TEAM QUICK HITS
Nashville has the NHL’s fourth-best goals-against average (2.30), and best goals-against average on home ice (1.91). Take away the oppositions’ goals for winning three shootouts at Bridgestone Arena, and the number lowers to 1.77… The Predators are 28-18-7 through 53 games, good for 63 points. That is two more than the team had at this point last season (29-21-3 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 the past 14 games, Nashville has outscored its opposition 52-33, including a 42-26 margin at even strength. The Predators are the NHL’s sixth-best team at full and even strength (1.13 five-on-five goals for/goals against ratio)… Nashville has the League’s third-best record when trailing after 20 minutes (7-8-1), and second-best record when trailing after two periods (4-11-0)
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. EDMONTON
The Nashville Predators host the Edmonton Oilers for the first time in 11 months tonight at Bridgestone Arena, the second of four games between the team in 2010-11. In their first matchup – game number four of a season-long six-game road trip for the Predators from Jan. 16-26 – Nashville led 1-0 after 40 minutes, then went ahead 2-1 on a power-play goal by Joel Ward at 14:05 of the third, only to see Taylor Hall force overtime with a marker of his own 2:08 later. The Preds would prevail in a shootout, 3-2, thanks to a perfect performance by Pekka Rinne (stopped all three shooters he faced) and the lone marker of the tiebreaker by Cody Franson. Alexander Sulzer scored his first career goal and posted his first career multi-point performance in the win, while Franson assisted on both of Nashville’s goals.
The Predators have won four straight against the Oilers, and have gone 15-2-0 in the series since the start of the 2006-07 campaign, outscoring the Oil 67-45 in the process. That includes seven games where the Preds have notched five-or-more goals and four more times where they’ve hit the four-goal mark. On home ice, Nashville has won eight of nine, with the most recent being a 4-3 decision on March 2, 2010 behind a goal and an assist by Denis Grebeshkov, who made his Nashville debut against the team he played for just 48 hours prior.
Ward not only scored last time these teams faced each other, but put a career-high seven shots on net and earned First Star honors. He has seven points (2g-5a) in nine games against Edmonton since joining the Predators… Since joining the Predators in 2006-07, J-P Dumont has 22 points (6g-16a) in 16 games against the Oilers. For his career, he’s posted an even 24 points (7g-17a) in 24 games… Sergei Kostitsyn assisted on Sulzer’s first career goal, giving him three points (1g-2a) in a pair of career games vs. the Oil…Patric Hornqvist was held off the scoresheet in game one between these clubs, but posted six (3g-3a) in four games against Edmonton last season, and has seven points (4g-3a) in six career games vs. the Oilers… Shea Weber has seen his greatest offensive success against Edmonton, with 13 points (7g-6a) in 16 career games… Martin Erat notched his first career hat trick, a natural hat trick, at Rexall Place on March 4, 2008, the second road hat trick in franchise history… Rinne has won seven of his eight career starts against Edmonton (7-1-0)
RINNE RECORDS 18TH CAREER SHUTOUT Pekka Rinne stopped all 35 shots he faced to record his fourth shutout of the season in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Detroit. It was his 18th career whitewash, moving him within three of Tomas Vokoun (21) for first on the franchise’s all-time shutouts list. It took Vokoun 383 games from 1999-2007, while Rinne has reached his total in just 149 games since Dec. 1, 2008. In fact, no NHL netminder has as many blankings as the Kemple, Finland native since that date – he leads Vokoun, now with the Florida Panthers, by one and New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur by two. The victory over Detroit was also Rinne’s 80th career win, leaving him just one shy of Mike Dunham (81) for second on the franchise’s wins list.
Nashville’s netminder ranks second in the League in both goals-against average (2.04) and save percentage (.931). He has allowed two goals or less 12 times in 14 starts since New Year’s Eve, posting a League-high 10 wins (10-3-1 record) with a 1.55 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage since that date. Rinne has a 16-6-1 record when he receives at least two goals from his offense, and 12-2-1 when the Predators score at least three goals.
KOSTITSYN SCORES A PAIR
First-year Nashville Predator Sergei Kostitsyn notched his fourth career multi-goal game, and first since March 13, 2010 as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, on Saturday vs. Detroit, building on his career-high goal (14) and point (30) totals, both of which are good for second on the team. Kostitsyn’s first goal on Saturday was his second career shorthanded goal – the other came on Jan. 29, 2008 as the Habs dropped Washington 4-0 – and the Preds’ third of 2010-11, but first on home ice since Jan. 7, 2010 when J-P Dumont scored against Carolina. The Novopolotsk, Belarus native’s two goals came on his only two shots of the game, boosting his NHL-best save percentage to 24.1 and leaving him just two points shy of 100 for his career (38g-60a). He has seven points (3g-4a) in his last seven games, and a team-high 27 points (12g-15a) to go along with a +11 rating in 30 games since Dec. 1 after starting the 2010-11 season with three points (2g-1a) and a -7 rating in his first 19 games. The Predators are 11-2-0 when Kostitsyn finds the back of the net.
WEBER HITS DOUBLE-DIGITS IN GOALS
Nashville defenseman and 2011 All-Star Shea Weber became the seventh defenseman to hit double-digits in goals this season when he scored his 10th of the campaign last time out against the Red Wings, marking the fourth time in the last five seasons he’s scored at least 10 goals. Since the start of the 2006-07 campaign, only Washington’s Mike Green (78) has more goals than Weber’s 72 among NHL defensemen. The power-play marker also extended the captain’s point streak to four games (2g-2a), giving him 18 points (5g-13a) in 17 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. It was his 74th career goal just five behind Kimmo Timonen (79) for tops in goals by a Predator defenseman/10th among all Nashville skaters, and 33rd man-advantage tally, tied for fourth in team history with Martin Erat. Weber is one point away from 200 for his career (74g-125a).
The Sicamous, B.C., native ranks among the defensive League leaders in several categories: goals (tied for fourth, 10), points (12th, 33), shots (third, 170), average ice time (10th, 25:05) and hits (tied for fifth, 140).
SPECIAL TEAMS CLICKING ON BOTH SIDES Shea Weber’s game-winning goal just 3:18 into Saturday’s game helped the Nashville power play finish one-for-four on the night, the third straight game the Predators have found the back of the net while a man to the good (3-for-10). Since the Christmas break, the power play has scored in four-of-six home games, going 4-for-21 (19 percent). Defensively, the Predators penalty kill was a perfect five-for-five on Saturday, the second time in three games it has extinguished five opposition power plays in a game. Having killed 15-of-16 over the last four games, the Preds PK is third in the League (85.6 percent), while on home ice they are even better, having killed 21-of-22 in six games since Christmas, moving them up to second in the NHL (88.9 percent). When Nashville is shorthanded five times or more, it is 3-6-3. When keeping the opposition’s power-play opportunities to four-or-less, it has posted a 25-12-4 record.