TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. VANCOUVER
The Predators host the Vancouver Canucks for the first time in 2010-11 tonight at Bridgestone Arena, the second of four games the teams will play against each other with their first meeting the night before the All-Star Break (Jan. 26) and their final matchup on the second-to-last Tuesday of the regular season (March 29). In their first clash – the Predators’ sixth and final game of a season-long road trip – the visitors took a 1-0 lead 37 seconds into the third period, only to see the Canucks rally for a 2-1 victory to claim a point for the 13th straight time at Rogers Arena. Shea Weber scored Nashville’s lone goal in his first game in his home province since winning a gold medal there at the 2010 Olympics, with Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn setting him up. After winning the first eight games of 2010-11 when their captain found the back of the net, it marked the first time the Predators lost when Weber scored. Nashville outshot Vancouver by a 12-4 margin in the first period of the game, then were outshot 31-15 the rest of the way.
In their last trip to the Music City on March 7, 2010, the Canucks doubled-up the Preds by a 4-2 score, after Nashville had claimed two of the previous three contests. This included a 3-2 win in the Pacific Northwest on Jan. 11, 2010 on a power-play goal by Weber with just 4:03 left in regulation and a 4-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 8, 2009 on Erat’s second career hat trick/four-point performance.
Six of the Predators’ last 11 goals against Vancouver have been scored by special teams, with the power play going 5-for-22 (22.7 percent) to go along with a Joel Ward shorthanded marker in the Jan. 11 victory.
With his assist in the first game of the 2010-11 series, and his career-night against them last season, Erat now has nine points (4g-5a) in eight games against the Canucks since the start of the 2008-09 season… Marek Svatos has seen more success against Vancouver than any other team. He has 20 points (12g-8a) in 29 career games against the Canucks… The Predators have three B.C. natives on their current roster. Weber and Cody Franson grew up down the street from each other in Sicamous, and played in the province up until turning pro – Weber with the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) and Franson with the Vancouver Giants (WHL). Jerred Smithson hails from Vernon, while Nashville Associate Coach Brent Peterson is a former Canuck, playing 146 games with Vancouver from 1985-87, amassing 53 points (15g-38a).
RINNE RECORDS CAREER-HIGH 48 SAVES IN SHOT FEST
On Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks put 50 shots on Nashville’s net, just the sixth time in franchise history a Predators opponent has hit the net 50-or-more times, and the fourth time ever at Bridgestone Arena. The Sharks and Detroit Red Wings have accounted for all six of those occurrences. Goaltender Pekka Rinne has been in net for the last two of those – Tuesday night, and Feb. 10, 2009 vs. Detroit (51 shots in a 5-3 loss which included an empty-net goal) – but was up to the task on all but two of San Jose’s efforts, setting a career high with 48 saves. The performance upped Rinne’s save percentage to .930, second-best in the League, and lowered his goals-against average to 2.11, good for third among NHL netminders. The Kempele, Finland native has allowed two goals or fewer in 14 of his last 18 starts, has an 18-6-1 record when he receives at least two goals from his offense, and a 14-2-1 mark when the Predators score at least three goals.
SPECIAL TEAMS CLICKING
Both elements that make up the Predators special-teams unit continued their recent success in Tuesday’s contest as the power play converted for the sixth time in the last seven outings and the penalty kill was flawless for the fifth straight game and for the seventh time in the last eight. The man-advantage unit is now six for its last 22 (27.3 percent) after going 3-for-34 over the previous 10 games (8.8 percent). The Preds are 14-6-3 when scoring a man-advantage goal. On the other side of the equation, Tuesday vs. San Jose was the 37th time in 2010-11 that the penalty kill has finished without a blemish, with the team posting a 23-8-6 record in those games. The four-for-four outing improved the PK to 26-for-27 (96.3 percent) in the last eight games overall and 29-for-30 (96.7 percent) in nine home games since Christmas. Nashville has the top-ranked home penalty kill in the NHL (89.9 percent), and is second overall (86.4 percent).
Special teams have accounted for eight of the team’s last 20 goals (40 percent) dating back to the third period at Edmonton on Jan. 23, with seven of those being man-up markers and another coming while skating a man down.
STRONG DEFENSE LEADS TO POINTS AT HOME
Playing their League-low 25th home game of the season on Tuesday, the Nashville Predators collected a point for the seventh time in their last eight times taking to Bridgestone Arena ice – they’ve gone 5-1-2 in that span and have picked up points in 80 percent of their home games to this point (13-5-7 record). The success is due in large part to a defense that has held the opposition to two goals or fewer 16 times in those 25 games and relinquished only 51 non-shootout goals, an average of 2.04, a League low. The Predators overall defense ranks second (2.32) in the NHL to only tonight’s opponent, the Vancouver Canucks (2.28).
Nashville captain Shea Weber has 20 points (6g-14a) in his last 21 games, putting him second among NHL blueliners in points since Dec. 31. One of only four defensemen to lead his team in points, the Sicamous, B.C., native is tied for 12th at the position in points (11g-24a-35pts) and tied for third in goals in addition to ranking third in shots (183), fifth in hits (154) and 10th in average ice time (25:07). He and Chicago’s Brent Seabrook are the only blueliners with more than 150 hits and 30 points… Martin Erat has 11 points (4g-7a) in 14 games since returning from injury (missed nine games) on Jan. 15… Sergei Kostitsyn has 10 points (4g-6a) in his last 11 games and a team-high 30 points (13g-17a) to go along with a +10 rating in 34 games since Dec. 1 after starting the 2010-11 season with three points (2g-1a) and a -7 rating in his first 19 games… Kevin Klein ranks 10th in the NHL in blocked shots (122)… The Predators are 30-19-8 through 57 games, good for 68 points. That is two more points than they had at the same point last season (31-22-4 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… The Preds have the League’s second-best record when both trailing after one period (7-9-1) and two periods (4-12-0).