TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DETROIT
The Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings clash for the fifth of six times this season tonight at Bridgestone Arena with the Preds having won each of the last three meetings. Only once in franchise history have they beaten the Wings four consecutive times – Feb. 28-Nov. 23, 2009. The three-game winning streak includes back-to-back wins at Joe Louis Arena – just the third time that has occurred – and a victory in Detroit’s first trip to the Music City on Feb. 5 by a 3-0 score behind a 35-save shutout by Pekka Rinne – his 18th career whitewash – Sergei Kostitsyn’s first multi-goal game as a Predator (2g) and Shea Weber’s 10th goal of the season. Nashville has picked up a point in six consecutive home games against Detroit, going 4-0-2 since the start of the 2008-09 campaign, outscoring the Wings 19-7 in those six games. Additionally, the Nashville penalty kill has been perfect in each of its last three games against Detroit, and has killed 16-of-17 Red Wing power plays off this season.
The last time these teams met was on Feb. 9 just five days after the Wings made their first trip to Tennessee. The Predators claimed a 4-1 decision that night at Joe Louis Arena, the second time in 38 all-time trips there that Nashville won by more than a single goal. The only other victory (of 11 total) by more than one goal came on March 15, 2008 in a 3-1 win that included an empty netter. Several players hit milestones in the win with Weber notching his 200th career point with an assist and Kostitsyn breaking through the 100-point barrier with a goal and an assist. Rinne improved to 7-2-2 with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage with a 34-save effort the moved him into second on the franchise’s all-time wins list. In the first meeting of the season on Dec. 8 in Motown, the Predators started a five-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on goals in the final minute of the first period (Colin Wilson at 19:27) and first minute of the middle frame (Martin Erat at 0:49), for the first time in franchise history – and the first time in the NHL this season – that a team scored a goal in the final minute of one period and scored again in the first minute of the next period.
Kostitsyn’s back-to-back two-point efforts gives him a team-best five points (3g-2a) in four games vs. Detroit this season… Newest Predator Mike Fisher has six points (2g-4a) in nine career games against Detroit… Marcel Goc and Kevin Klein are a team-high +5 against Detroit this season… J-P Dumont has more career points (10g-21a-31pts, 42gp) and more points as a Predator (7g-17a-24pts, 31gp) against the Red Wings than any other team.
WEBER BREAKS FRANCHISE RECORD WITH OVERTIME WINNER
Nashville Captain Shea Weber converted his eighth shot of the night to give his team its first overtime victory of the season in seven tries this season on Thursday vs. Boston, and moved his way up – or to the top – of a couple franchise leaderboards in the process. The goal was Weber’s 80th since breaking into the League in 2005-06, moving him past Kimmo Timonen and into first on the Predators defensive goals list. It was also his fourth sudden-death tally, vaulting him into second behind David Legwand (7) and into second in overtime points (4g-3a) behind only Legwand’s 13 (7g-6a). With three goals and five points in his last five games - and an NHL defenseman-best 11 tallies since the calendar flipped to 2011 – Weber is tied with Minnesota’s Brent Burns for second in blueliner goals, just three behind Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien. Thursday’s tally also moved the Sicamous, B.C., native into a tie with Washington’s Mike Green in goals since the start of the 2006-07 campaign (78). Twelve of his goals have come in 33 home games vs. four in 38 road contests.
Goals aren’t all Weber does however. The 6-4, 230-pounder is one of just two defensemen to lead his team in points (Phoenix’s Keith Yandle is the other). With 44 points, Weber is tied for eighth among blueliners in that category, with his 28 helpers ranking third on the team. He tied a personal season high with eight shots on net on Thursday vs. Boston to move past Zdeno Chara and into second in shots by a blueliner (230), and is also fourth at the position in hits (193) and seventh in the League in average ice time (25:21). The last time the Predators and Red Wings met on Feb. 9, Weber notched his 200th career point with an assist.
SUTER MOVES UP PLUS/MINUS LEADERBOARD, POSTS A PAIR OF HELPERS
Defenseman Ryan Suter collected his second assist of the night, and seventh overtime point (2g-5a) on Weber’s overtime goal on Thursday, tying him with Weber and Kimmo Timonen (1g-6a) for second on the team’s all-time overtime points list. With a helper Sergei Kostitsyn’s goal in the first period as well, Suter posted his fourth multi-assist performance of the season, moving into second on the team and into Top 20 among blueliners in the category (29). He also finished a +1 to remain in the League’s Top 10 in the category (+25). Since Dec. 31, he ranks third among all skaters in plus/minus rating (+19) behind Boston’s Adam McQuaid (+21) and Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis (+20). The Madison, Wis., native also played more than 25 minutes for the 36th time in 57 complete games, and has led the team in the category in 8-of-11 games since returning from a one-game absence on Feb. 22. Suter is 10th in the League in average ice time (25:13) and has seen the Predators go 32-17-8 in the 57 complete games he has played vs. 4-8-2 in the games he missed or left early.
LEGWAND AND ERAT PACE NASHVILLE FORWARDS
The two longest tenured Predators – David Legwand and Martin Erat – both continued their offensive success on Thursday, while also aiding in kick-starting Sergei Kostitsyn as well. Joel Ward rounded out Nashville’s current top line for the first part of the month, notching seven points (3g-4a) in seven games before missing the last two, but Nos. 10 and 11 haven’t missed a beat playing with Kostitsyn. Legwand posted a goal and an assist to give him 11 points (3g-8a) in his last 10 outings and 16 points (5g-11a) in 17 games since Feb. 9, while Erat has amassed 11 (3g-8a) in his last nine games and 22 points (7g-15a) in 21 outings since Feb. 1. In his second game with the duo, Kostitsyn snapped an 11-game scoring drought and posted his first multi-point outing since the last time Nashville and Detroit met on Feb. 9. Those two points in Nashville’s win at Joe Louis Arena were the 99th and 100th of his career.
Tonight starts the first of Nashville’s 12th set of back-to-backs this season. Its final set is April 8 vs. Columbus and April 9 at St. Louis, the final two games of the regular season. The Preds are 7-4-1 on the front end and 5-5-1 on the back end of two-games-in-two-nights scenarios this season… Nashville ranks first in home goals-against average at 2.09, and second overall at 2.31… The Predators were assessed more than 15 penalty minutes for the 10th time this season on Thursday, and are tied with Detroit for the fewest average PIMs per game (8.9). Nashville has been shorthanded an average of 3.41 times per game, third-lowest in the Western Conference… With five Predators currently on the injured reserve list, the team’s man-games lost reached 292 last game, third-highest in franchise history behind 1998-99 (391) and 1999-2000 (319)… Jordin Tootoo is slated to play in his 400th career NHL game tonight.