TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DALLAS
The Nashville Predators play their second of five afternoon games this season today at American Airlines Arena, their second and final trip to the venue in 2010-11. The first time the Predators and Dallas Stars met in “Big D” was on Oct. 23 in the first half of Nashville’s second back-to-back set this season, one that saw it play at Tampa Bay less than 18 hours later. The Preds would get the only goal they needed from Cal O’Reilly just 42 seconds into the opening frame of a 1-0 victory. Pekka Rinne stopped all 30 shots he saw for his first shutout of the season. The Predators would go on to top the Lightning by a 4-3 score on Oct. 24. Their most recent clash came Dec. 28 at Bridgestone Arena, and saw the Stars prevail by a 4-2 score with sophomore forward Colin Wilson notching his first career two-goal game in the loss. The Predators have outshot the Stars 70-55 over the first two games of the season series, including a 27-16 advantage in the opening frame.
Since joining the Preds in 2006, J-P Dumont has 14 points (4g-10a) in 17 games against the Stars… Steve Sullivan has four points (2g-2a) in his last five games against Dallas, and five goals in 12 games against it as a Pred, including his fifth career hat trick on Nov. 10, 2005… Sergei Kostitsyn has assists in each of his first two career games vs. Dallas… David Legwand also has a hat trick against Dallas, recording it on Opening Night of the 2007-08 season in a 3-1 victory… Both Patric Hornqvist and Marcel Goc recorded their first NHL goals against former Dallas goalie Marty Turco. Hornqvist did it on Oct. 15, 2008 in his second career game, while Goc scored his on Oct. 26, 2005 while with San Jose… Joel Ward posted the first multi-goal/point game of his career with a pair, including the game winner, in a 3-0 victory over Dallas on Dec. 13, 2008.
MATINEES AND BACK-TO-BACKS
Tonight starts the 11th of 13 back-to-backs Nashville plays in 2010-11. Its next pair will be March 19 (vs. Detroit, 7 p.m.) and March 20 (at Buffalo, 4 p.m.). The team rounds out the season with its final home game on April 8 (vs. Columbus, 7 p.m.) and its season ender on April 9 (at St. Louis, 7 p.m.). The Predators are 7-3-0 in the first-half of back-to-backs and 4-5-1 on the back end so far this season.
After playing just one matinee game in the first 61 games of 2010-11, the Predators play two in the next two days, and four in the final 21 games of the season. Nashville is 15-5-2 in afternoon contests since the start of the 2007-08 season.
GAMES WITHIN THE GAME
In Thursday night’s game against Chicago, the Predators outhit the Blackhawks 36-16, won the face-off battle 36-to-25 (59 percent) and outshot the Hawks by a 31-25 margin. The 36 hits were Nashville’s second-highest total of the season, just behind the 40 it dished out against Florida on Jan. 13. Shea Weber and Mike Fisher led the way with five hits each, while Jerred Smithson and Martin Erat both doled out four. Weber leads the team – and ranks fifth among NHL defensemen – in hits with 166, while Smithson (117) and Fisher (111) are the team’s only two forwards to surpass the 100-hit mark in 2010-11. In the circle, no Predator who took more than two draws finished with a success rate under 59 percent as the team moved up to 12th in face-off efficiency (50.4 percent). Eight of the 11 teams ranked above them are in playoff positions. Smithson leads the charge on draws, clicking at 56.6 percent, ninth-best in the NHL. It was also just the fifth time in the 19 games that the Predators have outshot the opposition. Despite dropping three-of-four decisions this month in which they’ve outshot their foe, the Predators are 15-8-3 when outshooting the opposition, third-best in the League behind Vancouver and Detroit. Nashville is 15-14-3 when being outshot, 25th in the NHL.
HOMEGROWN TALENT THROUGHOUT THE LINEUP
Of the 20-man unit the Predators fielded for Thursday’s game, 13 were drafted and developed by the team, including both goaltenders and five-of-six defensemen. The most recent of the franchise-record 18 Nashville draft picks to appear in the lineup is 2007 first-round pick Jonathon Blum, who made his NHL debut in the arena where he was drafted at Columbus on Tuesday, then logged 21:24 – third among Preds defensemen – in his home debut. The Rancho San Margarita, Calif., native’s presence in the lineup means that each of team’s first nine first rounders in franchise history (1998-2007) has made it to the National Hockey League.
Here is a breakdown of all 18 draftees to appear on Nashville’s roster in 2010-11:
First-rounders include David Legwand (2nd overall, 1998), Ryan Suter (7th overall, 2003), Blum and Colin Wilson (7th overall, 2008); second-rounders include Kevin Klein (37th overall in 2003), Nick Spaling (58th overall in 2007) and Shea Weber (49th overall in 2003); Teemu Laakso (78th overall in 2005), Cody Franson (79th overall in 2005) and Alexander Sulzer (92nd overall in 2003) were taken in the third round; Jordin Tootoo was picked in the fourth round (98th overall in 2001); Andreas Thuresson (144th overall in 2007), Mark Dekanich (146th overall in 2006) and Cal O’Reilly (150th overall in 2005) were tabbed in the fifth round; Martin Erat (191st overall in 1999), Patric Hornqvist (230th overall in 2005) and Anders Lindback (207th overall in 2008) were selected in the seventh round and goaltender Pekka Rinne was an eighth-round pick (258th overall in 2004).
PK REMAINS STRONG
The Predators penalty kill was perfect for the 11th time in the last 15 games, and for the 39th time this season, to improve to 38-for-42 in their last 12 games (90.5 percent). Nashville has the League’s third-best penalty kill (86.0 percent). The team is 23-10-6 when not allowing a man-advantage marker.
The Predators have gone 7-for-31 on the power play (22.5 percent) over the last 11 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… The Predators are 31-22-8 through 61 games, good for 70 points. That is just one point fewer than they had at the same point last season (33-23-5 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 rank among the NHL’s Top Five when trailing after one period (7-10-1) and trailing after two periods (4-14-0)… Shea Weber 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 12 games over that span. Weber has 22 points (7g-15a) in 25 games, putting him second at the position in points since that date; only defensive scoring leader Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes has more (28 points in 26 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 (197) and 10th in average ice time (25:10)… Martin Erat has 12 points (4g-8a) in his last 12 games… Sergei Kostitsyn leads the League in shooting percentage (25 percent)… Kevin Klein is tied for eighth in the NHL in blocked shots (130)…