TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. EDMONTON
The Nashville Predators are looking to get back on the winning track against the Edmonton Oilers tonight at Bridgestone Arena after dropping the last two contests against them – the most recent matchup on March 1 in Edmonton and the last time the Oil visited the Music City on Feb. 7. Three weeks ago, Nashville was dealt its first loss in the NHL’s northernmost city since Dec. 28, 2008, and just its second loss in the city in the past five seasons, falling by a 2-1 score in a shootout with Blake Geoffrion scoring Nashville’s only goal, the first of his NHL career. Edmonton’s 4-0 victory in its last visit to Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7 was just its third regulation victory against Nashville since the start of the 2006-07 campaign – the Predators have gone 15-3-1 in that span – but all three have been by three or more goals. The Predators’ win in the series came on Jan. 23 by a 3-2 shootout decision. That night at Rexall Place, they led 1-0 after 40 minutes, then went ahead 2-1 on a power-play goal by Joel Ward at 14:05 of the third, only to see Taylor Hall force overtime with a marker of his own 2:08 later. The Preds would prevail in the competition thanks to a perfect performance by Pekka Rinne (stopped all three shooters he faced) and the lone marker of the tiebreaker by Cody Franson, who had assisted on both goals in regulation.
Despite scoring just four times in three games vs. Edmonton this season, the Predators are averaging 3.58 goals over the aforementioned 19-game span, hitting the five-goal mark five times and the four-goal mark on four other occasions. Though they are being outscored 7-3 through three of four games in the season series, the Predators are outshooting the Oilers 100-72, including a 39-18 margin in the first period. Nashville is 12-9-(3)-0 all-time at home against Edmonton, but 9-3-(1)-0 since 2003-04 after going 3-6-(2)-0 in the franchise’s first five seasons.
David Legwand’s 29 points (10g-19a) in 39 career games against Edmonton is his highest total against a non-divisional opponent… Since joining the Predators in 2006-07, J-P Dumont has 22 points (6g-16a) in 17 games against the Oilers. For his career, he’s posted 24 points (7g-17a) in 25 games… Ward has seven points (2g-5a) in 12 games against Edmonton since joining the Predators. He set a career high with seven shots on goal in the Jan. 23 match-up… Sergei Kostitsyn has three points (1g-2a) in four career games vs. the Oil…Patric Hornqvist has posted seven points (4g-3a) in eight career games vs. the Oilers… Shea Weber has seen his greatest offensive success against Edmonton, with 13 points (7g-6a) in 18 career games… Martin Erat notched his first career hat trick, a natural hat trick, at Rexall Place on March 4, 2008, the second road hat trick in franchise history… Rinne has won seven of his 10 career decisions against Edmonton (7-2-1).
BLAKE GEOFFRION NETS 20TH HAT TRICK IN FRANCHISE HISTORY
Rookie Blake Geoffrion became the youngest player in franchise history to record a hat trick – the 20th in Predators franchise history – when he scored the game’s opening goal on Sunday in Buffalo, then helped Nashville rally from a two-goal deficit to force overtime with goals at 17:33 and 18:37 of the third period – the second-fastest two goals by an individual in a road game in franchise history (1:04). Geoffrion is the third member of his family to record an NHL hat trick, and the fifth rookie to do so this season. The first Tennessee native to make it to the NHL notched his first three-goal game in his 11th career contest. His great grandfather, Howie Morenz, notched his first on Feb. 11, 1925 in his 24th career game and his grandfather, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion potted three goals for the first time in his 18th career game on Jan. 27, 1952.
Geoffrion has goals (4g) in back-to-back games for the first time in his career, and six goals in 11 games since his first career recall on Feb. 25. He’s one of several youngsters to contribute to the Predators’ success this season, as 98 of Nashville’s 184 non-shootout goals this season have been scored by players 25 or younger (53.3 percent). Of the Predators’ 11 goals in during their current three-game winning streak, eight have come from the 25-and-under contingent. At 26 years, 140 days, the Predators have the fifth-youngest active roster in the League.
ANOTHER OVERTIME WINNER CAPS COMEBACK
After no overtime wins in their first 70 games of season, the Predators won in overtime for the second time in three games on Sunday at Buffalo by scoring twice in the final 2:30 of regulation, then 27 seconds into the extra session to cap the team’s first sudden death victory on the road since April 3, 2010 at Detroit. It was the third time since the calendar turned to 2011 that Nashville has overcome a two-goal deficit to claim two points – it also did so Jan. 6 at Los Angeles in a 5-2 victory and Jan. 15 vs. Chicago in a 3-2 shootout decision. Having trailed 3-1 after 40 minutes, the Preds improved to 6-15-0 when trailing after two periods, the best record in the NHL in that situation.
Martin Erat scored the goal – just the fourth time in franchise history an overtime winner has been scored in first 30 seconds of the four-on-four session. It was Erat’s second career overtime tally, and was assisted on by the two leading overtime scorers in Predators history. After assisting on Shea Weber’s power-play goal at 3:37 of overtime on Thursday vs. Boston, David Legwand and Ryan Suter set up Erat’s goal. Legwand has a club-high 14 career overtime points (7g-7a) while Suter is second-best with eight points (2g-6a).
All three players in on the goal have been on hot streaks of late. Erat’s goal helped him tie Weber for the team points lead (44). He has points in seven of his last nine games, amassing four goals and seven helpers in that span. In 23 games since Feb. 1, the Trebic, Czech Republic native has 23 points (8g-15a), which puts him among the NHL’ Top 20 point getters since that date. For Legwand, it extended his current point streak to three games (2g-2a) and gives him 13 points (4g-9a) in his last 12 outings and 18 points (6g-12a) in 19 games since Feb. 9. Suter’s assist gives him a three-game assist streak (4a) and moves him into sole possession of the team lead in helpers with 31. The Madison, Wis., native has accumulated his total in 61 games, putting him 12th among blueliners in assists per game (.508). Suter is also +26 on the season, which is tied for fifth-best in the NHL, and would top David Legwand’s franchise record of +23 in 2006-07 if he maintains his current pace.
VEZINA CANDIDATE RINNE EXPECTED BACK AFTER A ONE-GAME REST
Goaltender Pekka Rinne was given Sunday off after starting 20 consecutive games from Feb. 9-March 19, just the fourth time in franchise history a netminder has started that many games in a row. He most recently stopped 39-of-41 shots in Saturday’s win over Detroit, and has started 33 games since New Year’s Eve, holding the opposition to two goals or fewer 22 times in that stretch. 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.