TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CHICAGO
Nashville wraps up its second of 14 season series against Western Conference opponents with its sixth game of 2010-11 against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at Bridgestone Arena. Holding a three games to two edge against the Hawks thus far, the Predators are looking to claim their first outright season series since 2005-06 when they went 6-2-0 against Chicago. The Preds have won each of the two games the teams have played in the Music City to this point, the most recent being a 3-2 victory on Jan. 15 that saw the home team rally from a two-goal deficit in the final 10:14 of regulation to win in a shootout, 3-2. Less than 24 hours later, the Blackhawks would ruin the Predators’ final trip to the Windy City with a 6-3 comeback win of their own in game one of Nashville’s season long six-game road trip that took it into the All-Star Break. Comebacks were also on tap in the Predators first two wins of the season slate on Oct. 13, in the team’s first road game of the season, and on Nov. 13 in the club’s only home game between Oct. 30 and Nov. 22 (9-of-10 on the road).
In the Oct. 13 game, the Preds rallied from a 2-1 second intermission deficit behind third-period markers from Colin Wilson and Joel Ward, the latter of which, the game-winner, came with just 26.7 seconds left in regulation in a 3-2 win. After coming into the season opener in relief of Pekka Rinne, rookie netminder Anders Lindback collected his first career victory in his first NHL start by stopping 23-of-25 shots that night. It was then Nashville’s defensive corps that stole the show in a 4-3 shootout win on Nov. 13, as Shane O’Brien, Shea Weber and Cody Franson accounted for Nashville’s goals. This all after the Predators again relinquished the first goal of the game and trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes.
In the pair of shootout victories, Rinne stopped six-of-six shooters with Cal O’Reilly (Nov. 13) and Marcel Goc (Jan. 15) scoring the only goals for Nashville. Nashville is 19-11-(3)-3 in 35 home games against Chicago, including an 12-5-3 mark in the past five-plus seasons since 2005.
J-P Dumont (2g-2a) and Ryan Suter (4a) pace the team in points vs. Chicago this season. For Dumont, who posted 33 points (19g-14a) in 72 games as a Blackhawk from 1998-2000, it upped his career point total to (8g-19a) in 38 career games against Chicago. He had a pair of goals in the most recent matchup. Suter has more points against Chicago (2g-17a-19pts) than any other team. He scored his first career goal against the Hawks on Dec. 21, 2005… Martin Erat scored a goal in the Jan. 16 game, giving him 13 points (6g-7a) in his last 14 games against the Hawks… Steve Sullivan, acquired by the Predators from the Hawks on Feb. 16, 2004, has amassed 25 points (8g-17a) in 29 games against Chicago as a Predator. His most recent of seven career penalty shots also came against the Hawks on Jan. 8, 2006 when he scored on goaltender Craig Anderson… All-time, David Legwand has more goals, assists and points (18g-28a-46pts) against Chicago than any other player against any other team in franchise history. He registered a career-high four points as part of his first career hat trick against Chicago on Jan. 20, 2007, one of four hat tricks the Predators have notched against the Hawks (the franchise has 19 hat tricks all-time).
BLUM MAKES NHL DEBUT, BECOMES 18TH DRAFTEE TO SUIT UP FOR THE TEAM IN 2010-11
Defenseman Jonathon Blum – Nashville’s first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2007 Entry Draft – made his NHL debut on Tuesday at Columbus in the same arena he was drafted in three and a half years ago. The Rancho San Margarita, Calif., native became the 18th Predators draft pick to suit up for the club in 2010-11, breaking the franchise record of 17 draftees set a season ago. His presence in the lineup also means that each of team’s first nine first rounders in franchise history (1998-2007) have made it to the National Hockey League. Blum played 16:02, dished out two hits and blocked two shots in his first NHL game after posting 34 points (8g-26a) in 54 games for AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals this season, which puts him tied for 11th in League defensive scoring. He recently reeled off a nine-game point streak (1g-8a) from Jan. 15-Feb. 9, second longest by an AHL blueliner this season.
DEFENDING BRIDGESTONE ARENA
The Predators enter tonight’s contest – their 28th on home ice – with the NHL’s lowest goal-against average on home ice (2.04). They have allowed two goals or fewer 18 times in their 27 home games, and have posted at least a point in 77.8 percent of the time (14-6-7 record). Nashville is 6-2-2 in 10 home games since the calendar flipped to 2011. Much of the success is due to the penalty kill, which is ranked second in the League on home ice at 89.8 percent.
WEBER PRODUCING IN 2011
Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber’s has posted a point in eight of the last nine games where the team has produced at least one goal dating back to Jan. 26 at Vancouver, amassing eight points (4g-4a) in 11 games over that span. Since a 4-1 victory at Minnesota on New Year’s Eve, Weber has amassed 22 points (7g-15a) in 24 games, putting him second at the position in points since that date; only defensive scoring leader Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes has more (26 points in 25 games). The Sicamous, B.C., native has scored 12 goals this season, tying him with All-Star Game defensive partner Nicklas Lidstrom for third at the position and leaving him just three shy of tying Kimmo Timonen (79) for first on the franchise’s goals by a defenseman list. He also 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).
Weber’s 37 points (12g-25a) on the season are also tied for 11th among blueliners, and make him one of just four to lead their team in scoring. He also ranks third at the position in shots (194), tied for sixth in hits (161) and 10th in average ice time (25:09).
The Predators have gone 7-for-30 on the power play (23.3 percent) over the last 10 games, and 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. Nashville is 14-7-3 when scoring a power-play goal… Nashville is 10-7-1 against the Central Division this season and 24-17-4 vs. teams from the Western Conference… The Predators are 31-21-8 through 60 games, good for 70 points. That is one more point than they had at the same point last season (32-23-5 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 16th 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)… Martin Erat has 12 points (4g-8a) in his last 11 games and 15 points (5g-10a) in 17 games since returning from injury (missed nine games) the last time Nashville and Chicago faced-off at Bridgestone Arena, on Jan. 15… Sergei Kostitsyn – who missed his first game since Nov. 7 on Tuesday – 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 370th in the League, putting him tops among all NHLers in shooting percentage (25)… David Legwand (2g-3a) and Patric Hornqvist (1g-4a) have five points in their last six games.