TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHILADELPHIA
Nashville and Philadelphia meet for just the third time in the last four seasons tonight at the Wells Fargo Center, the Predators eighth all-time trip to the City of Brotherly Love, and first since March 7, 2009 when they fell by a 4-1 score. It is one of only four games remaining for Nashville against Eastern Conference foes in 2010-11, and is the team’s annual Father’s trip, which has made treks through Phoenix/Colorado (2010 and 2008) and Minnesota/Dallas (2009) in recent years. The Preds only other trip to Philly in the past five seasons came Nov. 29, 2006 when Martin Erat played hero in a 3-2 win with the game-winning goal at 14:51 of the third period, just 1:22 after R.J. Umberger had knotted the score at 2-2. In their lone clash of 2009-10 on March 16, 2010 at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville used the shootout to prevail, 4-3, in a back-and-forth affair. In Nashville’s final inter-conference game of 2009-10, Jeff Carter gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead just 81 seconds, before seeing the Predators respond with three goals in a span of 5:32 later in the frame to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. After a scoreless second, Philly would force overtime with two strikes of its own. After five minutes of four-on-four action, Pekka Rinne – who had already stopped 42-of-45 Flyer shots – stymied Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux and Mike Richards in the shootout, while Erat converted the Preds’ lone attempt to pick up the extra point.
Nashville is an even 5-5-(3)-0 in 13 all-time games against Philadelphia, with six of those needing overtime or a shootout. The majority of the interaction between the clubs in the past, however, has come via trade as the Predators have had more transactions with the Flyers than any other team. Notable contributors such as defensemen Mark Eaton (Sept. 29, 2000 for a 2001 third-round pick), Andy Delmore (July 31, 2001 for a 2002 third-round pick) and Danny Markov (Aug. 2, 2005 for a 2006 third-round pick) are just a few of the deals that proceed the blockbuster on Feb. 15, 2007 that saw Nashville acquire Peter Forsberg from Philadelphia for forward Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent (who Nashville would reacquire three years later), and a first-round (which Nashville would reacquire to select Jonathon Blum) and third-round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Erat has a goal in four straight games against Philadelphia dating back to Dec. 3, 2005, amassing six points (4g-2a) in that span… Marcel Goc has four assists in five career games against the Flyers… J-P Dumont has 12 points (3g-9a) in 22 career regular-season games against Philadelphia, but 10 points (6g-4a) in 12 career playoff games against the Flyers. He scored a pair of goals in Buffalo’s 8-0 rout in a series-deciding Game Six of the 2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, notched a hat trick and four points in an 8-2 Sabres victory over the Flyers in Game Two of the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and ended the series with seven points (4g-3a) in Buffalo’s six-game series victory as it advanced to Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals.
KOSTITSYN HITS CAREER HIGH Sergei Kostitsyn assisted on both of Nashville’s goals on Tuesday night vs. Calgary, giving him five points (1g-4a) in his last five games, and helping the first-year Predator set a career high in points with 28 (12g-16a) in 47 games. His previous career highs in both goals (9) and points (27) came during his rookie campaign with Montreal in 2007-08. The Novopolotsk, Belarus started the 2010-11 season with three points (2g-1a) and a -7 rating in his first 19 games, but since Dec. 1, has a team-leading 25 points (10g-15a) and a +10 rating in 28 games to move into a tie for second among Nashville skaters in points. The 6-0, 207-pound winger also leads the NHL in shooting percentage (21.8).
NASHVILLE’S ALL-STAR CONTINUES PRODUCTION
Nashville captain Shea Weber didn’t miss a beat in his return to the lineup after representing the club at the 2011 All-Star Game last weekend, notching an assist, a +1 rating and four hits in 27:49 on Tuesday vs. Calgary. Since a 4-1 victory on New Year’s Eve at Minnesota, Weber has 16 points (4g-12a) in 15 games, second only to Phoenix’s Keith Yandle in production by a blueliner since that date. Additionally, he and defensive partner Ryan Suter have each posted +12 ratings in that span to pace all NHL defensemen. The offensive uptick has not only enabled the Sicamous, B.C., native to move into the Top 15 d-men in points (9g-22a-31pts) and goals, but also become one of just three at the position to lead their team in points outright (Yandle and Atlanta’s tandem of Dustin Byfuglien/Tobias Enstrom). The 6-4, 232-pounder ranks third among defensemen in shots (162), tied for fourth in hits (135) and 10th in average ice time (25:02).
RINNE KEEPS OPPONENTS AT BAY
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne – reigning Third Star of the Month for January – allowed two goals or less in regulation for the 11th time in the last 13 games on Tuesday vs. Calgary, keeping him second in the League in both goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.929). The shootout loss was a rarity for the Kempele, Finland native, as his 17-8 record in shootouts (.680) is sixth-best since the implementation of the tiebreaker for the 2005-06 season. He had stopped 11 consecutive shooters prior to giving up one to Rene Bourque in the opening round of Tuesday’s drill, and his career shootout save percentage of .788 (78-of-99) is fourth-best all-time. The Kempele, Finland native 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.
PENALTY KILL PERFECT AGAIN
The Predators penalty kill was a perfect five-for-five on Tuesday vs. Calgary, boosting them to third in the National Hockey League (85.6 percent). Since returning from the Christmas break on Dec. 26, the PK has extinguished 51-of-57 chances against (89.5 percent), but Tuesday was just the third time they’ve been flawless when shorthanded five times or more (five-for-five on Oct. 21 vs. Pittsburgh and Nov. 22 vs. Columbus). When Nashville is shorthanded five times or more, it is 2-6-3. When keeping the opposition’s power-play opportunities to four-or-less, it has posted a 25-11-4 record.
IDENTICAL POINT TOTALS
In earning a point on Tuesday, the Predators moved to 27-17-7 through 51 games, good for 61 points, the exact total they had through 51 games last season (29-19-3 record) when the team put up 100 points for the third time in franchise history and made the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. In 2009-10, game No. 51 was the third of five straight losses before the team rallied to go 18-8-3 down the stretch to finish seventh in the Western Conference. Tonight is Nashville’s NHL-high 31st road game of the season, meaning it leaves the Music City just 10 times during the season’s final 30 games. The Predators have gone 142-61-22 on Bridgestone Arena ice since the start of the 2005-06 season, which ranks among the NHL’s top five home records.
PLAYER QUICK HITS Ryan Suter is tied for 10th among NHL blueliners in plus/minus rating (+18), and is tied with Weber for tops in plus/minus rating (+12) since Dec. 31. Suter has played more than 26 minutes in seven of the last nine games, and is now 11th in the NHL in average ice time (25:00). The Predators are 23-11-6 with Suter in the lineup vs. 4-6-1 without him this season… Patric Hornqvist scored his team-leading fifth power-play goal of the season on Tuesday, giving him 13 points (8g-5a) in his last 15 outings. Only three NHLers (Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler) have more goals in their last 15 games played. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, only Alexander Ovechkin and Daniel Sedin (13 each) have more game-winning goals than Hornqvist’s 12… Since missing 18-of-19 contests between Nov. 20 and Dec. 28, David Legwand has posted 10 points (5g-5a) and a +9 rating in 15 games… Playing predominately on a line with Legwand, Colin Wilson has 11 points (5g-6a) in his last 16 contests... Joel Ward has 10 points (3g-7a) in 16 games since Dec. 28 after posting eight points (3g-5a) in the first 35 games of 2010-11.