TODAY’S STORYLINES VS. DETROIT
Having already claimed the 2010-11 season series (four games to one), the Nashville Predators are looking to win five games in a season against the Detroit Red Wings for the first time in franchise history tonight, the last of six meetings between the Central Division rivals. Since dropping the first meeting of the teams on Oct. 30 in Detroit (5-2), the Preds have reeled off four straight victories – just the second time they’ve ever done it – with two coming at Bridgestone Arena and two at Joe Louis Arena. Nashville has never won five straight against the Wings, and only once (April 18, 2006-Feb. 24, 2007) has it claimed three straight on home ice. The last time the clubs met on March 19 in the Music City, the Predators gave up the first goal of the game with just 22 seconds left in the first period, but rallied to tie it on Blake Geoffrion’s first career home goal in the second, then win it on fellow rookie Jonathon Blum’s first-ever game-winning goal, on the power play, at 8:42 of the third. The teams met twice in February – on the ninth of the month a 35-save effort by Pekka Rinne and Sergei Kostitsyn’s first multi-goal game as a Predator (2g) gave Nashville a 3-0 victory, and five days earlier in the Motor City (Feb. 5), when the Predators claimed a 4-1 decision, the second time in 38 all-time trips there that Nashville won by more than a single goal. In the second meeting of the season on Dec. 8 at the Joe, 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.
Since the start of the 2008-09 campaign, Nashville has picked up a point in seven of eight home games against Detroit, going 5-1-2 while, outscoring the Wings 25-13 in those eight games. Special teams have been crucial to Nashville’s success this season against Detroit, as the power play has gone 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) and the penalty kill has extinguished 18-of-20 chances against. Nashville has outscored Detroit 15-9 through five games despite being outshot 175-147.
Rinne has started four of the five games against Detroit this season, posting a 3-1-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage. For his career against Detroit, the Kempele, Finland native has gone 8-2-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average, a .941 save percentage and three shutouts. It is his highest win total against any NHL team, one of just three he has posted three shutouts against (Phoenix and Minnesota) and one of four Western Conference foes he has a sub-two goals-against average when playing (Anaheim, Phoenix and Vancouver)… Kostitsyn leads all Predators in points vs. Detroit in 2010-11 with six (3g-3a) in five games. His one-goal, one-assist effort on Feb. 9 put him over the century mark in points for his career… Ryan Suter has four assists in his last three games against Detroit to go along with a +5 rating in the season series. Suter’s defensive partner, captain Shea Weber, notched his 200th career point with an assist on Feb. 9, giving him three points (1g-2a) and a +5 in the season series… Though he is pointless in five games this season, Shane O’Brien has eight points in 16 career games against Detroit – his highest point-per-game ratio against any team (.5). On Oct. 18, 2006 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, the Port Hope, Ont., native scored his first career goal on netminder Dominik Hasek… 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.
VEZINA CANDIDATE PEKKA RINNE NAMED NHL’S THIRD STAR OF THE MONTH
Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne was named Third Star of the Month for March on Friday, the second time in the last three months he’s garnered Third Star of the Month honors. Rinne posted a 9-3-2 record with a 1.91 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and two shutouts in March, helping the Predators (42-26-10) finish the month in sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race. He allowed two goals or fewer in seven of 14 games, including a 29-save, 3-0 shutout victory over the Vancouver Canucks on March 3 and a 19-save 4-0 shutout over the Minnesota Wild on March. Rinne has seen action in 38 of Nashville’s 42 games since Dec. 31, allowing two goals or fewer 26 times in that span while posting 23 wins, second-highest in the League. The Kempele, Finland native ranks second in the League in both goals-against average (2.10), and save percentage (.929).
ERAT’S GAME WINNER IS HIS 400TH CAREER POINT Martin Erat picked up an assist on Jordin Tootoo’s second-period goal, then scored his third game-winning goal of the season on the power play at 12:52 of the third period, to pace Nashville’s offense and earn First Star of the Game honors on Thursday at Colorado. The goal was his 400th career NHL point, making him just the second player in franchise history to reach the mark for the club (139g-261a), joining David Legwand. The multi-point effort was the Trebic, Czech Republic native’s fifth in the month of March, helping him take over the team points lead (16g-32a-48pts). He has 15 points (6g-9a) in 14 games since March 3, and 27 points (10g-17a) in 28 games since the All-Star break.
KOSTITSYN TIED CAREER HIGH WITH POINTS IN EIGHT STRAIGHT
First-year Predator Sergei Kostitsyn collected an assist for the third straight game in Thursday’s 3-2 win in Denver, giving him points in eight consecutive contests to tie a career high set Dec. 1-17. The Novopolotsk, Belarus has 10 points (3g-7a) during his current streak, giving him 45 points for the season (19g-26a) – good for third on the club and a tie for the goal-scoring lead. Kostitsyn now has three point streaks spanning six games or more since Dec. 1 after posting no longer than a four-game streak (2g-2a, Dec. 20-27, 2007) in his first 174 NHL contests. In that span, he has a team-best 42 points (17g-25a) in 54 games. In his previous 122 games from the start of the 2008-09 season to Nov. 30, 2010 vs. Phoenix, Kostitsyn posted 44 points (17g-27a). He also leads the League in shooting percentage (22.1).
The Predators are 8-2-0 in their last 10 home games, and 22-9-7 on home ice for the season, making them one of just three teams (with Washington and Vancouver) to have fewer than 10 regulation losses on home ice. Tonight, the Predators will be looking to be the only team to post at least 23 wins on home ice for the sixth time since 2005-06. Nashville has the second-most home wins (153) behind only the Red Wings (157) in that span.
Much of the Predators home success is due to its defense and penalty killing. The Predators have the League’s best goals-against average on home ice (2.11), allowing more than three goals only six times through 38 games on Bridgestone Arena ice. Last time out, the penalty kill was a perfect five-for-five against the top power play in the League (Vancouver), and the home PK ranks third (87.2 percent).
PLAYER QUICK HITS Mike Fisher notched an assist on Erat’s game-winning goal, giving him his first three-game point streak as a Predator. He has four points in that span (3g-1a), matching his point output from his first 20 games with the club. He’s just two goals shy of his fifth 20-goal season in the last six campaigns. Fisher has finished with a plus or even rating in 14 of the last 16 games, helping the club to a 11-3-2 mark in that span. Additionally, Fisher leads all NHL forwards in blocked shots (84)… David Legwand has nine points (6g-3a) in his last eight games, and 23 points (10g-13a) in 24 outings since Feb. 9. The Detroit native has played more than 20 minutes in 12 of the last 15 games, including 22 or more minutes in five of the last eight… Both Joel Ward and Patric Hornqvist are just one point shy of the century mark for their careers. Hornqvist has three two-assist performances in the last seven games, amassing seven points (1g-6a) in that span… Ryan Suter has seven assists in his last eighth games, and paces the team in helpers (34). He’s also tied for ninth among NHL blueliners in plus/minus rating (+24)… Shea Weber has scored an NHL defenseman-high 12 of his 16 goals this season on home ice. Tied for second overall at the position in goals, Weber has played the third-most minutes in the NHL this season (1,976:59) behind Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester.