TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets face-off in the fifth 2010-11 edition of their Central Division rivalry today at Bridgestone Arena, just six days after the Blue Jackets knotted the season series and two games apiece with a 4-0 victory in Ohio’s capital (Feb. 22). The Predators are a perfect 15-0-0 against Columbus in the Music City since the start of the 2006-07 campaign, the longest active home winning streak in the NHL. Additionally, they have only one regulation home loss to the Blue Jackets since the start of the 2001-02 season, going 24-1-(1)-1 in that span. Overall, Nashville is 25-5-2 in the series since 2006-07, and 42-14-(4)-1 against the Jackets all time. With the exception of the most recent meeting, it has been a tightly contested series of late, with six of the last 10 meetings needing overtime/a shootout to determine a winner. Additionally since Dec. 27, 2007, the home team has won 17-of-21 games.
Nashville’s two victories in season slate have come sandwiched between a pair of Steve Mason shutouts last Tuesday and Nov. 22 at Nationwide Arena. On Dec. 1, Kevin Klein forced extra time with a goal at 11:38 of the third period, and Steve Sullivan scored 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 Jackets’ most recent visit to the Music City 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. Captain Shea Weber’s sixth career three-point effort (1g-2a) earned him First Star Honors in the rout, 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.
Martin Erat was not in the lineup for the Jan. 2 game, but has a pair of assists in three games against Columbus this season, and nine points (3g-6a) in seven 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 41 games since the start of the 2003-04 campaign… Weber and Wilson pace the team with three points (1g-2a each) in four games against the Jackets this season. Weber has 18 points (6g-12a) in 28 career games against Columbus, his highest total against any team… Sergei Kostitsyn missed Tuesday’s game, but has found the back of the net in the last two games he’s dressed against Columbus, giving him four points (3g-1a) in six career games against the Jackets… Newest Predator Mike Fisher has three goals at seven points against Columbus in his career.
MATINEES AND BACK-TO-BACKS
This afternoon closes out 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 7-4-0 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 this weekend (yesterday at Dallas and today vs. Columbus), and four in the final 21 games of the season. Nashville is 15-6-2 in afternoon contests since the start of the 2007-08 season.
BORN TO PLAY HOCKEY Blake Geoffrion made his NHL debut yesterday afternoon to become the fourth generation in his family to play in the NHL. His father, Danny, played 77 games with Quebec in the WHA and 111 NHL games with Montreal and Quebec. Blake’s grandfather, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame after scoring 822 points in 883 career NHL games. Blake’s great-grandfather, Howie Morenz, was one of the 12 original inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945 after recording 472 points in 550 games and finishing among the NHL’s top-10 scorers 10 times during his career. By all accounts the Geoffrions are the first four-generation family in NHL history.
HOMEGROWN TALENT THROUGHOUT THE LINEUP
Of the 20-man unit the Predators fielded for yesterday’s game at Dallas, 13 were drafted and developed by the team, including both goaltenders and five-of-six defensemen. The most recent of the franchise-record 19 Nashville draft picks to appear in the lineup include 2007 first-round pick Jonathon Blum, who made his NHL debut in the arena where he was drafted at Columbus on Tuesday, and 2006 second-round pick Blake Geoffrion, who made his NHL debut yesterday afternoon at Dallas, becoming the first Tennessee native to play in the NHL. Blum’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 19 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 Geoffrion (56th overall, 2006), 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).
Patric Hornqivst had two shots on goal Saturday to improve to 202 shots on the season, the fourth player in franchise history to record back-to-back 200+ shot seasons. Hornqvist is averaging 3.48 shots on goal per game played, a pace for 272 this season; the franchise record is 275 shots on goal set by Hornqvist last season … Shea Weber enters today’s game with 199 shots on goal this season, third among NHL defensemen this season. The Preds captain is just one shot shy of his third consecutive 200 shot season. Weber is averaging 3.21 shots on goal per game this season, a pace for 263 shots. The franchise record for most shots by a defenseman is Weber’s 251 recorded in 2008-09… Cliff Ronning is the only player in team history to register 200+ shots in three consecutive seasons. Ronning accomplished the feat from ’98-99 through ‘00-01.
PK REMAINS STRONG
The Predators penalty kill has thwarted 42-for-47 opportunities in their last 13 games (89.3 percent). Nashville has the League’s third-best penalty kill (85.8 percent). The team is even better at home, killing off 89-of-99 (89.9%) opponent power-plays at Bridgestone Arena, the best home PK percentage in the NHL. Nashville’s 10 opponent power-play goals at Bridgestone Arena are also the fewest by any NHL team on its home ice. The Predators are 23-11-6 when not allowing a man-advantage marker.
QUICK HITS Shea Weber dished out four hits on Saturday to improve his team-leading total to 170, fifth most among NHL defensemen this season … Kevin Klein blocked three shots on Saturday to move into the top-10 in the NHL with 133 blocks this season… The Predators are 31-23-8 through 62 games, good for 70 points. That is just three points fewer than they had at the same point last season (34-23-5 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 in both wins and winning percentage when trailing after one period (7-11-1). Nashville also ranks in the Top Five in winning percentage when trailing after two periods (4-14-0)… Shea Weber 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 12th among blueliners, and make him one of just four to lead their team in scoring. He also ranks third at the position in shots (199) and ninth in average ice time (25:13)… Martin Erat leads the team with 12 points (4g-8a) during the month of February… Over the last eight games, David Legwand has seven points and a +5 plus/minus rating… Sergei Kostitsyn leads the League in shooting percentage (24.2 percent) … Jerred Smithson leads team in faceoff efficiency, clicking at 56.7 percent, tied for eight-best in the NHL