TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. BUFFALO
The Nashville Predators visit HSBC Arena for just the seventh time ever, and first since Dec. 1, 2008. Tonight marks the team’s second-to-last game against an Eastern Conference foe. The Predators shutout the Buffalo Sabres in their last trip to Buffalo, 2-0 behind Pekka Rinne’s first career shutout (30 saves). That, along with a 1-0 Sabres win the last time these met on Oct. 10, 2009 at Bridgestone Arena, made up for the offensive explosion that was the lone match of the teams in 2007-08. On Feb. 27, 2008, the Sabres topped the Preds 8-4 in Western New York. The teams combined for seven goals in the second period of the game (BUF 4, NSH 3), tying a franchise record, with four of those goals coming in a span of 2:12 – Daniel Paille (BUF), Jan Hlavac (NSH), Jason Arnott (NSH) and Andrew Peters (BUF), 2/27/08 at 2:01, 2:46, 3:20 and 4:13 – the second-fastest four goals in a road game in club history. That loss is the only flaw on Nashville’s record in Buffalo as it is 4-1-(1)-0 on the road and 6-5-(2)-0 all-time against the Sabres.
Tonight also marks the clash of top two coaches in active tenure with a single team. Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, brought on prior to the 1997-98 season, ranks first among active coaches and second in NHL history in both games coached (1055) and wins (518) with one team, second only to Al Arbour (N.Y. Islanders, 1,500 and 740) in both categories. Nashville’s Barry Trotz, meanwhile, is fourth on the games coached list (974) having recently passed Detroit’s Jack Adams, and sixth on the wins list (448).
All-time series highlight: Vladimir Orszagh notched the fifth hat trick in franchise history as part of a four-point effort (3g-1a) on Nov. 29, 2003 at Bridgestone Arena.
J-P Dumont spent seasons 3-7 of his NHL career (2000-06) with the Sabres, amassing 223 points (102g-121a) in 362 games. He also posted 21 points (11g-10a) in 31 playoff games with Buffalo, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006. Since joining the Predators, he has three points (1g-2a) in three games against his former mates… Newest Predator Mike Fisher has a pair of assists in four games against Buffalo this season (with Ottawa), and 32 points (8g-24a) in 52 games against the Sabres for his career. That is his highest assist total and tied for his highest point total (with Toronto) against a single team.… David Legwand has seven points (4g-3a) in 10 career games vs. Buffalo.
SCORING FROM THE YOUNGSTERS
The two most recent additions to the Predators roster – 2006 second-round pick Blake Geoffrion and 2007 first-round pick Jonathon Blum – scored two of Nashville’s three goals in Saturday night’s victory over Detroit, meaning that 95 of Nashville’s 180 non-shootout goals this season have been scored by players 25 or younger (52.8 percent). Of the Predators’ seven goals in back-to-back victories on Thursday vs. Boston (4-3 OT) and Saturday vs. Detroit (3-1), five came from the 25-and-under contingent.
Blum and Geoffrion’s addition to the lineup in late February brought the number of Nashville draftees to appear for the club this season up to 19, a franchise record. It also lowered the Preds’ average age on the active roster to 26 years, 140 days, fifth-youngest in the League. For Geoffrion, the first Tennessee native to reach the NHL, Saturday was his first career goal on Bridgestone Arena ice. Blum’s marker was the first power-play and game-winning goal of his career, and extended his first-ever point streak to three games (2g-1a).
VEZINA CANDIDATE RINNE SHINES AGAIN
Goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped 39-of-41 shots in his 20th consecutive start in Saturday’s victory, marking the 22nd time in 33 starts since New Year’s Eve that the Kempele, Finland native has held the opposition to two goals or fewer. In that span, Rinne has posted 19 wins, tied for second in the NHL, to go along with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage. Overall, he boasts a 2.09 goals-against average, second only Boston’s Tim Thomas (2.08), and .930 save percentage, second to Thomas’ .937. Rinne’s first career shutout came against Buffalo on Dec. 1, 2008, and since that date, no goalie has more whitewashes than him (20). The 6-5, 209-pounder is tied for fourth in the NHL in shutouts this season.
The 20-game start streak is the second longest active streak in the League (behind San Jose’s Antti Niemi), and just the fourth time in Predators franchise history a netminder has started that many games in a row. Tomas Vokoun started a franchise-record 38 straight from Jan. 16-April 6, 2003 while both Chris Mason in 2006-07 (Nov. 25-Jan. 6) and Vokoun earlier in 2003-04 (Nov. 24-Jan. 6) had 21-game start streaks.
BLUELINERS COME THROUGH ON THE POWER-PLAY
For the second straight contest, Nashville received the game-winning goal from a defenseman while on the power play. The power play has gone two-for-six in the past two games after going scoreless in its previous three (0-for-10). Jonathon Blum’s man-advantage marker also gave Nashville defensemen goals in four consecutive contests (Shea Weber on March 12, Blum on March 15, Weber on March 17 and Blum on March 19), the second time this season the “D” corps has done so this season (Oct. 30-Nov. 7).
MATINEES AND BACK-TO-BACKS
This afternoon closes out the 12th of 13 back-to-backs Nashville plays in 2010-11. Its final pair will be on April 8 vs. Columbus (7 p.m.), its final home game, and the team’s last game of the regular season on April 9 at St. Louis (7 p.m.). The Predators are 8-4-0 in the first-half of back-to-backs and 5-5-1 on the back end so far this season.
After playing just one matinee game in the first 61 games of 2010-11, this is the Predators third of four matinees in the final 21 games of the season. After dropping its first two afternoon games on Nov. 26 at Minnesota (2-5) and Feb. 26 at Dallas (2-4), Nashville rebounded to win on Feb. 27 against Columbus (3-2). Nashville is 16-6-2 in afternoon contests since the start of the 2007-08 season.
NOTEABLE FROM LAST NIGHT David Legwand potted his third empty-net goal of the season, giving him 12 points (4g-8a) in his last 11 outings and 17 points (6g-11a) in 18 games since Feb. 9. Linemate Martin Erat did not reach the scoresheet, but has amassed 10 points (3g-6a) in his last eight games and 22 points (7g-15a) in 22 outings since Feb. 1… Ryan Suter posted his 30th assist of the season, moving him into a tie for the team lead. He was also a +1, moving his plus/minus rating to +26 on the season, tied for sixth-best in the NHL… Sergei Kostitsyn registered an assist, giving him three points (1g-2a) in his last two games… Matt Halischuk posted his third point (an assist) in the last five outings (1g-2a)… Jordin Tootoo played in his 400th career NHL game.