TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CALGARY
Nashville comes out of the All-Star Break with a team they saw in the second-to-last game before it as the Calgary Flames pay their second visit to the Music City tonight. A week ago (Jan. 23), the Predators gave up multiple power-play goals and were shorthanded more than five times for the first time since Nov. 14 at Toronto in a 3-1 loss. Calgary scored the only goal of the first period, with David Legwand tying the contest at 10:32 of the second. Jarome Iginla would respond with the game winner 2:29 later, and Brendan Morrison added an insurance marker in the third. The first Preds-Flames meeting of 2010-11 back on Oct. 16 in Nashville was highlighted by strong goaltending as both Pekka Rinne and Miikka Kiprusoff were perfect through regulation time. Rene Bourque scored the game’s only goal 2:10 into overtime as the Predators extended their season-opening point streak to five games (3-0-2).
The teams split the season series in 2009-10, with Nashville winning both games at Scotiabank Saddledome (5-3 on Dec. 19 and 1-0 on Jan. 15), and Calgary both games at Bridgestone Arena (5-0 on Nov. 30 and 3-1 on Jan. 5). The Flames have been victorious in their last five trips to Nashville, meaning the Preds’ most recent home victory in the series came by way of a 3-0 shutout victory on Jan. 15, 2008, the final game of a eight-game stretch that saw Nashville go 6-1-(1)-0 on home ice vs. Calgary dating back to Feb. 20, 2003.
Since joining the Predators prior to the 2006-07 campaign, J-P Dumont has 14 points (5g-9a) in 17 games against the Flames… Martin Erat has 22 points (6g-16a) in 28 career games vs. Calgary, one point shy of his highest career point total against a non-Central Division team (L.A., 23)… Calgary is one of just three teams Rinne has yet to defeat in his career. He is 0-3-1 in four appearances against the Flames, 0-0-1 in one game against the New York Rangers and has yet to make an appearance against Washington… Predator winger Wade Belak spent parts of three seasons with Calgary from 1999-2001, amassing 222 penalty minutes and three assists in 71 games. He was acquired by the Flames, along with Robyn Regehr, in the deal that sent Theo Fleury to Colorado on Feb. 28, 1999.
AT THE ALL-STAR BREAK/THROUGH 50 GAMES
Nashville hit the 2011 All-Star break with a 27-17-6 record (60 points), good for fourth in the Western Conference. Through 50 games last season (Jan. 21) the Predators had posted a 29-18-3 record (61 points) and sat sixth in the West. The last two times the NHL held an All-Star Weekend, Nashville had records of 20-23-3 (in 2009) and 25-20-5 (in 2008).
The Nashville Predators played a franchise-record low three home games in January, finishing the month with a 9-4-0 record. They’ve played an NHL-high 30 road games to this point, posting the League’s third-most road wins (16, behind NY Rangers and Philadelphia’s 17), and a League-low 20 home games, meaning 21 of their final 32 games will be played on Bridgestone Arena ice. Of the 11 road games, seven are one-game trips, and nine are outside the Central Time Zone.
SOLID DEFENSE AND PENALTY KILLING GET THE JOB DONE
The Predators have given up more than two goals in a game just three times in the last 14 games, posting a 10-4-0 record in that span. They rank fourth in the League in goals-against average (2.34), and are tied with Boston for the NHL’s lowest home goals-against average (2.00), having allowed just 20 non-shootout goals in their last 13 games in the Music City. Strong penalty killing is at the forefront of the defensive success, as Nashville ranks third in the NHL in penalty kill efficiency (85.2 percent). Since the last time Nashville hosted Calgary on Oct. 19, it has extinguished 53-of-58 opportunities against (91.4 percent).
WEBER’S STAR SHINES BRIGHT IN RALEIGH
Participating in his second consecutive All-Star Game last weekend in Raleigh, Predators captain Shea Weber did not disappoint, from his early selection in Friday’s Fantasy Draft to his historic performance in Sunday’s game. After being paired with future Hall-of-Famer Scott Niedermayer in 2009, Weber teamed up with six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, captain and drafter of the victorious Team Lidstrom squad. The duo went a combined +13 in the game, with Weber posting a +6 rating while racking up four assists, becoming just the second defenseman in All-Star Game history to amass four helpers. Hall-of-Famer Ray Bourque was the first in 1985.
In Saturday’s Skills Competition, Weber participated in his second straight XM NHL Hardest Shot Contest, and again finished second to Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara despite topping him in the opening round. Weber registered a blast of 104.8 mph in his heat against Chara (104.1 mph), 1.4 mph harder than his hardest blast at the 2009 All-Star Game. In the final, the Bruin blueliner set a Skills Competition record with a 105.9 mph shot. Weber has the hardest shot ever by a player not named Chara or (former d-man Al) Iafrate, whose shot of 105.2 mph was the top record for 16 years.
