TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLORADO
Forty-seven games into the 2010-11 season, the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche finally meet for the first time since Feb. 4, 2010. The teams will meet again next month in Nashville, then play twice in March. A season ago, the Predators took three-of-four, sweeping their home set and splitting in Denver. In their first trip to the Pepsi Center the day before American Thanksgiving (Nov. 25), Nashville claimed its second overtime victory of the season in come-from-behind fashion. Shea Weber tied the game on a power-play goal late in the second period, then David Legwand’s franchise-record seventh overtime tally just 28 seconds into the final frame won if for the Preds, 4-3. Colorado’s lone victory in the series came in nearly one year ago (Jan. 22), 2-1 in the Rockies. Nashville won that most recent game on Feb. 4 by a 5-3 score. After giving up the first goal of the game and trailing after one period, the Predators reeled off a four goals in the second period and finished a season-high 3-for-5 on the power play.
The past four seasons have seen these teams equally split 16 games (2006-10); Nashville won six-of-eight in the two seasons prior (2003-06), putting its record at 14-10-0 since the 2003-04 campaign after going 4-10-(5)-1 during the franchise’s first five seasons of existence (1998-2003).
Patric Hornqvist scored the game-winning goal in each of Nashville’s wins over Colorado at Bridgestone Arena last season. He scored the game-tying and game winners 2:17 apart in the third period of the club’s 3-2 win in its home opener (Oct. 8) and tied a franchise record with three points (2g-1a) in the second period of Nashville’s Feb. 4 win. He finished with seven points (4g-4a) in four games against the Avalanche a season ago… Shea Weber had points (1g-4a) in three of the four games between the teams last season, with four (1g-3a) of the five points coming on the power play… J-P Dumont has 22 points (7g-15a) in 25 career games against Colorado… As a Predator, Steve Sullivan has amassed 11 points (5g-6a) in 12 games against the Avs… Jerred Smithson played his first NHL game against Colorado on Dec. 29, 2002 (with Los Angeles).
DUMONT RECORDS FRANCHISE’S FOURTH ROAD HAT TRICK
With Nashville’s opening goal of the game at 8:16 of the first period, and two more strikes in the second, J-P Dumont became the 12th player in franchise history to record a hat trick. It was the 19th hat trick in franchise history, but just the fourth on the road – the last time both were attained was Dec. 14, 2009 when Steve Sullivan posted his fourth hat trick as a Predator in a 5-3 victory at Columbus. The three-goal game was the fourth of Dumont’s career, but first in more than nine years – his most recent before Tuesday night came Nov. 12, 2001 as a member of the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-3 win at Florida. Paired with Ed Jovanovski’s hat trick on Nov. 3, 2010 and Scott Upshall’s three-goal game on Jan. 21, 2010, a hat trick has now been registered in three of Nashville’s last four visits to Phoenix’s Jobing.com Arena. The Coyotes are the fifth team the Preds have recorded multiple three-goal games against, with the other coming on Dec. 22, 2003 when Scott Walker accounted for each of Nashville’s goals in a 3-3 tie at Bridgestone Arena.
Dumont’s three goals came one game after he notched his first multi-goal performance of the season on Sunday at Chicago, giving him more goals in the last two games (5) than in the first 44 contests of 2010-11 (4). He is just the third player in team history to post back-to-back multi-goal games, joining Denis Arkhipov – who posted two goals on March 17, 2003 vs. Edmonton and March 20, 2003 at Vancouver – and Scott Walker – who notched back-to-back two-goal games on Dec. 12, 2002 vs. St. Louis and Dec. 14, 2002 vs. Minnesota. No Nashville player has record three consecutive multi-goal games.
DUMONT’S SET-UP MEN
Of J-P Dumont’s five goals in the last two games, one was a power-play goal, one was scored just four seconds after the expiration of a power play while still working with his man-up unit, and three occurred on a line with a pair of rookies in Chris Mueller and Matt Halischuk. Mueller has recorded the first three points/assists of his career on Dumont goals in the past two games, while Halischuk notched his first career multiple-point/assist outing in his second game as a Predator on Tuesday at Phoenix, collecting a helper on Dumont’s first and third goals. New Jersey’s fourth choice, 117th overall (fourth round), in the 2007 Entry Draft, Halischuk was acquired from the Devils on June 19, 2010. Prior to his first two games as a Predator on Sunday and Tuesday, the Toronto, Ont., native had three points (1g-2a) in 21 NHL contests with the team that drafted him in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Mueller signed with Nashville as a free agent on Dec. 27, 2010, and has played in nine of the team’s last 11 games, starting with his NHL debut on Dec. 28 vs. Dallas.
THE SUTER-WEBER PAIRING
The defensive pairing of 2011 All-Star Shea Weber and 2010 U.S. Olympian Ryan Suter were held off the scoresheet on Tuesday at Phoenix, but both recorded +1 ratings and rank first (Weber, +14) and second (Suter, +13) in the NHL since New Year’s Eve., with Nashville going 8-2-0 in that span. Though captain Weber saw his nine-game point streak snapped in the desert, he is tied with Boston’s Zdeno Chara for the most points by a League blueliner since Dec. 31 (3g-10a-13pts.). With 18 points (4g-14a) in the last 19 games, Weber 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. Additionally, he is one of just two blueliners to have at least one power-play goal, shorthanded goal and game-winning goal (St. Louis’ Erik Johnson is the other) this season. Suter, meanwhile, is tied for ninth in the NHL in plus/minus rating (+19) and has eight assists in his last eight games. A run of 16 points (1g-15a) in the last 19 contests has moved him into a tie with Marek Zidlicky for third on the franchise’s points by a defenseman list (28g-147a). Nashville is 21-9-5 with Suter in the lineup vs. 4-6-1 without him this season.
LOWERING HIS GOALS AGAINST/UPPING THE SAVE PERCENTAGE
Already ranked second in the NHL in both goals-against average (2.13) and save percentage (.928), goaltender Pekka Rinne improved to 8-1-0 in his last nine starts by stopping 32-of-34 shots on Tuesday at Phoenix, the 14th time in the last 17 games he’s allowed two goals or fewer. As of Tuesday night’s games, Rinne was in a four-way tie with Niklas Backstrom, Cam Ward and Jonas Hiller for the ninth-most wins in the League since the start of the 2008-09 season.
NASHVILLE’S HOT STREAK
The Predators have gone 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, giving them 253 wins since the start of the 2005-06 campaign. That total is tied for third in the League (with Vancouver and New Jersey) behind only Detroit (285) and San Jose (270). Nashville’s 25 wins this season have come despite playing the second-most road games (tie, 26) and the fewest home games (tie, 20) thus far in 2010-11. With a 25-15-6 record and 56 points, the Predators are just one point shy of last season’s 46-game pace (27-16-3, 57 points) which saw the team finish with 100 points for the third time in club history. After completing its current six-game road trip that takes Nashville up to the All-Star break, the team will play outside of Bridgestone Arena just 11 times in its final 32 games.