TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (DirecTV 644 SD, 644-1 HD; Dish 448 SD, 9519 HD;
Comcast Nashville 295; Comcast Chattanooga/Cleveland/Knoxville 401; Comcast Memphis Memphis 830) Radio: Preds Radio Network Flagship - 102.9-FM WBUZ Tom Callahan's Game Day Update
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
The Nashville Predators visit Arizona for the second and final time in 2010-11 tonight, and will be out to avenge to avenge a 4-3 loss in the desert on Nov. 3. That night at Jobing.com Arena, the Preds carried a two-goal lead into the final frame, but relinquished a pair of power-play goals early in the third in what proved to be the team’s first one-goal loss in regulation time in 24 outings. Nashville did, however fare better the last time these teams met on the final day of November, winning 3-0 behind Pekka Rinne’s third and most recent shutout, a 33-save effort and his second whitewash in less than two weeks. The offense came courtesy of the power play, which went two-for-seven on goals by Shea Weber in the first period, and Cal O’Reilly in the middle frame. An empty-netter with 25 seconds left on the clock sealed the victory. Tonight, Nashville is in search of its first win at Jobing.com Arena since March 14, 2009 when it prevailed 6-3. It is 22-19-(2)-3 all-time against the Coyotes, including an 8-13-2 mark on the road.
All-time series highlight: On Dec. 27, 2003, the Predators took part in the first-ever game at Jobing.com Arena, spoiling the Coyotes festivities with a 3-1 win. Scott Walker earned First Star of the Game honors with the game’s opening goal, and assists on markers by Marek Zidlicky and Martin Erat, while Tomas Vokoun outdueled Phoenix netminder (and current goalie coach) Sean Burke by stopping 32-of-33 shots. David Legwand and Erat are the only members of that team expected to be in the lineup for Nashville tonight.
Among active roster members, only Patric Hornqvist (1g-1a) has multiple points against Phoenix this season. Hornqvist has five points (3g-2a) in seven career games against the Desert Dogs… Phoenix is the only team Rinne has recorded more than two shutouts against. For his career, the Kempele, Finland native is 5-2-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and three shutouts. It is also his highest save percentage and lowest goals-against average versus any of the NHL’s 29 other teams.
WEBER SETS FRANCHISE RECORD WITH NINE-GAME POINT STREAK
Predators Captain and 2011 All-Star Shea Weber picked up an assist on J-P Dumont’s first-period power-play goal on Sunday at Chicago, extending his current point streak to nine games. It is the four-longest point streak in franchise history, and the longest by a defenseman – Dumont holds the club record with a 16-game streak (8g-14a) from Dec. 27, 2007-Jan. 31, 2008 and Steve Sullivan has had a pair of 10 gamers. The Predators have gone 7-2-0 during Weber’s streak, which has seen him amass three goals and 10 assists dating back to Dec. 31 at Minnesota. The 6-4, 232-pounder’s 13 points since New Year’s Eve is tied with Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin for the most in the NHL since that date and his +13 rating in that span is alone in first. The streak is tied with one by Dallas’ Loui Eriksson (Dec. 28-Jan. 15, 1g-10a, plays Monday night) for longest active in the League, and two shy of the 11-game streak by Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom (Oct. 16-Nov. 13, 2g-12a) for longest by a blueliner in 2010-11. With 17 points (4g-13a) in the last 17 games, Weber now ranks among the Top 15 among defensemen in both goals and points (8g-20a-28pts), and is one of just three defensemen – along with Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien and Phoenix’s Keith Yandle – to lead his team in points. He also ranks second among defensemen in shots (145), fourth in hits (124) and 10th in average ice time (24:55). 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.
SUTER MOVING UP THE ALL-TIME RANKS AS WELL
Another of Nashville’s homegrown blueliners, U.S. Olympian Ryan Suter, is on an offensive roll as well, with eight assists in his last seven games and 16 points (1g-15a) in his last 18 contests. An assist on Sunday not only kept him in sole possession of first on the team in the category (21), but moved him into a tie with Marek Zidlicky for third on the franchise’s points by a defenseman list (28g-147a). The Madison, Wis., native is a +12 over his last nine games, and his +18 rating for the season is tied for sixth among NHL defenders. Additionally, Suter played a career-high 32:43 on Sunday at Chicago, surpassing his previous best of 32:14 attained on Oct. 17, 2009 at Washington. He now ranks 11th in the NHL in average ice time (24:50) after logging more than 25 minutes in 17 of the last 24 games. Nashville is 20-9-5 with Suter in the lineup vs. 4-6-1 without him.
RINNE SET TO RETURN AFTER A NIGHT OFF
Goaltender Pekka Rinne received a night off for just the second time in the last 12 games on Sunday in Chicago, but is expected to return to the Nashville net again tonight. Rinne sports the League’s second-best goals-against average (2.13) and save percentage (.927), thanks in-large part to a 16-game stretch dating back to Nov. 18 that has seen him allow two goals or fewer 13 times. The Kempele, Finland is 7-1-0 in his last eight starts and is one of just three active NHL netminders to be drafted after pick No. 250. Rinne was selected 258th by Nashville in 2004, while St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak went 271st to Montreal in 2003 and Ottawa’s Brian Elliott was taken 291st in 2003.
SHARING THE WEALTH
Nashville has scored three-or-more goals in seven of the last nine games, being held off the scoresheet in just seven of 27 regulation periods in that span. It has outscored the opposition 32-18 in the nine games despite being outshot 280-244. The offensive success has come thanks to balance, as 13 different players have scored at least once, and 15 skaters have multiple points.
Tonight is the second of a six-game road trip that takes Nashville up to the All-Star break… The Predators will play their 26th road game of the season tonight, tying them for second in the League. Their 20 home games are tied for the second-fewest in the NHL… Nashville is 17-12-1 vs. the Western Conference, and play 34 of its remaining 37 games against intra-conference foes… The Preds have given up just 23 power-play goals, third fewest in the League (Florida 23, Buffalo 21)… With a 24-15-6 record and 54 points, the Predators just one point shy of last season’s 45-game pace (26-16-3, 55 points) which saw the team finish with 100 points for the third time in club history… Nashville is among the League’s best in coming from behind: it has the second-best record when trailing after one period (7-7-1) and the third-best record when trailing after two (4-10-0). Its 9-13-2 mark when giving up the first goal of the game also ranks among the League’s Top 10.
Jerred Smithson has won 24-of-35 face-offs in the last four games (68.6 percent) and ranks seventh in the League in face-off efficiency (58.2 percent)… David Legwand has seven points (3g-4a) and a +5 rating in nine games since missing 18-of-19 contests between Nov. 20 and Dec. 28. The team is 7-2-0 in those eight games… Sergei Kostitsyn has 20 points (9g-11a) in 21 games since Dec. 1. He leads the League in shooting percentage (22.0)… Joel Ward has four points (1g-3a) in his last four games… Patric Hornqvist has eight points (5g-3a) in his last nine games… Colin Wilson has eight points (4g-4a) in his last 10 outings… Kevin Klein is tied for 11th in the League in blocked shots (95).