TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. SAN JOSE
The Nashville Predators close out their 2010-11 season series with the San Jose Sharks tonight at HP Pavilion in search of their best-ever season against the team from Silicon Valley. The Predators have gained five of a possible six points (2-0-1 record) through three games, and have never amassed more than six points in a campaign vs. San Jose, something they accomplished in back-to-back seasons (2-0-2 record in 2005-06; 3-1-0 record in 2006-07). The last time these teams met, San Jose eked out a 2-1 victory on a goal by Patrick Marleau at the 3:53 mark of overtime, the second-latest overtime goal by an opponent in Bridgestone Arena history. The Sharks outshot the Preds 50-31 in the contest, marking just the the sixth time in franchise history a Predators opponent has hit the net 50-or-more times, and the fourth time ever at Bridgestone Arena. Pekka Rinne stopped a career-high 48 of those shots, while Cody Franson scored Nashville’s only goal.
In Nashville’s first trip to Northern California on Jan. 8, it was the Predators who prevailed by a 2-1 margin, though their win came in regulation thanks to a goal by Sergei Kostitsyn at 6:23 of the third. It was Nashville’s first regulation-time victory in Silicon Valley since Dec. 7, 2002, and capped off the franchise’s second-ever sweep of California’s three teams on the same road trip. The first meeting of the season came in the Music City was on Dec. 15, and it was here that late-game dramatics commenced as Kostitsyn tied the game at 2-2 with 3:16 left in regulation and Colin Wilson scored the winner just 44 seconds later.
Going back to Feb. 9, 2008, 11 of 13 games played between these clubs have been decided by a single goal, and five of the 11 have been a 4-3 result. Nashville is 8-11-(1)-3 all-time at the Shark Tank, but is 2-2-1 in its last five trips there after going 1-5-2 at the venue from 2003-08.
Marcel Goc, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Steve Sullivan all have a pair of assists against the Sharks this season though Goc and Sullivan are out due to injury… Kostitsyn’s two goals against San Jose this season have come on just two shots… Franson’s goal gave him four points (1g-3a) in six career games vs. San Jose… J-P Dumont scored his first NHL goal against Steve Shields on March 6, 1999 as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. He led Nashville in points and goals during the 2007 playoff series between the clubs with six (4g-2a) in five games… Joel Ward notched a career-high three points (1g-2a) against San Jose in a 4-3 win on Nov. 17, 2009… Rinne is 3-1-2 with a .933 save percentage in seven career games against San Jose. This season, he’s 1-0-1 and stopped 90-of-93 shots against the Sharks, good for a .968 save percentage and a 1.45 goals-against average.
SUTER PICKS UP THE PACE
After scoring just once in his first 49 games of 2010-11, Ryan Suter has two goals, to go along with a pair of assists, in his last five games while continuing to play major minutes in all situations for the club. The Madison, Wis., native led the club in ice time for the fifth straight game – and for the 30th time this season – on Sunday, logging 25:46. Of the 52 complete games he’s played (not leaving early due to injury/illness) he has played more than 25 minutes on 32 occasions. Nashville has gone 29-16-7 in those 52 games vs. 4-8-2 in the games he missed or left early. Suter is also tied for 10th in the League in plus/minus rating (+23), leads the team in assists (27) and is tied for 13th among all defenders in assists per game (.5).
TWO LONGEST TENURED PREDS PICK UP THE OFFENSE
Both David Legwand (752gp, 163g-273a-436pts) and Martin Erat (602gp, 134g-254a-388pts) – ranked first and second, respectively, in games played, goals, points and assists – both notched multi-point performances on Sunday at Calgary, continuing the duo’s offensive surge. Erat scored the game’s first goal and assisted on Nashville’s second marker, giving him a team-best 19 points (6g-13a) in 22 games since Jan. 16 at Chicago in what was his second game back in the lineup after missing nine straight from Dec. 26-Jan. 13 due to injury. Legwand assisted on both Predator goals on Sunday and has 11 points (4g-7a) and a +8 rating in his last 12 games. Both played more than 20 minutes against Calgary, and rank second (Legwand, 18:01) and third (Erat, (17:45) among Nashville forwards in average ice time.
TALKING PENALTY SHOTS
Jarome Iginla scored his 28th career goal against the Predators, the most of any player in the club’s history. It came on the 27th penalty shot against in franchise history, and was the first converted penalty shot against the Predators since Dec. 10, 2007 (Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula on goaltender Dan Ellis). After going three years without a penalty shot for or against, Nashville has now seen two in an eight-game span. Shane Doan’s attempt on Feb. 19 (No goal) was the first Pekka Rinne had faced in his NHL career, and the first against Nashville since Phoenix’s Keith Yandle was stymied by Ellis on Feb. 10, 2008. Coincidentally, Nashville’s last penalty shot also came at Scotiabank Saddledome, on Nov. 6, 2008 (Vernon Fiddler, goal).
Nashville is 8-3-1 against teams that currently lead their division, which includes the Pacific Division-leading Sharks… The Predators are 30-4-1 when scoring at least three goals… The Predators have the third-best goals-against average (2.30) and have given up the fewest five-on-five goals in the Western Conference (106). Additionally, they are tied for seventh when playing at full and even strength (1.10 goals for/again ratio at five-on-five)… Goaltender Pekka Rinne is ranked second in the NHL in both goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.929) and is tied for sixth in shutouts. He’s played in all but three of Nashville’s last 34 games. Since New Year’s Eve, he’s tied for third in the League in wins (15) in addition to posting a 1.89 goals-against average and .938 save percentage… Shea Weber is tied for third among NHL blueliners in goals (13) and is tied for 11th at the position in points (39). He ranks third at the position in shots (209), is fourth among d-men in hits (181), and ninth in the NHL in average ice time (25:16). 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 30 games to go with a +15 rating… Patric Hornqvist is ranked 13th in the NHL in shots on goal (220), but has the lowest average ice time (16:02) among those in the Top 35 in the category… Kevin Klein is ranked 10th in the League in blocked shots (144), while Mike Fisher leads all forwards in the category (73)…Jerred Smithson ranks seventh in the League in face-off efficiency (57.1 percent) and is 11th among NHL forwards in average shorthanded time on ice (2:52). He leads all Nashville forwards in both hits (129) and blocked shots (52, Fisher’s total is cumulative. He has 14 blocks since joining the Predators).
WALKING WOUNDED BUT STILL CONTENDING
With five Predators currently on the injured reserve list, the team’s man-games lost reached 265 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.