TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. LOS ANGELES
The Nashville Predators and Los Angeles Kings close out their four-game season series tonight at Bridgestone Arena, with the home team out to make it back-to-back victories, and therefore split the 2010-11 slate. The last time these teams met on Jan. 6 at the Staples Center, the Predators were in the midst of what would eventually be a six-game winning streak from Dec. 31-Jan. 11. Nashville’s 5-2 win over the Kings was not only win number four, but also part of the team’s second-ever sweep of the NHL’s three California teams. The Predators had defeated the Ducks the night before (4-1), and would knock off the San Jose Sharks 48 hours later (2-1). The win in Tinseltown was the Preds sixth in their last seven games there, and came despite allowing the game’s first two goals in the opening eight minutes of the second period. Nashville’s five unanswered goals would come between a Colin Wilson power-play marker at 8:57 of the second and a Patric Hornqvist goal at 15:33 of the third, marking the fourth straight contest the team would find the back of the net at least four times. The Kings have claimed each of the first two meetings this season, a 6-1 decision at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 18 that marked the first time Nashville failed to pick up a point in 10 straight games (8-0-2 in that span), and a 4-1 decision on Nov. 6 in L.A.
Nashville is 7-4-0 in home games vs. Los Angeles since the start of the 2005-06 campaign after posting a 1-8-(3)-0 record in games in the Music City during the franchise’s first six seasons. Still, Los Angeles is the only team the Predators have a winning record against on the road (13-8-(0)-3) but a losing record against at home (8-12-(3)-0).
Colin Wilson notched his first career three-point outing, while Sergei Kostitsyn registered a three-point performance (1g-2a) for the third time in his career in the Jan. 6 victory. The duo lead the team with four points (1g-3a each) in three games vs. L.A. this season, and Kostitsyn has six points (1g-5a) in five career games against the Kings… Ryan Suter notched a pair of assists in the last meeting, giving him three helpers in a pair of games against the Kings in 2010-11… With a pair of goals in two games in the series this season, Hornqvist has six points (3g-3a) in nine career outings vs. Los Angeles… Shea Weber has amassed 11 points (5g-6a) in 16 games against L.A… Martin Erat has 14 points (2g-12a) in his last 12 games vs. Los Angeles, including a career-high four assists in a 4-3 overtime win on March 28, 2009. Overall, the Trebic, Czech Republic native has 23 points (4g-19a) in 30 career games against the Kings. It is his highest assist total against a non-divisional team and tied for his second highest total against one team overall… J-P Dumont has 17 points (8g-9a) in 18 games against L.A. as a Predator, and 22 points (11g-11a) in 27 career games against the Kings … Shane O’Brien scored his first goal as a Predator in the team’s last trip to L.A., and his first NHL game came against the Kings on Oct. 6, 2006 (with Anaheim).
WEBER TIES TIMONEN ON FRANCHISE’S GOALS BY A DEFENSEMAN LIST
Predators captain Shea Weber scored the first of four Nashville goals in its victory over Colorado on Saturday night, moving him into a tie with Kimmo Timonen for first on the franchise’s goals by a defenseman list (79). Weber reached his total in his 389th game in a Predators sweater, while Timonen attained the feat in 573 games. Weber (79g-130a-209pts) ranks second to Timonen (79g-222a-301pts) on Nashville’s points by a blueliner list. The goal was the Sicamous, B.C., native’s 15th of the season, putting him just one behind Minnesota’s Brent Burns for second among NHL defensemen. Weber has the most goals (10) by a d-man since the calendar turned to 2011, and is just one behind Mike Green of the Washington Capitals (78) in tallies since the start of the 2006-07 campaign. Eleven of his goals have come in 31 home games vs. four in 38 road contests.
The 6-4, 230-pounder is tied for eighth among defensemen in points (43), one of just four blueliners to lead their teams in scoring (Phoenix’s Keith Yandle, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Atlanta’s Tobias Enstrom are the others). His 28 points (10g-18a) in 33 games since New Year’s Eve are second to only Yandle since that date. He’s also third among defensemen in shots (220), fourth in hits (188) and eighth in the League in average ice time (25:19).
LEGWAND-WARD-ERAT LINE REMAINS RED HOT
Both Martin Erat and Joel Ward recorded a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 4-2 victory over the Avalanche, as the duo, along with center David Legwand, continue to pace the Predators’ offensive attack. The trio have been in on 10 of Nashville’s last 13 goals (76.9 percent), and on 24 of the team’s 36 goals (66.7 percent) since the third period of a 3-0 victory over Detroit on Feb. 5. Erat has recorded four consecutive multi-point efforts, and has nine points (3g-6a) during a five-game point streak. Going back to the beginning of February, the 191st selection in the 1999 Draft has 21 points (7g-14a) in 19 contests, which is tied for eighth in the NHL since that date. Ward has scored goals in three straight games to tie a career high, including the game winner in the Predators’ last two victories to move him into a tie for first on the club in game-winning goals (4). The Scarborough, Ont., native has five points (3g-2a) during his three-game point/goal streak and seven points (3g-4a) in his last seven outings. Since Dec. 31 at Minnesota, Ward has posted 18 points (7g-11a) in 33 games after amassing just nine points (3g-6a) in the first 36 games of 2010-11. He has a +9 rating in home games vs. a -9 ratings in road contests in 2010-11… Though Legwand had a four-game point streak snapped on Saturday, he has nine points (2g-7a) in his last eight outings and 14 points (4g-10a) in 15 games since Feb. 9.
PK IS PERFECT AGAIN
The Nashville penalty kill stymied all five power-play opportunities by the Avalanche on Saturday, marking the 43rd time this season it has not allowed a goal, including the 22nd time in 31 home games. It was the fourth time the Preds have killed five chances against in a game, boosting their PK rate to 85.3 percent, fourth-best in the League. On home ice, they are even better, allowing just 12 goals on 109 opportunities (89 percent), second-best in the NHL. Nashville has been shorthanded an average of 3.45 times per game, third-lowest in the Western Conference. It is averaging 8.9 penalty minutes per contest, second in the West and third in the League.
SUTER A MINUTE MUNCHER
Defenseman Ryan Suter led the club in ice time for the eighth time in nine games since missing Nashville’s Feb. 22 game at Columbus, and for the 32nd time in the 55 complete games he’s played this season on Saturday vs. Colorado. It was also the 34th time he’s played more than 25 minutes, moving him into 10th in the League in average ice time (25:11). Suter has posted a +4 rating over the last two games, boosting his plus/minus to +19 since Dec. 31 – second only to Boston’s Adam McQuaid – and +25 on the season, fifth among blueliners and tied for sixth among all NHLers. The Predators have gone 31-16-8 in the 55 complete games Suter has played vs. 4-8-2 in the games he missed or left early.
WINNING WITH DEFENSE
Allowing just 12 goals in their last seven games has allowed Nashville to move into the top spot in the NHL in goals-against average at 2.28, in addition to strengthening its hold on first in home goals-against average (2.00, 62 non-shootout goals in 31 games). At the forefront of the team’s defensive success is Hart/Vezina Trophy candidate Pekka Rinne, who ranks second in the League in both goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.930). Rinne has appeared in 30 of Nashville’s 33 games since New Year’s Eve, holding the opposition to two goals or fewer in 21 of those games while amassing 17 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 in the last five games.