A COME-FROM-BEHIND VICTORY
Nashville rallied from a two-goal deficit to win for the second time in the last five games on Saturday vs. Chicago, something they hadn’t done since April 1, 2010 prior to scoring three straight goals to defeat Los Angeles by a 3-2 score on Jan. 6. The Saturday victory improved the Predators to 7-7-1 when trailing after one period – the second-best record in the NHL – and 4-10-0 when trailing after two periods – third-best in the League.
BACK TO THE SHOOTOUT
After needing a shootout to determine a winner six times in an 11-game span from Nov. 11-Dec. 1, the Predators revisited the tiebreaker for the first time in 20 games on Saturday vs. Chicago. Nashville’s five shootout wins is tied for first in the NHL. Goaltender Pekka Rinne was a perfect three-for-three on Saturday, improving his all-time shootout record to 16-7 (.696), tied for fifth-best all time. His career save percentage now sits at .785 (73-of-93), fourth-best since the shootout was implemented for the 2005-06 campaign.
MORE ON RINNE
Rinne made 31-of-33 saves on Saturday against Chicago, relinquishing two goals or fewer for the 13th time in his last 16 starts to move into a tie for second in the NHL in both goals-against average (2.13) and save percentage. Nashville’s team goals-against average now sits at 2.30, also second-best in the League.
WEBER MAKES IT EIGHT
With his overtime-forcing goal at 12:20 of the third period Saturday night vs. Chicago, Predators 2011 All-Star and Captain Shea Weber extended his point streak to eight games, a career high which now ties the franchise mark for a defenseman, last hit by Ryan Suter from March 2-18, 2009 (2g-8a). Weber has three goals and nine assists over the stretch – which dates back to a Dec. 31 win at Minnesota – and 16 points (4g-12a) in the last 16 games, moving him into the Top 15 among defensemen in points (8g-19a-27pts) and Top 10 among blueliners in goals. Weber is one of just three defensemen – along with Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien and Phoenix’s Keith Yandle – to lead his team in points, and also ranks among the defensive leaders in shots (143), hits (118) and average ice time (24:48). Since the start of the 2006-07 campaign, only Washington’s Mike Green (77) has more goals than Weber’s 70 among NHL defensemen, and the Predators are 8-0-0 this season when their captain scores.
THE SPALING-SMITHSON-WARD CONNECTION Jerred Smithson broke through for Nashville’s first goal of the game midway through the third period, and won the face-off that led to Weber’s goal 2:34 later, meaning his line, which also consists of Nick Spaling and Joel Ward, now has 10 points (5g-5a) in the last six games. The trio has also drawn 7 of Nashville's 12 power-play opportunities in that span. Ward has two multi-point outings in the past three games, posting two assists on Saturday night and a goal and an assist on Tuesday vs. Minnesota. The Scarborough, Ont., native has seven points (2g-5a) in his last nine games after posting eight points (3g-5a) in the first 35 games of 2010-11. Spaling has five points in his last six games (3g-2a), equaling his total from the first 58 games of his NHL career dating back to Dec. 15, 2009 (1g-4a).
SUTER TAKES OVER TEAM ASSIST LEAD Ryan Suter set up Weber for the game-tying goal, giving him seven assists in the last seven games and 15 points (1g-14a) in his last 17 contests. That puts his season assist total at 20, good for the team lead and a spot among the NHL’s Top 20 blueliners. Suter and Weber have both racked up a +15 rating since Dec. 31 – tops in the League since that date – and Suter now possesses a +21 rating for the season, tied for third among NHL defensemen. Nashville is 19-8-5 with the U.S. Olympian in the lineup vs. 4-6-1 without him.
Tonight is the start of a six-game road trip that takes Nashville up to the All-Star break. Nashville has won four of its last five road games, and is 7-3-1 on the road since Dec. 1… The Predators are 4-3-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season. Sunday ends the Predators eighth of 13 back-to-backs this season… The Predators have won seven of their last eight games, outscoring the opposition 29-12 in that span despite being outshot 246-221… With a 24-14-6 record and 54 points, the Predators just one point shy of last season’s 44-game pace (26-15-3, 55 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 just 20 home games, tied for second-fewest in the League… David Legwand has seven points (3g-4a) in eight games since missing 18-of-19 contests between Nov. 20 and Dec. 28. The team is 7-1-0 in those eight games… Sergei Kostitsyn has 20 points (9g-11a) in 20 games since Dec. 1, including point streaks of eight and six games during that span. The Novopolotsk, Belarus native has already set a career high in goals (11), and leads the National Hockey League in shooting percentage (22.9)… Patric Hornqvist has eight points (5g-3a) in his last eight games… Colin Wilson has eight points (4g-4a) in his last nine outings and 16 points (9g-7a) in 24 games since American Thanksgiving (Nov. 25). The second-year forward had six points (2g-4a) in his first 20 games of 2010-11.
OLD FASHIONED HOME-AND-HOME
Though we are far removed from the days of old, where long train trips to play two games in two days against the same opponent was the norm, the Predators and Blackhawks will take page from the Original Six days’ book tonight when they meet at the United Center after playing in the Music City less than 24 hours ago. The Predators play home-and-home sets on a routine basis, but this is only the fourth time in the last four seasons that they’ve done so on consecutive nights. After no home-and-homes in 2007-08, the Preds played a pair in 2008-09, winning the home portion and losing the road portion both Oct. 17-18, 2008 against Columbus and Jan. 10-11, 2009 versus Chicago. The two wins both garnered headlines for individual accomplishments, as Shea Weber recorded a career-high four points (1g-3a) in a 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets on Oct. 18, followed by Steve Sullivan making his return to the lineup after a 23-month absence due to injury in a 4-1 victory on Jan. 10. Nashville and Chicago played a home-and-home on the two days after Christmas last season, with the Hawks prevailing in both contests, games five and six of the season series and the last time the clubs met until the 2010 Playoffs.