Support the Nashville Predators Foundation and Best Buddies by bringing a new toy to the Preds game on Saturday, February 19 and receive a discounted ticket offer to a future game. Best Buddies’ mission is to establish a global volunteer movement to create opportunities for one-to-one friendships and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
The Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes close out their four-game 2010-11 set tonight at Bridgestone Arena, with the home team looking to make it three straight victories after dropping the first game of the season by a 4-3 score on Nov. 3. Since then, Pekka Rinne and J-P Dumont have been the headline-makers in back-to-back wins over the Desert Dogs. On the final day of November, Rinne turned aside all 33 shots he face to record his third career shutout against Phoenix in a 3-0 victory. The offense came courtesy of the power-play, which went two-for-seven on goals by Shea Weber in the first period, and Cal O’Reilly in the middle frame. An empty-netter with 25 seconds on the clock sealed the victory. Then Jan. 18, Dumont stole the show with his fourth career hat trick, the 19th three-goal game in franchise history. The Preds would also receive two goals from Patric Hornqvist in a 5-2 victory at Jobing.com Arena. Rookies Chris Mueller and Matt Halischuk each notched a pair of assists playing on a line with Dumont, their first career multi-point games.
Much of the Predators success against Phoenix this season has come due to strong starts. It has outscored the ‘Yotes 5-3 in the first period and 4-1 in the second period despite being outshot by a combined 68-52 in the opening 40 minutes. Additionally, Nashville’s power play has connected on 3-of-14 opportunities through three games. The Preds are 14-6-(2)-1 all-time when hosting Phoenix, including an 11-1-(1)-1 mark in the team’s last 14 visits.
All-time series highlights: Two significant goaltender “firsts” have occurred against the Phoenix Coyotes in this building. On Jan. 15, 1999, Tomas Vokoun stopped all 31 shots he faced to author the first shutout in franchise history against the Coyotes in the team’s 42nd game. Cliff Ronning, who started the season with the Coyotes, came back to haunt his former team by scoring a power-play goal in the first period, and sealed the deal with an empty netter at 19:01 of the third. Then On April 15, 2006, Chris Mason became the ninth NHL goaltender credited with a goal when he was the last Nashville player to touch the puck before Phoenix inadvertently passed it into its vacated net on a delayed penalty call. He also stopped 23 shots in a 5-1 win.
Hornqvist leads all Predators in points vs. Phoenix this season with four (3g-1a) in three games, and has amassed seven points (5g-2a) in eight career games against the Desert Dogs…Dumont’s hat trick gives him 13 points (6g-7a) in 18 games against Phoenix as a Predator… Steve Sullivan missed the Jan. 18 matchup of the teams, but has two assists in two games against the ‘Yotes this season. Since joining the Predators, Sullivan has 20 points (8g-12a) in 17 games against Phoenix. For his career, Sullivan has 35 points (13g-22a) in 39 games vs. the Coyotes… Phoenix is one of two teams (Detroit is the other) Rinne has recorded more than two shutouts against. For his career, the Kempele, Finland native is 6-2-1 with a 1.64 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and three shutouts. It is also his highest save percentage and lowest goals-against average against any Western Conference team.
For the second time in three games on Thursday vs. Vancouver, the Predators responded to the opposition’s first goal of the game about as fast as possible. Last Saturday in a 5-3 victory, Kevin Porter put the Colorado Avalanche up 1-0 at 11:05 of the first period, only to see Shea Weber respond just 11 seconds later. At the time, it was the fastest two goals by both teams in Bridgestone Arena history. The Predators would top that mark on Thursday against the Western Conference-leading Canucks however. After Daniel Sedin knotted the game at one at 18:15 of the second, Nick Spaling would collect his second game-winning goal of the season a mere seven ticks later, besting the record from last Saturday and tying for the second quickest response in franchise history (Columbus’ Rick Nash (19:39) and Nashville’s Scott Walker (19:44) scored five seconds apart during the third period of a 4-2 Predators win on Dec. 4, 2003 with Walker’s goal being an empty netter). Mike Fisher would make it three goals in 56 seconds at the 19:11 mark of the middle frame, completing the second-fastest three goals by both teams in building history.
ERAT CONTINUES TO ROLL
Predators forward Martin Erat quietly posted his second multi-point performance in three games on Thursday (1g-1a), giving him 10 points (4g-6a) in his last nine games and 13 points (5g-8a) in 15 games since returning from injury (missed nine games) on Jan. 15. Nashville has drawn first blood four times through eight February games, with Erat scoring the game’s opening goal on three occasions; he also scored the first goal of the game in his second game back from injury on Jan. 16 at Chicago, giving him four of the team’s last nine first goals.
RINNE STANDS ON HIS HEAD AGAIN
Just one game after making a career-high 48 saves against San Jose on Tuesday, Pekka Rinne again earned First Star of the Game honors in Thursday’s 3-1 victory after stopping 35-of-36 shots. Since New Year’s Eve, Rinne has started 19 of Nashville’s 21 games, posting a 13-4-2 record with a 1.74 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage. The 13 wins is NHL high since that date, while his goals-against average and save percentage are both tops among netminders who have played at least 10 games in that span. Additionally, his 1,140 minutes played rank third to Cam Ward and Miikka Kiprusoff. Rinne’s save percentage of .931 and goals-against average of 2.07 both rank second in the NHL. He has posted a 19-6-1 record when he receives at least two goals from his offense, and a 15-2-1 mark when the Predators score at least three goals.
WEBER KEEPS UP THE PACE
Nashville captain Shea Weber assisted on Nashville’s first goal of the game on Thursday vs. the team from his home province, giving him 21 points (6g-15a) in 22 games since New Year’s Eve, second only to defensive points leader Keith Yandle of tonight’s opponent, the Phoenix Coyotes. Weber’s +15 in that span is tied with Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa for first since that date as well. The Sicamous, B.C., native’s surge has helped him crack the Top 10 among d-men in points (tie, 11g-25a-36pts). He is also tied for third in goals at the position, is alone at third in shots (184), sixth in hits (156) and 10th in average ice time (25:05).
LEAGUE’S BEST HOME DEFENSE SHINES AGAIN
By allowing just a single goal to Vancouver on Thursday, the Predators moved into a tie for first place with the Canucks in goals against per game (2.29). While Nashville has been solid on the road, much of its success is due to its play on Bridgestone Arena ice. It has allowed just 52 non-shootout goals in 26 home games, good for a League-low 2.00 goals-against average. The Preds have held the opposition to two goals or fewer 17 times in those 26 games, and have picked up points in 81 percent of their games in the Music City to this point (14-5-7 record). Nashville is 6-1-2 in nine home games since the calendar flipped to 2011. It is tied for the League’s third-most home wins since the start of the 2005-06 season (144), just one behind Vancouver and nine behind Detroit.
PENALTY KILL STAYS STRONG
Though the Predators allowed a power-play goal to the team with the top-ranked man-advantage unit in the League on Thursday, they have allowed just two power-play goals in their last nine games – going 30-for-32 in that span (93.8 percent) – and just two in their last 10 home games, going 33-for-35 (94.3 percent) in those games. Nashville has the League’s second-best penalty kill (86.3 percent) overall and on home ice (89.4 percent).