TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
The Nashville Predators kick-off the home portion of their 2011-12 campaign tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes, a team with which they split the season series with in 2010-11 two games apiece, despite a plus-four goal differential. While Phoenix won the first (Nov. 3, 2010) and last (Feb. 19, 2011) meetings by one-goal margins, Nashville prevailed by three-goal margins in its wins – a 3-0 win at Bridgestone Arena behind Rinne’s third shutout of the Coyotes in a six-start span on Nov. 30, 2010, and 5-2 decision on Jan. 18, 2011 at Jobing.com Arena where J-P Dumont recorded the franchise’s fourth-ever road hat trick. The power play was also particularly strong, going 4-for-18 (22.2 percent) over the four-game slate, despite scoring all five at even strength on Dumont’s big night. The Predators have posted a home record of 10-2-(1)-1 vs. the Desert Dogs since the start of the 2003-04 campaign, going 16-9-(1)-2 overall in the same span.
Patric Hornqvist scored the Preds other two goals in the 5-2 win on Jan. 18, and led the team in points against Phoenix a season ago with five (3g-2a) in four games, and has eight points (5g-3a) in nine career contests vs. Phoenix… Matt Halischuk recorded his first career multi-point effort in the Jan. 18 contest, notching two assists… Cal O’Reilly has three points (1g-2a) in four career outings vs. the Coyotes… Phoenix is one of just three teams that Rinne has recorded three shutouts against (Minnesota and Vancouver are the others). For his career, the 6-5 netminder is 6-3-1 with a 1.78 goals-against average, a .937 save percentage. It is the lowest goals-against average against any team he’s faced more than three times.
CRAIG SMITH’S BIG DEBUT
Nashville Predators rookie Craig Smith made headlines when became one of a select few to make the team out of camp with no AHL seasoning, but reinforced coaches and management’s decision when he posted goals in each of his first two NHL games, becoming the first Predator to do so, and the first NHLer since Philadelphia’s David Laliberte in October/November 2009. It was also the first time a player scored in each of his first two NHL games and did it in his team’s first two games of a season since Edmonton Oilers forward and former Predator Rem Murray did it in October 1996. Smith – a Madison, Wis., native who played the past two seasons with his hometown University of Wisconsin Badgers – also posted his first two career assists in Saturday night’s victory at St. Louis, giving him four points (2g-2a) on the weekend.
LEGWAND PICKS UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF LAST SPRING
Playing on a line with fellow Americans Smith and Colin Wilson, center David Legwand also had a big opening weekend, notching an assist on the Predators first goal of the season by Ryan Suter on Friday at Columbus, then tying a career high with four points (2g-2a) in Saturday’s win over the Blues. It was the first time a Predator had posted four points since Jason Arnott did so on Feb. 4, 2010 vs. Colorado, and the first time a Nashville player had done so in a road game since Steve Sullivan recorded a goal and three assists on Dec. 2, 2009 at Minnesota.
• Nashville won the special teams battle in each of its first two games, going a combined 3-for-7 on the power play (42.9 percent) and 9-for-10 on the penalty kill (90 percent)
• Both Sergei Kostitsyn and Shea Weber recorded assists in each of the Predators opening weekend victories
• In addition to recording his 32nd career multiple-point performance (1g-1a) and scoring the club’s first goal of the season on the power play on Friday night, Suter led all skaters in each game last weekend, playing 26:28 on Friday and 28:48 on Saturday
• 2011 Vezina Trophy runner-up Pekka Rinne was named First Star of the Game in both Columbus and St. Louis, finishing the two-game trip with a .940 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average. The Kempele, Finland native is now three wins shy of 100 for his career.
ROSTER CHOCKED FULL OF DRAFTEES
Not only does Nashville currently have the youngest 23-man roster in the League (25 years, eight months), but 17 of the 23 roster members are Predators draft picks. In its opening two games, 16 of the 21 players used were drafted and developed by Nashville. Last season, the club set a franchise record when 19 picks made their way into the lineup at one point during the campaign. Here’s a breakdown of the 17 draftees, with Mattias Ekholm being the lone scratch among them for the two opening games.
• FOUR First-Round Picks – Legwand, Suter, Blum, Wilson
• FOUR Second-Round Picks – Klein, Weber, Geoffrion, Spaling
• FOUR Third-Round or Fourth-Round Picks – Laakso, Ekholm, Smith, Tootoo
• FIVE picks from the Fifth Round or later – O’Reilly, Erat (191st overall), Lindback (207th overall), Hornqvist (230th overall) and Rinne (258th overall)
• THREE through Trade – Fisher, Kostitsyn and Halischuk
• FIVE Free agents/Waiver Claims – Smithson, Bergfors, McGrattan, Bouillon and Hillen
COUNTDOWN TO NASHVILLE’S 1,000TH GAME
The Nashville Predators will celebrate their 1,000th NHL regular season game on Saturday, November 12 vs. Montreal. Leading up to this game – and all season long – we will look back on some of the most memorable moments in Predators history to date.
October 13, 1998: First goal, first win
Two massive franchise milestones were achieved in the second regular-season game in the Nashville Predators’ inaugural season: the team’s first goal and the franchise’s first win. Former Pred (and current member of the Chicago Blackhawks) Andrew Brunette was credited with the Preds’ first tally at 5:12 of the first period. After a video review, fans got to enjoy “I Like It, I Love It” at Bridgestone Arena for the first time.
Denny Lambert and J.J. Daigneault would also light the lamp for Nashville that night as the team pulled out a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. All five of the game’s goals were scored in the first period, including a tally from Carolina’s Martin Gelinas, who now serves and the Predators Director of Player Development. Mike Dunham earned the win in net with 34 saves.