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TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CALGARY
The 2010-11 Predators play their eighth and final game on Canadian soil tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome and are in search of their first victory in the series since Jan. 15, 2010. Nashville has posted a 0-1-2 record against Calgary this season, most recently dropping a 3-2 shootout decision in both teams’ return from the All-Star break on Feb. 1. Martin Erat scored the game’s first goal at 7:43 of the opening frame, and Patric Hornqvist put the Preds ahead 2-1 at the 5:24 mark of the third, but Calgary would tied it 3:40 later and win it in the shootout. In the Predators last trip to Western Canada just before the All-Star break (Jan. 24), the home team prevailed 3-1 behind a pair of man-advantage markers with David Legwand scoring Nashville’s lone goal. The first Preds-Flames meeting of 2010-11 back on Oct. 16 in Nashville was highlighted by strong goaltending as both Pekka Rinne and Miikka Kiprusoff were perfect through regulation time. Rene Bourque scored the game’s only goal 2:10 into overtime as the Predators extended their season-opening point streak to five games (3-0-2).
A season ago, the Predators swept their two games in Cowtown, and are 6-4-1 in Calgary since the start of the 2005-06 campaign.
Hornqvist has five points (3g-2a) in eight career games against Calgary, while Kostitsyn’s two assists make him the lone Predator with multiple points vs. the Flames this season… Since joining the Predators prior to the 2006-07 campaign, J-P Dumont has 14 points (5g-9a) in 17 games against the Flames… Martin Erat has 22 points (6g-16a) in 29 career games vs. Calgary, one point shy of his highest career point total against a non-Central Division team (L.A., 23)… Calgary is one of just three teams Rinne has yet to defeat in his career. He is 0-3-2 in five appearances against the Flames, 0-0-1 in one game against the New York Rangers and has yet to make an appearance against Washington. This season, he is 0-1-2 despite posting a 1.94 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage against the Flames.
HART/VEZINA CANDIDATE PEKKA RINNE RECORDS FIFTH SHUTOUT OF THE SEASON
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne turned aside all 29 shots he faced in Thursday’s 3-0 victory over the NHL-leading Vancouver Canucks, his fifth shutout of the season and the Canucks’ first time being shut out on home ice since Nov. 22, 2009. The whitewash not only pulled him to within two of tying Tomas Vokoun (21) for first on the franchise’s all-time shutouts list and moved him into the Top 10 in the NHL in the category this season, but also strengthened his hold on the second spot in both goals-against average (2.08) and save percentage (.929). The team’s first road shutout since Nov. 18 at Montreal (3-0) was also the 19th time in Rinne’s last 26 starts that he has held the opposition to two goals or fewer. In that stretch – which started with a New Year’s Eve victory at Minnesota – the Kempele, Finland native is tied for the second-most wins in the League (15) while posting a 1.85 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.
The blanking also allowed the Predators to move into a tie with the Canucks for second in the NHL in team goals-against average (2.29).
SCORING FROM THE YOUNGSTERS
With the additions of Jonathon Blum and Blake Geoffrion to the Predators roster in the last week, and the recent departures of Steve Sullivan (36), Francis Bouillon (35) and Marcel Goc (27) from the active roster due to injury, the Predators now have the fifth-youngest active roster in the NHL at 26 years, 140 days. The youngsters aren’t just taking up roster positions either, as 52.8 percent of Nashville's goals scored this season (84-of-159) have been scored by players who are currently 25 years old or younger.
The young talent also shows the growth of the sport, as the United States (3), Ontario (3) British Columbia (2), Sweden and Belarus are all represented among the under-25 group. Geoffrion became the first Tennessee native to reach the NHL on Feb. 26 at Dallas, while Blum – who made his debut on Feb. 22 at February – was the first Californian to be selected in the first round of the Entry Draft.
Geoffrion – who created the first goal-scoring streak of his career with his first-ever game winner at Vancouver on Thursday – is also the franchise-record 19th Predators draft pick to suit up for the club this season, breaking the previous club record of 17 set a season ago. Of the 20-man unit used in Thursday’s game, 14 of them were drafted and developed by Nashville, including five-of-six defensemen and both goaltenders. 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.
WALKING WOUNDED BUT STILL CONTENDING
With five Predators currently on the injured reserve list, the team’s man-games lost reached 260 last game, already the fourth-highest total in franchise history behind 1998-99 (391), 1999-2000 (319) and 2005-06 (272). Nineteen different players have missed time this season, though the Preds have an identical point total to last season through 65 games when they put up 100 points and made the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. In 2009-10, Nashville lost a franchise-low 152 man-games due to injury.