TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLORADO
Nashville will be out for its fourth straight win over the Colorado Avalanche – and fourth consecutive victory on home ice in the series – when Denver’s team visits the Music City for the second and final time in 2010-11 tonight. After sweeping the Avs on home ice a season ago, the Predators made it three straight home wins over the Avs the last time these teams met on Feb. 12, prevailing by a 5-3 score in Mike Fisher’s team debut. After relinquishing the first goal of the game, Martin Erat led the offensive charge, posing three points (1g-2a), while both Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand notched a goal and an assist. The Preds posted a 21 shot advantage in the win – tying a season high – while Kevin Porter of Colorado (11:05) and Shea Weber (11:16) scored 11 seconds apart in the first period, the fastest two goals by both teams in Bridgestone Arena history. Their first meeting of the season came Jan. 20 and also saw Nashville tie a season high for goals in a game, scoring a pair in the first period, and three more in the third en route to a 5-1 victory. Twelve different Predators reached the scoresheet in the victory, and Pekka Rinne stopped 32-of-33 shots in the win. The Predators are 11-9-(3)-0 all-time when hosting the Avs, including an 8-3-0 record since the 2005-06 season.
Erat (2g-2a), Legwand (2g-2a) and Hornqvist (1g-3a) all have four points in a pair of games vs. Colorado this season, while Legwand and Hornqvist both have +5 ratings in the two games. Hornqvist tied a franchise record with three points (2g-1a) in the second period of Nashville’s Feb. 4, 2010 victory at Bridgestone Arena (5-3), and has 11 points (5g-6a) in seven career games against Colorado… Cody Franson scored the game-winning goal the last time these teams met, and posted a goal and an assist in the opening game of the season series, giving him four points (3g-1a) in four career games vs. the Avs… Weber has seven points (2g-5a) in his last six games against Colorado… J-P Dumont has 23 points (7g-16a) in 27 career games vs. the Avalanche… Jerred Smithson played his first NHL game against Colorado on Dec. 29, 2002 (with Los Angeles).
HART/VEZINA CANDIDATE PEKKA RINNE RECORDS SIXTH SHUTOUT OF THE SEASON
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped 19-of-19 shots in Thursday’s 4-0 win over Minnesota to record his sixth shutout of the season, and 20th of his career. The Kempele, Finland native is now just one shutout shy of Tomas Vokoun’s franchise record in the category (21), despite playing in 219 fewer games than Vokoun (164 to 383). All 20 of Rinne’s whitewashes have come since Dec. 1, 2008, putting him first in the League over that span, three up on Vokoun and Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov (17 each). The 6-5, 209-pounder also moved into a tie for fourth in the NHL in shutouts this season, in addition to lowering his goals-against average to 2.08 and upping his save percentage to .930, both of which rank second among NHL netminders. Rinne has appeared in 29 of Nashville’s 32 games since New Year’s Eve, holding the opposition to two goals or fewer in 20 of those games while amassing 16 victories, tied for third in the League in that span. He’s also posted a 1.86 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and three shutouts since that date, with two of the whitwashes coming since last Thursday (March 3).
The shutout also allowed the Predators to move into a tie with Vancouver for the NHL lead in team goals-against average (2.28), in addition to stretching their stranglehold on first place in home goals-against average (2.00, 60 non-shootout goals in 30 games). Nashville also went a perfect two-for-two on the penalty kill last time out, ranking second in home PK at 88.6 percent and fifth overall at 85 percent.
NOS. 10 AND 11 MAKE IT FOUR STRAIGHT David Legwand and Martin Erat – the two longest tenured Predators, and top-two players in nearly every one of the franchise’s all-time offensive statistical categories – continued their recent hot stretches in Thursday’s victory as each posted a pair of points. Erat scored Nashville’s third goal of the game, and assisted on the game winner, to give him three consecutive multi-point efforts for the first time in his career. Overall, the Trebic, Czech Republic native is riding a four-game point/assist streak, pitching in on seven (2g-5a) of the Predators’ 11 goals in that span. The four-game assist streak is just one off his career high set from Nov. 2-10, 2002 (5a), while the four-game point streak is two shy of his personal best hit twice, most recently Jan. 18-Feb. 1, 2007 (6 games, 4g-5a). The 191st selection in the 1999 Draft now has 19 points (6g-13a) in 18 games since Feb. 1 and 23 points (7g-16a) in 24 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 also has points (1g-5a) in four consecutive games, nine points (2g-7a) in his last seven outings and 14 points (4g-10a) in 14 games since Feb. 9. Legwand is a +9 since Feb. 9, while Erat is a +5 since his hot stretch started on Feb. 1, putting them tied for second on the club in the category (+13)
DEFENSIVE DUO DOING WHAT THEY DO BEST
Nashville’s 2010 Olympic medalists, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are also playing solid hockey of late, contributing in different ways. Weber picked up an assist to go with a +3 rating and five shots on goal in Thursday’s victory, giving him 27 points (8g-18a) and a +17 rating in 32 games since Dec. 31. His goal total since that date leads all defensemen while his point total is second only to defensive points leader Keith Yandle and his plus/minus rating is third to Suter and Boston’s Adam McQuaid. The Sicamous, B.C., native is tied for third among NHL blueliners in goals (14), and is just one shy of tying Kimmo Timonen (79) for first on the franchise’s goals by a defenseman list. Weber has 10 of his goals in 29 home games vs. four in 38 road contests and since the start of the 2006-07 campaign, ranks second among NHL defensemen in goals (76), just two shy of leader Mike Green of the Washington Capitals (78). He’s also tied for eighth among defensemen in points (42), third in shots (217), fourth in hits (185) and ninth in the League in average ice time (25:17).
While Suter doesn’t put up the points that Weber does, he proves equally valuable by playing in all situations and deftly distributing the puck. The Madison, Wis., native has led the team in ice time in 31 of the 54 complete games he’s played this season, logging more than 25 minutes on 33 occasions. He’s on pace to average a minute more per game than his previous career high (24:15 in 2008-09), and the Predators have gone 30-16-8 in the 54 complete games Suter has played vs. 4-8-2 in the games he missed or left early. Additionally, Suter put up a +3 rating in Thursday’s win, moving him into a tie for fifth among NHL blueliners in the category. His 27 assists rank second on the team and among the Top 20 d-men in the NHL.