TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLORADO
The Colorado Avalanche visit the Music City for the first time in more than a year tonight, the second of four meetings between the Avalanche and Predators in 2010-11. Their first meeting of the season came Jan. 20 and saw Nashville tied its highest goal output ever against Colorado, scoring a pair of first-period goals, and three more in the third en route to a 5-1 victory. Twelve different Predators reached the scoresheet in the victory, and Pekka Rinne stopped 32-of-33 shots as Nashville improved to 4-1-0 in its last five games against the Avs. Two of those four wins have come in Colorado’s last two trips to Nashville – Feb. 4, 2010 and Oct. 8, 2009.
The most recent tilt at Bridgestone Arena ended in a 5-3 score. After giving up the first goal of the game and trailing after one period, the Predators reeled off a four goals in the second period and finished a season-high 3-for-5 on the power play to claim victory. In Nashville’s home opener and the teams’ first meeting of 2009-10, Patric Hornqvist scored the game-tying and game-winning goals 2:17 apart in the third period of a 3-2 victory. Nashville is 10-9-(3)-0 all-time when hosting the Avs, including a 7-3-0 record since the 2005-06 season.
Hornqvist tied a franchise record with three points (2g-1a) in the second period of that Feb. 4 victory, and posted a pair of assists and a +3 rating when these teams hooked up last month. He has nine points (4g-5a) in six career games against Colorado… Cody Franson (1g-1a) and David Legwand (1g-1a) also notched multiple points and +3 ratings in the Jan. 20 victory… J-P Dumont and Shea Weber also got in on the scoring in the 5-1 victory. Weber has six points (1g-5a) in his last five games against Colorado, while Dumont has 23 points (7g-16a) in 26 career games vs. the Avalanche… As a Predator, Steve Sullivan has amassed 11 points (5g-6a) in 12 games against the Avs… Jerred Smithson played his first NHL game against Colorado on Dec. 29, 2002 (with Los Angeles).
MIKE FISHER BY THE NUMBERS
In acquiring Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, not only did the Predators acquire a center that has hit the 20-goal mark in four of the last five seasons and has more playoff experience than any other Nashville roster member (75gp, 14g-14a-28pts), but also someone who was a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward in 2005-06. This season, Fisher is averaging 18:25 per game, more than any other Nashville forward, with 2:34 per game coming on the power play and 1:40 per game coming while shorthanded. The Peterborough, Ont., native’s 59 blocked shots rank third among NHL forwards, and his 91 hits are more than any other Predator forward except Jerred Smithson (104).
RINNE NOW TIED FOR SECOND ON FRANCHISE’S VICTORIES LIST
Goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped 34-of-35 shots on Wednesday to pick up his 81st career victory, tying him with Mike Dunham for second on the franchise’s all-time wins list. This comes just two games after the Kempele, Finland native shut out the Wings (3-0 on Saturday) to move within two of Tomas Vokoun (21) for first on the franchise’s all-time shutouts list. Rinne has posted his 81 wins/18 shutouts in just 151 career games; it took Dunham 217 decisions in a Preds sweater to reach his win total and Vokoun 383 games to hit 21 whitewashes.
Rinne has given up two goals or fewer in 13 of his last 16 starts, and ranks second in the NHL in both goals-against average (2.08) and save percentage (.930). Over the course of his career, he’s posted a 25-7-3 record with a 1.85 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in games played on Saturday. Rinne has a 17-6-1 record when he receives at least two goals from his offense, and 13-2-1 when the Predators score at least three goals.
WEBER POSTS CAREER POINT NO. 200 Shea Weber assisted on Nashville’s second-period power-play goal in Wednesday’s win at Detroit, his 200th NHL point (74g-126a) in his 375th career contest. Nashville’s 2011 All-Star now has points (2g-3a) in five of his last six games, and 19 (5g-14a) in 19 games since New Year’s Eve, just one behind Phoenix’s Keith Yandle (20gp, 4g-16a-20pts) for the most by an NHL blueliner since that date. Weber is also one of just three defensemen – along with Yandle and Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien – to lead his team in points. The Sicamous, B.C., native ranks among the defensive League leaders in several categories: goals (tied for fifth, 10), points (tied for 12th, 34), shots (third, 178), average ice time (10th, 25:03) and hits (third, 147).
KOSTITSYN HITS A MILESTONE AS WELL
First-year Predator Sergei Kostitsyn also reached a personal milestone in Wednesday’s victory, scoring a power-play goal and assisting on the game’s opening marker to reach 100 points for his career. The Novopolotsk, Belarus native has nine points (4g-5a) in his last nine games, and a team-high 29 points (13g-16a) to go along with a +11 rating in 32 games since Dec. 1 after starting the 2010-11 season with three points (2g-1a) and a -7 rating in his first 19 games. Kostitsyn has already hit career highs in goals (15) and points (32) – ranking second on the team in both categories – and is just one off his personal mark in assists (18) set in 2007-08. His 15 goals have come on just 63 shots, 13th on the team and 348th in the League, giving him the NHL’s top shooting percentage (23.8). Nashville is 12-2-0 when he finds the back of the net.
STRONG DEFENSE AND PENALTY KILLING CONTINUES
The Predators were perfect on the penalty kill for the fifth time in the last six games on Wednesday at Detroit (three-for-three), the 35th time this season it has finished without a blemish. The Predators have killed off 20-of-21 disadvantages in the last six games, solidifying their No. 3 ranking in the NHL (86 percent). On home ice, the PK is even better – it has extinguished 23-of-24 power-plays in seven games since Christmas, moving them into a tie for first in the NHL (89.2 percent).
Strong play while a man down has been integral to Nashville’s defensive success, as the club is first in the League in goals-against average on home ice (2.00). Eliminate three shootout goals against, and that number falls to 1.91 goals against per game. Overall, the Preds rank fourth in the NHL in goals-against average (2.31).
PLAYER QUICK HITS Ryan Suter assisted on David Legwand’s game-winning goal on Wednesday, moving him to within one helper of Scott Walker for fifth on the franchise’s all-time list (151). Despite missing 11 games due to injury, Suter is tied for the team lead, and among the Top 20 NHL blueliners, in assists (24). His +19 rating is 10th among d-men and he is averaging the 11th-most minutes in the NHL (25:00). The Predators are 25-13-6 with Suter in the lineup vs. 4-6-1 without him this season… Martin Erat scored the first goal of the game on Wednesday, the eighth time in 12 outings since returning from a nine-game injury absence that he’s reached the scoresheet. Since his Jan. 15 return, he has eight points (3g-5a)… Colin Wilson has 14 points (6g-8a) in his last 20 contests after posting 14 points (7g-7a) in his first 35 games of 2010-11… Marcel Goc has points in four of his last five games (1g-3a)… David Legwand’s game-winning goal at Detroit was his first since Dec. 31, 2009 at Columbus… Jerred Smithson ranks eighth in the League in face-off efficiency (57.4).
TEAM QUICK HITS
Nashville plays just its 24th home game of the season tonight, lowest in the league. It plays 18 of its final 27 games on home ice… The Predators are 29-19-7 through 55 games, good for 65 points. That is one more point than they had through 55 games last season (30-21-4 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.