TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DETROIT
The Nashville Predators are already done with the home portion of their regular-season series with St. Louis, have hosted Chicago twice and Columbus once, but see the Detroit Red Wings finally come to town for the first time in 2010-11 tonight. Nashville will visit Joe Louis Arena for the final time this season on Wednesday, then play at Bridgestone Arena again twice in the final three weeks of the season (March 19 and April 2). The clubs have split a pair of contests thus far with Nashville claiming its fifth-ever regulation win in the Motor City in the most recent tilt, a 3-2 decision on Dec. 8. The Predators would start a five-game winning streak that night on goals in the final minute of the first period (Colin Wilson at 19:27) and first minute of the middle frame (Martin Erat at 0:49), marking the first time in franchise history – and the first time in the NHL this season – that a team had scored a goal in the final minute of one period and scored again in the first minute of the next period. J-P Dumont would add a third-period insurance marker and Anders Lindback made 35-of-37 shots in his first career start against the Wings. In a 5-2 loss in Detroit on Oct. 30, Linus Klasen made his NHL debut for the Predators, while Alexander Sulzer played a career-high 28:18 to lead a five-man defensive unit that was missing Ryan Suter and Francis Bouillon.
The last time the Preds and Wings did battle in the Music City on March 27, both Pekka Rinne (38 saves) and Jimmy Howard (33 saves) recorded shutouts in a franchise-record 11-round shootout which saw Detroit win 1-0. Nashville picked up four of a possible six points – something it has done each of the last two campaigns – in its three home games against Detroit last season, winning 3-1 on Nov. 23 before dropping a pair of extra-time decisions. The Predators are 6-3-2 in their last 11 games of the series, and 15-15-(2)-2 all-time in home games against the Red Wings.
Cal O’Reilly (2a) and Steve Sullivan (2a) – both out of the lineup due to injury – are the only Predators with multiple points against Detroit this season. Eleven players have at least one point against Detroit this season… Dumont has more career points (10g-21a-31pts, 40gp) and more points as a Predator (7g-17a-24pts, 30gp) against the Red Wings than any other team... Joel Ward scored in the opening game of the season series on Oct. 30, and has 10 points (6g-4a) in 12 games vs. Detroit as a Predator… For his career, Rinne is 5-2-2 with a 2.40 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage against Detroit.
RINNE POISED TO RETURN
After a night off on Thursday at Philadelphia, Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne – who ranks second in the League in both goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.929) – is set to return to the net tonight vs. Detroit. The Kempele, Finland native has allowed two goals or less 11 times in the last 13 games, posting a 9-3-1 record with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage since New Year’s eve. 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. At 6-5, 209 pounds, Rinne is one of just four goaltenders, along with teammate Anders Lindback (6-6), Edmonton’s Devan Dubnyk (6-6) and Calgary’s Henrik Karlsson (6-5), taller than 6-4, and having been drafted 258th overall (eighth round) in 2004, is one of just three current NHL netminders selected in a round that no longer exists (St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak, 271st (ninth round) in 2003, and Ottawa’s Brian Elliott, 291st overall (ninth round) in 2003, are the others. He is just three wins shy of tying Mike Dunham for second on the franchise’s all-time list (81).
WEBER EXTENDS HOT STREAK WITH A POWER-PLAY ASSIST
Nashville captain Shea Weber extended his active point streak to three games on Thursday at Philadelphia (1g-2a), giving the 2011 All-Star 17 points (4g-13a) in 16 games since New Year’s Eve, second only to Phoenix’s Keith Yandle (17gp, 4g-15a-19pts) in production by a blueliner since that date. Weber is now tied for sixth in goals (9) and tied for 12th among defensemen in points (32). With a game-high six shots and 27:06 played at Philadelphia, he’s third at the position in shots (168), and 10th in the League in average ice time (25:04). The Sicamous, B.C., native is also fourth among d-men in hits (137) and is 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 veteran of 372 games is just two points shy of 200 for his career (73g-125a-198pts).
Tonight, Weber will see a teammate and defensive partner from just a week ago. Participating in his second consecutive All-Star Game in Raleigh, he was picked by six-time Norris Trophy winner Detroit Captain Nicklas Lidstrom in the fourth round of the first-ever All-Star Fantasy Draft to be the team leader’s defensive partner. In an 11-10 Team Lidstrom victory, 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.
IDENTICAL POINT TOTALS
The Predators are 27-18-7 through 52 games, good for 61 points, the exact total they had through 52 games last season (29-20-3 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. 53 was the last of five straight losses before the team rallied to go 18-8-3 down the stretch to finish seventh in the Western Conference. Starting tonight, Nashville plays 20 of its final 30 games on Bridgestone Arena ice where it has gone 142-61-22 since the start of the 2005-06 season, which ranks among the NHL’s top five home records. Nashville has played three more road games (31) and three fewer home games (21) than any other team.
WARD BECOMES POWER-PLAY THREAT Joel Ward scored his fourth power-play goal on Thursday against the Flyers, setting a career high and tying him for second on the team with 30 games left to play. The Scarborough, Ont., native is playing a career-high 1:22 per game with the man advantage, and has 11 points (4g-7a) in his last 17 games after posting eight points (3g-5a) in the first 35 games of 2010-11. Ward is one of just four Predators to dress for all 52 games thus far in 2010-11, along with Shea Weber, Colin Wilson and Jerred Smithson.
PLAYER QUICK HITS Martin Erat assisted on Joel Ward’s power-play goal on Thursday, giving him points (1g-2a) in three straight games, and in six-of-nine outings (2g-4a) since returning from a nine-game injury absence on Jan. 15… Sergei Kostitsyn has five points (1g-4a) in his last six games, and recently set career highs in both points and goals (12g-16a-28pts). 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, is tied for the team lead with 25 points (10g-15a) and a +9 rating in 29. The 6-0, 207-pound winger also leads the NHL in shooting percentage (21.4) and is just four points shy of 100 for his career (36g-60a)... Patric Hornqvist has 13 points (8g-5a) in his last 16 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.