but have been even better on home ice, allowing just 32 non-shootout markers in 18 games. The 1.94 goals-against average is second only to Boston (1.84). The home penalty kill is ranked first in the NHL (87.9 percent), and has only allowed just four power-play goals on 53 opportunities since Oct. 19 (92.3 percent)
The Predators are 12-5-3 when outshooting the opposition, third-best in the NHL… Nashville has given up the fewest second-period (31) and the second-fewest third-period goals in the League (31)… Colin Wilson has seven points (3g-4a) in his last six outings and 15 points (8g-7a) in 21 games since American Thanksgiving (Nov. 25). The second-year forward had six points (2g-4a) in his first 20 games of 2010-11… Francis Bouillon ranks second among NHL blueliners in hits (126)… Jerred Smithson is ranked ninth in the League in face-off percentage.