TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. VANCOUVER
Fifty games into the 2010-11 season, the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks finally meet for the first time. Nashville saw all 13 other Western Conference teams, and 12-of-15 Eastern Conference clubs, at least once before crossing paths with the Canucks. The two teams split last season’s series with the home team claiming the first two games and the road team taking the last two. The most recent meeting of the teams saw Vancouver double-up Nashville by a 4-2 score at Bridgestone Arena on March 7, 2010, but it was the Predators that prevailed the last time the clubs clashed in the Northwest on a power-play goal by Shea Weber with just 4:03 left in regulation. All three Nashville goals that night were scored on special teams – Joel Ward kicked the contest off with a shorthanded marker, while Ryan Jones also added a man-advantage marker, it coming with just 28 seconds left in the opening frame. Nashville scored six of its 10 goals in the 2009-10 series on special teams, with the power play going 5-for-17 (29.7 percent) to go along with Ward’s man-down marker.
The Predators have split their two games at Rogers Arena in each of the last five seasons going 5-5-0 in that span (2005-10). In the six seasons prior (1998-2004), Nashville posted a 2-9-1 record in Vancouver.
All-time series highlight: On March 9, 2006 at Rogers Arena, David Legwand tied a modern-day NHL record by scoring only six seconds into overtime giving Nashville a 3-2 win. It was the Predators first win at the venue since March 31, 2000.
Martin Erat notched his second career hat trick and tied a career best with four points in Nashville’s 4-2 victory over the ‘Nucks on Dec. 8, 2009, and paced the club in points a season ago with five (3g-2a) in four games. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, the Trebic, Czech Republic native has eight points (4g-4a) in seven games against Vancouver… The Predators have three B.C. natives on their currently roster. Shea Weber and Cody Franson grew up down the street from each other in Sicamous, and played in the province up until turning pro – Weber with the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) and Franson with the Vancouver Giants (WHL). Jerred Smithson hails from Vernon, while Nashville Associate Coach Brent Peterson is a former Canuck, playing 146 games with Vancouver from 1985-87, amassing 53 points (15g-38a).
WINDING DOWN THE MONTH OF JANUARY
The Nashville Predators close out the month of January tonight with their sixth and final game of a season-long road trip that has taken them to Chicago, Phoenix, Colorado and Western Canada. During the month of January, the Predators have taken to home ice just three times – the lowest in franchise history during a full month of the season – while playing on the road nine times heading into tonight. Despite its constant travels, Nashville is 9-3-0 during 2011’s first month, and a win tonight would mark just the sixth time in franchise history it has notched a double-digit win total in a single month. The Preds set a franchise record with 11 wins in March 2010, and posted 10 wins on four other occasions (February 2009, January 2007, November 2006 and January 2004).
Nashville is 10-3-0 in its last 13 games, with seven of those wins coming in 10 road contests. The Predators rank first in the Western Conference and tied for third in the League with 17 road wins. Tonight marks the team’s NHL-high 30th road game of 2010-11, meaning they will play 21-of-32 games on home ice after the All-Star Break. Of the 11 road games, seven are one-game trips, and nine are outside the Central Time Zone. Since 2005-06, the Preds have amassed 140 home wins – tied for fourth in the NHL – despite playing a League-low 20 times at Bridgestone Arena this season. The clubs surrounding Nashville – San Jose/Anaheim (143) and Vancouver (141) – have all played at least four more home games than the Preds.
Monday night in Calgary marked the first time since Dec. 26 at St. Louis that the Predators have been held under two goals. In the past 13 games since Dec. 31, they posted four goals or more on seven occasions, averaging 3.38 goals in that span after averaging 2.31 goals in the first 36 games of 2010-11. The Predators have held the opposition to 26 goals in the past 13 games, and average of 2.00, and down nearly a half a goal from the previous 36 (2.47). Nashville has been outshot nine times in the 13 games, and opponents hold a 398-345 shots edge in that span. The Predators are now the NHL’s sixth-best team at full and even strength (1.16 five-on-five goals for/against ratio).
RINNE’S RUN Pekka Rinne is up to second among NHL netminders in both goals-against average (2.11) and save percentage (.927), thanks in-large part to his play since the last time Nashville traveled north of the border in mid-November. Since a Nov. 18 shutout at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the Kempele, Finland native has posted the lowest goals-against average (1.66) and highest save percentage (.941) in the League among goalies making at least five starts. While his goals-against average and save percentage are similar during the month of January, more goal support has allowed Rinne to post eight wins, the League’s highest total since the calendar flipped to 2011. The 6-5, 209-pounder has a 15-6-1 record when he receives at least two goals from his offense, and 11-2-1 when the Predators score at least three goals.
LEGWAND STEPS UP THE OFFENSE David Legwand missed 18-of-19 contests between Nov. 20 and Dec. 28, but since returning, the Detroit native’s offense, and the team’s success, has received a boost. Nashville has posted a 10-3-0 record since Legwand returned, and with a goal on Monday, he now has 10 points (5g-5a) and a +10 rating in those 13 games after amassing eight points (2g-6a) and a -3 rating in 18 games before the injury. Nashville’s first-ever draft pick has played the majority of his hot stretch with the Predators most-recent first-round pick that’s currently in the lineup – 2008 seventh overall selection Colin Wilson – and the Greenwich, Conn., native has seen his numbers rise as well. Wilson assisted on Legwand’s goal, giving him 11 points (5g-6a) in his last 14 contests.
Nashville is 20-13-1 vs. the Western Conference including a 4-2-1 mark against the Northwest Division. Including tonight, it plays 30 of its remaining 33 games against intra-conference foes…The Predators have given up the fewest second-period goals in the League (34)… Nashville has accumulated 13 wins by three goals or more after posting a combined 11 wins by three-or-more the past two seasons… The Preds are an NHL-best 14-5-3 when outshooting the opposition, with Vancouver possessing the second-best record (17-6-5)… Nashville’s penalty kill is clicking at 84.9 percent, tied for fourth-best in the NHL… Nashville is 18-2-4 when scoring first and 20-1-3 when leading after two periods, but also has the League’s second-best record when both trailing after one period (7-8-1) and after 40 minutes (4-11-0)… Patric Hornqvist has seven goals and 12 points in his last 13 games… Cody Franson has five points (1g-4a) through five games of the road trip… Nick Spaling has five points (3g-2a) in 11 games played during January. He had five points (1g-4a) in 58 career games prior to this month… Through five games of Nashville’s season-long six-game road trip, Alexander Sulzer has three points (1g-2a), topping his production from his first 37 NHL games (2a).