TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
Nashville begins its first trip to the Western United States tonight in Phoenix. The Predators are 9-13-2 all-time in the Arizona desert.
The Predators opened their 2011-12 home schedule against the Coyotes on Oct. 13. Ryan Suter tallied his second goal of the season and the first shorthanded goal of his career at 14:01 of the second period. The goal jumpstarted Nashville who pulled within two goals early in the third as Colin Wilson found the back of the net for his first goal of the season. David Legwand posted his second consecutive multiple point game (2a) after posting four points (2g-2a) against St. Louis on Oct. 8. The Predators outshot the Desert Dogs in the final frame 10-3, but were unable to capitalize, falling to Phoenix, 5-2.
Nashville last visited Jobing.com Arena on Jan. 18, 2011, with J-P Dumont and Hornqvist stealing the show as the Predators took home the 5-2 victory. Dumont notched his fourth career hat trick, and the 19th three-goal performance in franchise history, while Hornqvist added two goals on the night. Rookies Matt Halischuk and Chris Mueller each notched the first multiple-point games of their careers with a pair of assists while playing on a line with Dumont.
Exactly a year ago (Nov. 3) – in Nashville’s first trip to Phoenix in 2010-11 – it was a neck-and-neck battle as the Predators received goals from Francis Bouillon and Sergei Kostitsyn just 30 seconds apart to take the early 2-1 lead. Hornqvist added another in the second, but Phoenix came back on Ed Jovanovski’s first-career hat trick to defeat the Predators, 4-3.
Hornqvist has eight points (5g-3a) in nine career contests vs. Phoenix… Halischuk recorded his first career multi-point effort in the Jan. 18 contest, notching two assists… For his career, goaltender Pekka Rinne is 6-4-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average. It is the second lowest goals-against average against any team he has faced more than three times; Anaheim is the other at 1.94. Phoenix is one of just three teams that Rinne has recorded three shutouts against (Detroit and Minnesota are the others). Those shutouts have come over an eight-game span dating back to March 14, 2009.
THE PREDATORS ANNUAL CMA TRIP
Since 2006, it has been a staple of the Nashville Predators schedule – the annual extended road trip in early November to accommodate the Country Music Association Awards – being held this year on Nov. 9. The CMA essentially takes over every square inch of the event level to prepare for the show, this year starting their extravagant lighting and set load-in on Oct. 23, 18 days before the actual show and with three Predators home games still in the venue before they take full control.
On their first two CMA trips, the Predators went a combined 7-1-1, sweeping Western Canada and defeating Minnesota in 2006, then going 3-1-1 on a 2007 trip that started on the Canadian Prairie (Calgary) and ended in Detroit. The 2008 trip started roughly with losses at Vancouver, Calgary and Colorado, but ended with the team’s first-ever sweep of California, highlighted by Dan Ellis’ franchise-record 54 saves in a 4-3 win at San Jose on Nov. 11. In each of the past two seasons, Nashville has ended the trip on a winning note in St. Louis, topping the Blues on Nov. 12, 2009 by a 3-1 score, and on Nov. 11, 2010, 3-2 in a shootout.
After being held scoreless in his first seven games of the 2011-12 season (he missed one game on Oct. 13 due to injury), Patric Hornqvist has scored in three straight games, posting four goals in that span to tie Craig Smith for the team lead. The final pick of the 2005 Entry Draft (230th overall) became just the second Predators draftee to post at least 20 goals in back-to-back seasons in 2010-11 (21) just one season after becoming the first homegrown talent to pot 30 in a campaign.
Hornqvist has struck quickly the past two games, notching the third fastest goal from the start of a game in franchise history just 14 seconds into Saturday’s win vs. Anaheim, then finding the back of the net 26 seconds into Monday night’s tilt at Chicago. His performance marks the first time a Predator has scored goals during the first 30 seconds of play in back-to-back games.
The last time the feat was accomplished by any NHL club was Philadelphia in 2002 (Oct. 26 and 29), but one has to go back to Pavel Bure in 1998 to find the last time an individual did it. The “Russian Rocket” posted a goal 21 ticks into Vancouver’s 5-2 loss to Buffalo on March 26, then bested that time by four seconds on March 28, scoring 17 seconds into a game against the Washington Capitals.
Rookie Craig Smith continued his hot start to the 2011-12 season on Monday night, posting his fourth goal of the season. With nine points (4g-5a) in 11 games, Smith is tied for second among League rookies in both points and goals, and his 28 shots on goal rank him in the Top Five among first-year players. His nine points rank second on the team behind David Legwand (11), and his four goals are tied with Hornqvist for the team lead. On Monday, the former Wisconsin Badger was named runner up for the NHL’s Rookie of the Month honor, and received the third-most votes in USA Today’s Calder Trophy poll.
• Blum’s 38 blocked shots on the season rank second among NHLers, while defensive partner Kevin Klein is tied for eighth (29).
• Nine consecutive successful penalty kills has moved Nashville into a tie for sixth in PK efficiency (87.5%).
• Nashville has outscored the opposition 10-3 in the second period through 11 games. That is the second largest middle frame goal differential behind only Pittsburgh (15-5).
• Both Suter (27:24) and Weber (26:24) rank among the NHL’s Top Ten in average ice time.
• In becoming the first goalie in club history to start each of the team’s first 11 games of the season, Pekka Rinne has risen to first in the NHL in both saves (307) and shots against (333), as well as ranking among the top three in minutes played (624:37).
REMEMBERING WADE BELAK
The Nashville Predators are honoring former teammate and club employee Wade Belak – who died tragically on August 31 – in several ways throughout the 2011-12. There are two logos being used to remember Belak – a No. 3 logo which is on the bottom left of each players’ helmet – and an internal logo which can be found on the wall of the Predators dressing room and on team apparel. The team also has a firefighter helmet which goes to the player of the game after a win, as selected by the previous player who had it. Belak was a member of the Williamson County (Nashville suburbs) Fire and Rescue Squad.
PREDATORS ENTER THE GOLDEN AGE
Through an exploration of their existing colors, the Predators set out to create a distinctive home look designed to introduce a redefined identity and tradition. This vision was seen first during the 2011 playoffs as fans wore gold shirts and waved gold towels, truly creating a home ice advantage and a visual identity for the team and Bridgestone Arena.
On July 13, 2011, “PREDATORS GOLD” was born through the introduction of the new gold home jerseys. The goal was to develop a powerful long-term brand message by creating a dominant color scheme, one that when seen on the ice, in-arena, on television or on the streets, would immediately identify the Predators, its fans and the environment at Bridgestone Arena.