The Sicamous, B.C., native leads the Predators – and ranks among the League’s Top 15 blueliners – with 30 points (9g-21a), and is tied for second at the position in points since Dec. 31 (14gp, 4g-11a-15pts) behind Phoenix’s Keith Yandle. Weber, Yandle and Atlanta’s tandem of Dustin Byfuglien/Tobias Enstrom are the only blueliners to lead their clubs in points. Weber is also tied for ninth among NHL blueliners in goals this season (9), and the Predators are 8-1-0 when he finds the back of the net. Since the start of the 2006-07 campaign, only Washington’s Mike Green (77) has more goals than Weber’s 71 among NHL defensemen. He ranks third among defensemen in shots (161), sixth in hits (131) and tied is for 10th in average ice time (24:58).
PEKKA RINNE NAMED THIRD STAR OF THE MONTH FOR JANUARY
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has been named the Third Star of the Month for January. Rinne started 11 of the team’s 13 January contests, tying for first in the NHL in wins (8), ranking first in goals-against average among netminders playing at least five games (1.71) and ranking second in save percentage among those starting the majority of their teams’ games (.947). He allowed just a single goal five times, two goals on four occasions and three goals just twice in the 11 starts.
The 6-5, 209-pounder kicked off 2011 by winning seven of his first eight games, four of which came on the road. This included Nashville’s second-ever sweep of California Jan. 5-8 and another three-game road winning streak Jan. 18-23. Two of Rinne’s eight wins came via shootout, where he hasn’t yielded a goal in three straight appearances, stopping 11 consecutive shooters. He has stopped 23-of-27 shooters this season (.857), tops among goalies appearing in at least three shootouts. The Kempele, Finland native now ranks second in the League in both goals-against average (2.11) and save percentage (.929). He 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.
This is Rinne’s first selection as a Star of the Month, and fifth time he has been honored by the League. He was named NHL Rookie of the Month in February 2009, has been named First Star of the Week twice (Dec. 8, 2008 and March 22, 2010), Second Star once (Nov. 2, 2009) and Third Star once (March 15, 2010).
TEAM QUICK HITS
During its six-game road trip leading up to the All-Star Break, the Predators outscored the opposition 7-3 in the first period. The Predators allowed just two second-period goals, and has allowed a League-low 34 second-period markers this season… In the past 14 games, Nashville has outscored its opposition 45-28, including a 39-22 margin at even strength. The Predators are the NHL’s sixth-best team at full and even strength (1.14 five-on-five goals for/goals against ratio)… In the month of January, the Predators were outshot in 9-of-13 games, including seven of their last eight. The Predators are a League-best 14-5-3 when outshooting their foes and 12-12-3 when being outshot… Nashville has the NHL’s second-best record when both trailing after one period (7-8-1) and after 40 minutes (4-11-0).
PLAYER QUICK HITS Sergei Kostitsyn started his first season as a Predator with three points (2g-1a) and a -7 rating in his first 21 games of 2010-11, but since Dec. 1, has 22 points (10g-12a) and a +9 rating in 27 games. The Novopolotsk, Belarus native also leads the NHL in shooting percentage (22.6)… Ryan Suter is tied for 10th among NHL blueliners in plus/minus rating (+17). Suter has played more than 26 minutes in six of the last eight games, and is now tied with Shea Weber for 10th in the NHL, and first on the team, in average ice time (24:58). The Predators are now 23-11-5 with Suter in the lineup vs. 4-6-1 without him this season.… Patric Hornqvist has 12 points (7g-5a) in his last 14 outings. Three of the seven goals have been game-winners, giving him 12 since the start of the 2009-10 season. Only Alexander Ovechkin and Daniel Sedin (13 each) have more… Since missing 18-of-19 contests between Nov. 20 and Dec. 28, David Legwand has posted 10 points (5g-5a) and a +10 rating in 14 games… Playing predominately on a line with Legwand, Colin Wilson has 11 points (5g-6a) in his last 15 contests... Joel Ward has 10 points (3g-7a) in 15 games since Dec. 28 after posting eight points (3g-5a) in the first 35 games of 2010-11… Despite missing Nashville’s Jan. 24 game at Calgary, J-P Dumont led the team in goals during the six-game road trip, amassing five tallies and an assist in five games played… Cody Franson has notched five points (1g-4a) in his last six outings… Jerred Smithson ranks eighth in the League in face-off efficiency (58.0 percent) and is tied with Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal for ninth in average shorthanded ice time among forwards (3:00), just one second ahead of Nick Spaling (2:59).