TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. NEW JERSEY
The Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils hook up for their one and only meeting of 2011-12 tonight at Bridgestone Arena, the Devils first visit to the Music City since Nov. 19, 2009 and just their ninth trip to Nashville all-time. In their only meeting a season ago–Nashville’s second trip ever to the Prudential Center on Dec. 17, 2010 –Martin Erat scored two goals and both Shea Weber and Ryan Suter notched a pair of assists in a 3-1 win, with a pair of goals coming on the power play. Anders Lindback made 15 saves to stretch his winning streak to five games, and points streak to seven (6-0-1) in just his 12th NHL start. Nashville also prevailed the last time it hosted New Jersey nearly two years ago, picking up a 3-2 shootout win in what turned out to be the fourth of seven consecutive victories for the Predators. Dating back to Feb. 29, 2000, the Preds and Devils have played 13 times, with 11 of those games being decided by one goal. Additionally, three of six games since the start of the 2005-06 campaign have needed a shootout to determine the winner. Overall, the road team has won 11 of the 16 all-time series meetings.
Suter has five assists in six career contests against New Jersey… Erat has amassed nine points (5g-4a) in 11 career outings vs. the Devils… Tonight will be Matt Halischuk’s first career game against the New Jersey Devils. He was selected by them 117th overall (fourth round) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and played 21 games for the club over two seasons before being dealt to Nashville along with a second-round selection in the 2011 Entry Draft (Magnus Hellberg) for forward Jason Arnott on June 19, 2010.
All-time series highlight: In a matinee game (12 p.m. CT start time) at Continental Airlines Arena on Jan. 30, 1999 –the day before Super Bowl XXXIII, Sebastien Bordeleau scored the game-winner (2:43) for Nashville in the franchise's first overtime victory.
Career highs/highlights attained against the Devils David Legwand –Played his first NHL game on April 17, 1999 –the final game of the Predators inaugural season.
LEGWAND’S FAST START David Legwand –the franchise’s first-ever draft pick in the 1998 Entry Draft –continued his hot start to the season in Thursday’s home opener, assisting on both of Nashville’s goals to move into first on the NHL’s points list (2g-5a-7pts). The Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., native has been in on seven of Nashville’s nine goals to this point in the season, including all four last Saturday in St. Louis, tying a career high (2g-2a). Prior to this season, Legwand’s quickest start came in 2007-08 when he notched an assist in the first game of the campaign against Colorado, then recorded his first career hat trick in game two against Dallas.
Defenseman Ryan Suter scored his first career shorthanded goal at 14:01 of the second period on Thursday night, giving him two goals through three games. That is already halfway to his season totals both last season (four goals in 70 games) and in 2009-10 (four goals in 82 games). In 2010-11, the Madison, Wis., native didn’t find the back of the net until Dec. 11, and scored his second goal Feb. 26 at Dallas. Suter has also led the Predators in ice time in each of the first three games of 2011-12, and is third in the League in average ice time (27:44).
HOMEGROWN BLUE LINE
Though the Predators dressed “only” 15 draft picks for Thursday’s game against Phoenix –down one from last Saturday’s tilt at St. Louis –all six defensemen were drafted and developed by the Predators. In addition to 2003 selections Suter, captain Shea Weber and Kevin Klein, and 2007 first-round pick Jonathon Blum, 2005 draftee Teemu Laakso played his 11th career game on the Nashville blue line along side 2009 pick/2011 Swedish Elite League Rookie of the Year Mattias Ekholm, who made his NHL debut.
• Sergei Kostitsyn stretched his season-opening assist streak to three games by assisting on Colin Wilson’s third-period marker.
Kostitsyn –who tied for the team points lead in 2010-11 –had just three points when the calendar turned to December 2010.
• Nashville was a perfect two-for-two on the penalty kill against Phoenix, and has now extinguished 11-of-12 power plays against (91.7 percent). Though the power play didn’t convert on three opportunities vs. the Coyotes, the unit is clicking at 30 percent for the season (3-for-10).
• In addition to Ekholm, summer free-agent acquisition Niclas Bergfors made his Predators debut against Phoenix, as did Brian McGrattan, who was claimed on waivers from Anaheim on Tuesday.
• The Predators have been outshot in all three games this season.
• Nashville took just two minor penalties –and had four total penalty minutes –against Phoenix, continuing a trend from last season when it was assessed 720 penalty minutes, the second-lowest total in franchise history and the second-lowest total in the NHL in 2010- 11 (8.8 per game).
• At 25.8, Nashville has the youngest average age of any team. Six Predators are Calder eligible in 2011-12 –goalie Anders Lindback; defensemen Jonathon Blum, Mattias Ekholm and Teemu Laakso; and forwards Blake Geoffrion and Craig Smith.
Though they lost their home opener on Thursday, the Nashville Predators look to continue their success on home ice in 2011-12 after finishing last season with a 24-9-8 record (56 points) at Bridgestone Arena, making them one of just three teams (Conference-winners Vancouver and Washington) to amass more than 55 points and have less than 10 regulation losses on home ice. 2010-11 marked the sixth consecutive season Nashville has posted at least 23 home victories, making it the only franchise to do so. Since the start of the 2005-06 campaign, the Predators have posted a 155-67-25 record at Bridgestone Arena, good for the fourth-most home wins in the League (155) behind Detroit (160), San Jose (157) and tonight’s opponent, New Jersey (156).
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 15, 2002: Skrastins scores on a 3-on-5 at Nassau Coliseum
From 1999-2003, Karlis Skrastins was a stalwart on the Nashville blue line. A reliable and dependable stay-at-home defenseman, he logged many of his minutes the hard way –killing penalties, protecting leads and blocking shots. On the night of Oct. 15, 2002, it wasn’t his defense that earned notoriety for “Scratch” –it was his offense.
At Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. N.Y., Skrastins pulled off an offensive feat rarely attained –scoring a goal while his team was two-men down. In fact, to date, it is the only time in franchise history a Predators has scored while working a two-man disadvantage. Vladimir Orszagh and Tomas Vokoun were both penalized as the clock ran down in the first period, leaving the Predators two-men short against the New York Islanders. Just 21 seconds into the second frame, Skrastins fired a shot from the blue line at Islanders netminder Chris Osgood. With his own player screening him, the shot caught the Islanders’ goalie off guard, giving Nashville a 3-1 lead. The Islanders would eventually rally for a 4-3 OT victory.
Drafted as a 23-year-old in the ninth round of the 1998 Entry Draft, defenseman Karlis Skrastins was a late-bloomer success story for the Nashville Predators. In his five seasons in Music City, Skrastins played 307 games, including a franchise-record 269 in a row. Together with three seasons of work with Colorado, the Riga, Latvia native broke the NHL record (486 by the late Hall-of-Famer Tim Horton) for consecutive games played by a defenseman in February 2007 with a streak that ended at 495. The 11-season NHL veteran
was a member of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team that perished in a tragic plane crash on September 7, 2011.