TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. ANAHEIM
The Nashville Predators close out their season series against the Anaheim Ducks tonight at Bridgestone Arena in hopes of taking three-of-four games for the first time since 2003-04. The Predators two wins – both by 4-1 scores – came with a 5-4 Ducks win sandwiched in between. The last time these clubs met on Jan. 5 in Southern California, Nashville started what would be its second-ever sweep of the state of California (it would beat Los Angeles one night later and San Jose on Jan. 8) with a 4-1 victory behind one-goal, one-assist efforts by both Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn and a 27-save effort from Pekka Rinne. The game was much closer than the score indicated, however, as two of Nashville’s four goals were empty netters. In its other win on Opening Night (Oct. 9), Nashville put three pucks past Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller in the second period, and one more in the third to cruise to victory. Steve Sullivan notched the game-winning goal in addition to an assist, while captain Shea Weber set up a pair of goals while putting eight of Nashville’s season-high 49 shots on goal. Rinne stopped 29-of-30 shots before giving way to rookie Anders Lindback, who turned aside all seven shots he faced in his first NHL action. The Nov. 7 contest was a wild affair, with the game-winning goal being scored by Paul Mara with just 1.7 seconds left in regulation. A season-high six combined goals were scored in the third period of that contest, with Cody Franson, Cal O’Reilly and Hornqvist all notching a goal and an assist.
The Predators are 6-3-2 against Anaheim over the last three seasons, splitting four regulation games in 2009-10 while going 2-0-2 two seasons ago. Nashville has only twice done what it is trying to attain today by sweeping the home portion of this series – in 2003-04 and in its inaugural season of 1998-99. The Preds have outscored the Ducks 12-7 through three games despite being outshot 115-97.
Hornqvist has a series-leading five points (3g-2a) through three games and seven points (4g-3a) in 10 career games vs. the Ducks… Weber has 11 points (4g-7a) in his last 12 games against Anaheim dating back to Nov. 14, 2008… Weber and Hornqvist have both had 10 shots on goal in a game against Anaheim – Weber on Jan. 2, 2010 and Hornqvist on Nov. 5, 2010… For his career, Rinne is 5-2-2 with a 1.93 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage vs. Anaheim… Defenseman Shane O’Brien was drafted in the eighth round, 250th overall, by the Ducks in 2003. He spent three seasons with Anaheim’s AHL affiliates in Cincinnati and Portland before making his NHL debut with the club on Oct. 6, 2006 at Los Angeles. He posted 14 points (2g-12a) and 140 penalty minutes in 62 games with the club before being traded to Tampa Bay on Feb. 24, 2007.
A TRIO OF FOUR-GAME POINT STREAKS David Legwand (1g-1a), Ryan Suter (2a) and Sergei Kostitsyn (1a) all notched points for the fourth consecutive game in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Edmonton, pushing the trio into the top six in team scoring. For Legwand, the two-point night was his fifth in the last 13 games. He’s hit the scoresheet five other times in that span, giving him 15 points (5g-10a), with six of those (3g-3a) coming during the four-game point streak. Since Feb. 9, the first draft pick in franchise history has 20 points (6g-12a) in 20 games. With 38 points (14g-24a) in 56 games this season, Legwand has matched his 82-game output from 2009-10. Kostitsyn’s four game streak (1g-4a) pushed him to the 40-point mark in his first campaign as a Predator, making him the third member of the club to hit the mark. Not only has he reached career highs in nearly every offensive category in 2010-11, but in 69 games, is just one point shy of his point output from the last two seasons combined (15g-26a). Suter has amassed six points during Nashville’s four-game winning streak, padding his team lead in the category (33) and moving him into the Top 15 among NHL blueliners in the category despite missing 12 games due to injury. He has matched last season’s 82-game assist total and is just five shy of a career high set in 2008-09. A +1 rating against the Oilers pushed his plus/minus to +27, tied for third in the League. Since New Year’s Eve, the Madison, Wis., native has a +21 rating, tied for tops in the NHL. Nashville is 35-17-8 in the 60 complete games Suter has played vs. 4-8-2 in the games he missed or left early.
ERAT, WEBER REMAIN TIED FOR TEAM POINTS LEAD Martin Erat continued his recent tear with Nashville’s first goal of the game on Tuesday, while captain Shea Weber pitched in an assist on the Predators’ third goal, keeping the duo tied for the team points lead at 45. Erat has points in eight of his last 10 games, amassing five goals and seven helpers in that span. In 24 games since Feb. 1, the Trebic, Czech Republic native has 24 points (9g-15a), which puts him among the NHL’s Top 15 point getters since that date. Nashville’s 12th choice, 191st overall (seventh round) in the 1999 Entry Draft is now just three points shy of becoming the second 400-point man in franchise history (138g-259a). Weber’s 45 points are the second-most in his career, and put him ninth among NHL defensemen. Sixteen of the Sicamous, B.C., native’s points are goals, tying him for second among blueliners in 2010-11, and tied for first with Washington’s Mike Green in goals since the start of the 2006-07 campaign (78). He also ranks third at the position in shots (234), fourth in hits (199) and eighth in the League in average ice time (25:19).
VEZINA CANDIDATE RINNE HOLDS THE OPPOSITION UNDER THREE AGAIN Pekka Rinne made his 34th start in the last 38 games on Tuesday, stopping 19-of-20 shots and therefore holding the opposition to two goals or fewer for the 23rd time in that span. While he has posted a 2.07 goals-against average this season, second only to Boston’s Tim Thomas (2.06) and a .930 save percentage, second to Thomas’ .937, his numbers are even better since the start of the 34-start stretch on New Year’s Eve. He has 20 wins in that span – tied for second in the NHL – with a 1.88 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.
TWENTY HOME WINS, SIX STRAIGHT SEASONS
The Predators won their 20th game at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday vs. Edmonton, making them the seventh team to reach the mark in each season since 2005-06. In that span, the Predators have amassed 151 home victories, which puts them in a three-way tie with Vancouver and San Jose for second in the category, behind only Detroit (156). Nashville also ranks fifth in overall wins since 2005-06 (267), and is just one victory shy of hitting the 40-win mark for the sixth straight time. Only two teams have hit the mark thus far – Detroit and San Jose.
TROTZ CREEPING UP WINS LIST
Head Coach Barry Trotz won his 450th career game – all with Nashville – on Tuesday, leaving him just one shy of Brian Sutter for moving into the Top 20 in all-time coaching victories. Trotz has been behind the bench for all 976 games in franchise history, fourth in games with a single team. His win total makes him just the sixth coach to reach 450 with one franchise.
SCORING FROM THE YOUNGSTERS Patric Hornqvist scored his team-leading 19th goal of the season, and fifth game-winning goal of the campaign, continuing a trend of goals from the team’s youth. Ninety-nine of Nashville’s 187 non-shootout goals this season have been scored by players 25 or younger (52.9 percent). Of the Predators’ 14 goals in during their current four-game winning streak, nine have come from the 25-and-under contingent. At 26 years, 140 days, the Predators have the fifth-youngest active roster in the League. Hornqvist’s GWG gives him 13 since the start of the 2009-10 campaign, tied for fourth in the NHL in that span behind only Daniel Sedin (17), Alexander Ovechkin (17), Dany Heatley (14) and Patrick Marleau (14).