TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. SAN JOSE
The Predators continue their march through the Pacific Division tonight at HP Pavilion. Tonight’s match-up marks the final game of 2011 between these two rivals, with the next game coming on Feb. 25, 2012 at Bridgestone Arena.
After posting its best record (2-0-2) against the Sharks since 2005-06 a season ago, Nashville fell to San Jose 3-1 on Oct. 25 at Bridgestone Arena. Rookie Craig Smith notched his second career power-play goal at 13:12 of the third period to pull even, but the Sharks responded with the game winner just 57 seconds later. Nashville was perfect (2-for-2) on the penalty kill for the second straight game, after denying Calgary on four attempts in the previous game.
In their last trip to HP Pavilion on March 8, 2011, the Predators dropped an overtime decision at the hands of Patrick Marleau, 3-2. The Predators went two-for-four on the man advantage, receiving goals from Weber – who tied the game just six minutes into the third – and Joel Ward. Both Weber (1g-1a) and Martin Erat (2a) posted multiple-point games for the Predators. On Jan. 8, 2011, Nashville earned its first victory in Silicon Valley since Dec. 7, 2002 with a 2-1 victory. The win completed the franchise’s second-ever sweep of California’s three teams on the same road trip. Cody Franson and Patric Hornqvist each put a team-high four shots goal, while Sergei Kostitsyn (1g) and David Legwand (1g) provided the offense. In the Shark Tank, Nashville is 3-5-4 since 2005-06, and 8-11-5 all-time.
Weber has tallied five points (1g-4a) in five games against the Sharks since the start of 2009-10… Legwand has three points (1g-2a) in his last four games against the Sharks… Rinne is 3-2-3 with a .932 save percentage in nine career games against San Jose… In five games against the Sharks in a Predators sweater, Kostitsyn has two goals on just four shots.
RINNE CELEBRATES IN STYLE
On his 29th birthday, goaltender Pekka Rinne signed a seven-year, $49 million contract extension – the largest in franchise history – then proceeded to celebrate by earning his third shutout in six games by stopping all 35 Phoenix Coyote shots he faced on Thursday. It was the 23rd whitewash of his career, building on his franchise record. Rinne has posted the most shutouts of any NHL goalie since the start of the 2008-09 season, and his three shutouts on the season are tied with Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings for the League lead. With four career shutouts and a 1.82 goals-against average against the Desert Dogs, the Kempele, Finland native has had more success against Phoenix than any other team.
Rinne is the first goaltender in club history to start each of the team’s first 12 games, and the only goaltender in the NHL to start all of his club’s games in 2011-12. Going into this weekend’s games, the 6-foot-5 goalie paces the League in minutes played (684:37), saves (342) and shots against (368). His 2.28 goals-against average ranks among the Top Ten netminders who have started at least nine games this season.
With a team-leading 12 points (3g-9a) in 12 games, David Legwand is off to his best start since the 2007-08 season, when he amassed 14 points (6g-8a) through the first 15 games. Legwand has points (1g-3a) in three straight games, and ranks among the League’s Top 25 in assists and points.
After being named runner-up for October Rookie of the Month, Craig Smith has continued his success in November. Smith made it six points in six games (2g-4a) with an assist against Phoenix on Thursday night, putting him second among first-year players in goals, tied for second in assists and third in points (4g-6a-10pts). The Madison, Wis., native also fired a team-high six shots on goal, the second time this season he has done so; only two other Predators (Patric Hornqvist and Shea Weber) have amassed six shots in a game this season. He ranks second among rookies, and is tied with Weber for the team lead with 34 shots through 12 games.
Hornqvist continues to find the back of the net for the Predators, after being held scoreless through his first seven games of the season (he missed one due to injury). With his goal against Phoenix, he has now tied his career-high goal-scoring streak from a season ago (5g, Dec. 31, 2010-Jan. 6, 2011), with five goals in four games to move into the team lead in the category.
• The Predators have been outshot in a League-high 11-of-12 games this season, but rank among the League leaders in wins when being outshot (5).
• Nashville has blocked the fourth-most shots (198) going into the weekend, led by Blum, who is tied for second in the League with 38.
• Going into Friday night’s games, Nashville has the League’s fourth-best road record at 4-2-1.
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.