TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
The Nashville Predators make their third and final appearance of 2010-11 at Nationwide Arena tonight, the fourth Nashville-Columbus matchup this season and first of two in a five-day span. The Predators have claimed the last two games in the season series after dropping the opening game by a 2-0 score on Nov. 22 in Ohio’s capital city. Last time through on Dec. 1, Kevin Klein forced extra time with a goal at 11:38 of the third period, with Steve Sullivan scoring the shootout winner to lift Nashville to a 4-3 victory. Pekka Rinne stopped all three shootout attempts, and 28-of-31 shots in regulation/overtime in what was his final game for Nashville before missing three weeks due to injury. In the teams’ most recent clash on the second day of 2011 (Jan. 2), the Predators relinquished the tilt’s first goal just 37 seconds in, and trailed after 20 minutes, but reeled off three second-period goals and one more in the third to win 4-1 at Bridgestone Arena. Captain Shea Weber’s sixth career three-point effort (1g-2a) earned him First Star Honors, while Patric Hornqvist (1g-1a) and Colin Wilson (2a) also recorded multi-point performances in what proved to be the second of six straight wins for the Preds. Since Dec. 27, 2007, the home team has won 16-of-20 games, and six of the last 10 meetings have needed overtime/a shootout to determine a winner. In the last five seasons, the Predators have killed 112-of-124 Columbus power plays (90.3 percent) – including all 12 they’ve faced this season.
Martin Erat was not in the lineup for the Jan. 2 game, but has a pair of assists in two games against Columbus this season, and nine points (3g-6a) in six games against the Blue Jackets since the start of last season. The Trebic, Czech Republic native has more career goals and points against the Blue Jackets than any other team in the League (13g-28a-41pts, 46gp), including 40 points (9g-31a) in 40 games since the start of the 2003-04 campaign… Weber and Wilson pace the team with three points (1g-2a each) in three games against the Jackets this season. Weber has 18 points (6g-12a) in 27 career games against Columbus, his highest total against any team… Steve Sullivan has 43 points (16g-27a) in 44 career games vs. Columbus, including a hat trick in Nashville’s visit to Nationwide on Dec. 14, 2009… Sergei Kostitsyn has found the back of the net in each of the last two games these teams have played, giving him four points (3g-1a) in six career games against the Jackets.
WEBER SCORES AGAIN
Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber’s name was on the scoring summary for the eighth time in the last 10 games on Saturday vs. Phoenix as he scored his 12th goal of the campaign with the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker at 19:10 of the third period. It was Nashville’s first extra-attacker goal on home ice since Feb. 12, 2009, when Jason Arnott forced overtime in an eventual 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis, and first overall since Dustin Boyd scored the game-winning goal at St. Louis on a delayed penalty on March 21, 2010 (3-2 win). Weber’s 2010-11 total ties him with All-Star Game defensive partner Nicklas Lidstrom for third at the position, and moved him to within three of tying Kimmo Timonen (79) for first on the franchise’s goals by a defenseman list. The Sicamous, B.C., native is also just four behind Washington’s Mike Green in goals by a defenseman since the start of the 2006-07 campaign (Weber: 74; Green: 78).
Since a 4-1 victory at Minnesota on New Year’s Eve, Weber has amassed 22 points (7g-15a) in 23 games, putting him second at the position in points since that date; only defensive scoring leader Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes has more (25 points in 24 games). Weber’s 37 points (12g-25a) on the season are also tied for ninth among blueliners, and make him one of just four to lead their team in scoring. He also ranks third at the position in shots (184), sixth in hits (160) and 10th in average ice time (25:09).
ERAT/KOSTITSYN TANDEM PRODUCES
The duo of Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn have teamed up to form two-thirds of one of Nashville’s most effective lines of late, and that trend continued on Saturday, as Erat notched his third multi-point performance in four games by assisting on both Predator goals, and Kostitsyn built on his career-high goal (16) and point (34) totals with his fourth power-play marker of the season. Erat has 12 points (4g-8a) in his last 10 games and 15 points (5g-10a) in 16 games since returning from injury (missed nine games) on Jan. 15. Kostitsyn, meanwhile, has 11 points (5g-6a) in his last 13 games, and a team-high 31 points (14g-17a) to go along with a +11 rating in 36 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 scored his 16 goals on just 64 shots, tied for 367th in the League, putting him tops among all NHLers in shooting percentage (25).
RINNE FACES FIRST CAREER PENALTY SHOT
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne has the fourth-highest shootout winning percentage since the implementation of the tiebreaker in 2005-06, so it was no surprise to see him up to the task in facing his first career penalty shot attempt on Saturday vs. Phoenix. The Shane Doan attempt just 10 seconds into the second period was the first against the Predators since Feb. 10, 2008 when Keith Yandle failed to beat Nashville goalie Dan Ellis at Jobing.com Arena in Phoenix and the first on Bridgestone Arena ice since Ellis stymied Edmonton’s Kyle Brodziak in a 5-2 victory on Jan. 3, 2008. Coincidentally, the last time a Predators attempted a penalty shot was Nov. 6, 2008 when current Phoenix Coyote Vernon Fiddler beat Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff on the Canadian Prairie.
For Rinne, Saturday was just the fifth time in his last 20 starts that he has allowed more than two goals. Rinne is 13-5-2 with a 1.80 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage in that span – which dates back to Dec. 31 – putting him tied for first in the League in wins since that date. Overall, the Kempele, Finland native ranks second among netminders in both goals-against average (2.11) and save percentage (.930). He has posted a 19-7-1 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.
SPECIAL TEAMS SUCCESS
A power-play goal on Saturday vs. Phoenix means eight of Nashville’s last 25 goals dating back to the third period at Edmonton on Jan. 23 have been scored by the man-advantage unit. The power-play has found the back of the net in seven of the last nine games, going 7-for-28 in that span (25 percent). On the flip side, the Predators penalty kill was perfect for the 38th time in 2010-11 on Saturday to remain second in the League’s PK rankings at 86.5 percent. The Predators have allowed just two power-play goals in their last 10 games – going 34-for-36 in that span (94.4 percent). Nashville is 14-7-3 when scoring a man-advantage goal and 23-9-6 record in those games when not allowing a man-up marker.
The Predators have the second-best defense in the NHL, allowing just 2.30 goals per game… Nashville is 10-6-1 against the Central Division this season and 24-16-4 vs. teams from the Western Conference… The Predators are 31-20-8 through 59 games, good for 70 points. That is one more point than they had at the same point last season (32-22-5 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 (4-13-0)… Cody Franson has eight goals, tied for 16thh among NHL defenders. Coupled with Shea Weber’s 12 goals, the Predators have received 20 goals from its top-two goal-producing defenders, third behind Atlanta (26) and Detroit (22)… David Legwand has five points (2g-3a) in his last five games.