TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. WASHINGTON
The Predators host the Washington Capitals for just the ninth time ever tonight at Bridgestone Arena. These teams have met four times since the start of the 2008-09 season, with the Capitals pulling out all four in either overtime or a shootout.
The last time these two teams met was Oct. 16, 2010, when extra time was needed to determine a victor. Nashville outshot the Capitals 30-20 the first 40 minutes and jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Washington battled back with two in the final 20 minutes of regulation. Brooks Laich tipped an Alex Ovechkin slap shot past Anders Lindback at the 1:44 mark of overtime, to give the Capitals a 3-2 win. Nashville’s last victory in the series came by a 5-2 score on Dec. 7, 2005 in D.C. in a wild affair that included four power-play goals, an unsuccessful shorthanded penalty shot by Steve Sullivan, and a man-down marker by Scott Hartnell.
Mike Fisher notched the lone hat trick of his career against Washington on Dec. 29, 2007 as a member of the Ottawa Senators… Matt Halischuk scored his first NHL goal on Washington’s Jose Theodore on Nov. 14, 2009 as a member of the New Jersey Devils… Sergei Kostitsyn scored his first NHL goal against Washington on Dec. 20, 2007 and tallied a career-high three assists against the club on Feb. 10, 2010. The Novopolotsk, Belarus native has nine points (4g-5a) in 10 career games against the Capitals… Francis Bouillon played his first game as a Predator against the Capitals on Oct. 10, 2002. He spent just three weeks with the team before being claimed on waivers by Montreal, then started his second stint in Nashville at the start of the 2009-10 season… Patric Hornqvist has two assists in three career games against Washington… Martin Erat has six assists in nine games against the Caps.
Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Barry Trotz both spent time with the Washington Capitals organization. Poile was named General Manager of the Capitals in 1982, and spent 15 seasons in D.C., compiling a 596-454-124 (.559) record, which ranked him among the NHL's top-five during that span. For the 1982-83 season, Poile took the reins of a Washington team that had never made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. During his tenure, the Capitals advanced to the postseason 14 times. The 1997-98 Capitals, largely comprised of players Poile acquired, advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. On Saturday, Poile became the first GM to spend 1,000 games with two separate teams as both he and the Predators celebrated their 1,00th regular season game. Poile is one of just five GMs (Jack Adams, Glen Sather, Conn Smythe and Art Ross) to be at a team’s helm for 30 years. Poile won his 1000th game as a general manager on March 21, 2010 at St. Louis, and is third all-time in wins (1,057) and games (2,180).
Trotz spent five seasons (1992-97) as the head coach of the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate Baltimore Skipjacks and Portland Pirates. He was named head coach of the Skipjacks in 1992 after one season as an assistant coach. Following the franchise’s relocation to Portland, Maine, he led the Pirates to two Calder Cup Finals appearances over the team’s first four seasons. In 1995, Trotz coached Portland to a Calder Cup Championship and a league-best 43-27-10 record and was named the AHL’s Coach of the Year. In 2006, he was inducted into the Pirates’ Hall of Fame. Trotz became just the fourth coach to spend 1,000 games with a single team on Saturday, joining Al Arbour (1,500, NYI), Lindy Ruff (1,082, BUF) and Billy Reay (1,012, CHI). Trotz has racked up 463 wins through 1,000 games, just one shy of tying Glen Sather’s total with Edmonton for fifth on the games won with a single team list.
All-time series highlight--December 26, 1998: Preds top Caps for back-to-back wins over the ’98 Cup finalists
A 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Dec. 26, 1998 signaled more than just the Nashville Predators’ first three-game winning streak. That victory, coupled with a 5-3 victory over the defending Stanley Cup-champion Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 23, meant that the expansion Predators had beaten both teams that had played in the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals three days apart.
"This team just totally amazes me," head coach Barry Trotz said. "We beat Detroit, then a couple of guys go down and we beat Washington. We keep putting parts in there and they're doing their jobs.”
The wins combined for an all-around 120-minute effort by Nashville. Nashville’s goals came off the sticks of six different players, the Preds held the opposition’s power play scoreless on six attempts and chased both starting goaltenders – Detroit’s Chris Osgood and Washington’s Olaf Kolzig – from the games.
With three shorthanded goals on the season, Nashville finds itself among the League leaders in the category. Nashville has shorthanded goals in back-to-back games for the 13th time in franchise history after Shea Weber scored shorthanded against the Habs on Saturday and Martin Erat converted the club’s 23rd all-time penalty shot attempt while a man down against Anaheim last Wednesday. Erat’s shorthanded goal was the Predators’ seventh penalty shot goal and first since Vernon Fiddler on Nov. 6, 2008 at Calgary.
In addition to Erat and Weber’s goals, Ryan Suter posted a shorthanded goal against Phoenix on Oct. 13, giving the Preds two shorthanded goals from the blue line this season. In 2010-11, the Predators notched five shorthanded goals – David Legwand led the team with two markers, while Sergei Kostitsyn, Weber and Marcel Goc all tallied one goal on the penalty kill.
The Predators have scored shorthanded goals in three consecutive games only once in their history. It came in December 2001 – when Vitali Yachmenev (Dec. 15), Greg Classen (Dec. 20) and Petr Tenkrat (Dec. 23) all found the back of the net while a man down.
The defensive pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter continue to prove why they are among the top defensemen in the League. After combining for just six points in Nashville’s first nine games, Weber (2g-7a-9pts) and Suter (3g-6a-9pts) have each posted six points in Nashville’s last seven games – Weber (2g-4a) and Suter (1g-5a). The duo ranks among the League’s best in plus/minus for the season, as Nashville’s captain paces all blueliners (+11) and Suter (+8) is tied for sixth. Weber has fired 48 shots on goal, good for second on the team and sixth among NHL blueliners in the category. Suter has led the team in average ice time in all but five contests this season, and ranks second in the League in average ice time (27:45). Weber, who has led the team the other five times, ranks fifth (26:58).
Nashville is 8-5-3 (19pts) through its first 16 games in 2011-12, including a 5-1-2 (12pts) mark in the last eight. In those eight games, the Predators have outscored their opponents 27-19 – an average of 3.38 to 2.38. Despite the scoring advantage, Nashville has been outshot in 13-of-16 games this season, but has managed to win seven of those 13 games. A season ago, when the Predators advanced to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, they were 7-6-3 (17pts) through their first 16 games of the year.
• Jonathon Blum ranks among the League’s top five in blocked shots (43).
• Craig Smith has 10 points (5g-5a) in his last 10 games. He is tied with David Legwand for the team points lead (7g-7a-14pts) and tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in goals, in addition to leading all rookies in power-play goals (3) and being tied for first in points and goals and tied for second in assists.
• Pekka Rinne is 6-1-2 in his last nine starts dating back to an Oct. 22 shutout at Calgary. In those nine games, he’s posted a 1.87 goals-against average, a .941 save percentage and three shutouts in that span. For the season, he is tied for third among all goaltenders in wins (8), and leads the NHL in both shots faced (464) and saves (431).