TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. EDMONTON
The Nashville Predators begin their second tour of Western Canada tonight at Rexall Place in search of their fifth consecutive win at the venue dating back to Feb. 1, 2009. While it has posted a 15-3-0 record in 18 games against Edmonton since the start of the 2006-07 campaign, Nashville will also be looking to avenge a 4-0 loss the last time these teams met on Feb. 7 at Bridgestone Arena. The last time the Predators visited the NHL’s northern-most city was in game number four of a season-long six-game road trip for the Predators from Jan. 16-26. Nashville led 1-0 after 40 minutes, then went ahead 2-1 on a power-play goal by Joel Ward at 14:05 of the third, only to see Taylor Hall force overtime with a marker of his own 2:08 later. The Preds would prevail in the shootout, 3-2, thanks to a perfect performance by Pekka Rinne (stopped all three shooters he faced) and the lone marker of the tiebreaker by Cody Franson.
Edmonton’s 4-0 victory a month ago was just its third over the Preds in the last five years, but all three have been by three-or-more goals. The Predators have still outscored the Oil 67-49 over that span, hitting the five-goal mark five times and the four-goal mark on four other occasions. In addition to a four-game winning streak in Edmonton, the Preds have won eight of the last nine and are 14-7-(1)-1 in the city all-time. These teams wrap-up their four-game season series on March 22, with Nashville in the midst of a stretch that sees it play 12-of-14 games on home ice between March 10 and April 8.
Ward not only scored last time these teams met in Alberta, but put a career-high seven shots on net and earned First Star honors. He has seven points (2g-5a) in 10 games against Edmonton since joining the Predators… Since joining the Predators in 2006-07, J-P Dumont has 22 points (6g-16a) in 17 games against the Oilers. For his career, he’s posted 24 points (7g-17a) in 25 games… Sergei Kostitsyn pick up an assist last time through Edmonton, giving him three points (1g-2a) in three career games vs. the Oil…Patric Hornqvist was held off the scoresheet in game one between these clubs, but posted six (3g-3a) in four games against Edmonton last season, and has seven points (4g-3a) in seven career games vs. the Oilers… Shea Weber has seen his greatest offensive success against Edmonton, with 13 points (7g-6a) in 17 career games… Martin Erat notched his first career hat trick, a natural hat trick, at Rexall Place on March 4, 2008, the second road hat trick in franchise history… Rinne has won seven of his nine career decisions against Edmonton (7-2-0).
STRONG MONTH FOR THE POWER PLAY
With Sunday’s one-for-two performance on the power play, the Predators finished the month of February with at least one man-advantage marker in eight-of-12 games, finishing 8-for-36 (22.2 percent) in that stretch. Heading into the month, the power play had converted 24-of-174 opportunities (13.8 percent) in 50 games. Six different players accounted for the eight man-advantage goals during the month, with only Shea Weber and Sergei Kostitsyn putting up multiple power-play tallies. Weber led the team with five points (2g-3a) on the eight February goals, and is tied with Ryan Suter (13a) for the team lead in power-play points.
The Predators outshot the Blue Jackets 28-27 on Sunday, marking the third consecutive game they have outshot their opponent after being outshot in 14 of the previous 18 contests. It was also the fourth time in the last five outings Nashville has held its foes under 28 shots (average of 26.6) after giving up more than 27 in 14 of the previous 20 games (average of 32.15). The Preds improved to 16-9-3 when ending the game with a shots edge – fourth-best in the League.
LEGWAND PERFORMS IN CLUTCH David Legwand scored the game-winning goal with just 1:35 left in regulation in Sunday’s 3-2 win, giving him eight points (3g-5a) and a +6 rating in his last nine games. Two of those three goals have been game winners, giving the Detroit native a franchise-record 34 game-winning for his career. It was the second-latest game-winning goal for the Predators this season, and the fourth time in 2010-11 the team has scored the game winner in the final 2:32 of regulation. Joel Ward scored at 19:33 of the third in a 3-2 win at Chicago on Oct. 13, Colin Wilson scored at 17:28 of the final period in a 3-2 win over San Jose on Dec. 15 and Cody Franson scored at 17:30 of the third in a 5-3 victory over Colorado on Feb. 12.
WEBER GETS BACK ON THE SCORESHEET
Predators captain Shea Weber had a busy day in Sunday’s win over Columbus, scoring a power-play goal, setting up the game winner and getting assessed eight penalty minutes, his highest total since Nov. 29, 2008 vs. Minnesota (9). The Sicamous, B.C., native also tied for game highs in hits (4) and blocked shots (3) in 24:39 of ice time. Weber is now in sole possession of third among NHL blueliners in goals (13) and tied for ninth at the position in points (39). He also ranks third among d-men in shots (202), tied for third in hits (174) and ninth in the NHL in average ice time (25:12). Since Dec. 31, Weber leads NHL blueliners in goals (8) and is second only to defensive points leader Keith Yandle in points, putting up 24 (8g-16a) in 27 games to go with a +12 rating.
TROTZ ADDS ANOTHER NOTCH TO HIS BELT
Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz spent his 965th game behind the team’s bench in Sunday’s win, moving him past Hall-of-Famer Jack Adams (964 with Detroit) and into fourth place on the games coached with a single team list. Al Arbour (1,500 with N.Y. Islanders), Lindy Ruff (1,046 with Buffalo) and Billy Reay (1,012 with Chicago) hold down the Top Three spots. The only coach in Predators franchise history has amassed 443 wins in those contests, sixth-best with a single club behind Arbour (740), Reay (516), Ruff (512), Toe Blake (500 with Montreal) and Glen Sather (464 with Edmonton). Additionally, Trotz is one of just seven coaches in all four major North American sports leagues to have coached or managed each of a team’s first 11 seasons of existence (NHL: Lester Patrick 13 with N.Y. Rangers; MLB: Connie Mack 50 with Oakland; NFL: Curly Lambeau 29 with Green Bay, Tom Landry 29 with Dallas, Hank Stram 15 with Kansas City, Paul Brown 15 with Cleveland)
HOMEGROWN TALENT THROUGHOUT THE LINEUP
Of the 20-man unit the Predators fielded for their two matinee games last weekend, 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 on Saturday at Dallas, becoming the first Tennessee native to play in the NHL. Blum and Geoffrion’s presence in the lineup means that each of team’s first selections in every draft from its first in 1998 (David Legwand), to 2008 (Colin Wilson) has made it to the National Hockey League.