TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. TORONTO
The Toronto Maple Leafs make just their fourth-ever trip Bridgestone Arena tonight – the fewest of any of the NHL’s 29 other teams. It is also just the fourth overall meeting between the Predators and Leafs in the last six seasons. The Predators hold a 6-5-(1)-0 record against the Leafs in their 13-season history, including a 2-1-0 mark at Bridgestone Arena.
These two teams last met on Nov. 16, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre. The Predators jumped out to an early 3-1 lead on goals from J-P Dumont, Jordin Tootoo and Martin Erat, but six straight power plays would allow the Leafs to battle back and pull out the 5-4 victory.
In their last trip to Bridgestone Arena on Jan. 18, 2010, Toronto jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first nine minutes of play, before Nashville rallied to tie the game early in the third period. Phil Kessel scored the game-winning goal at 14:12 of the third to give the Maple Leafs their first and only win on Bridgestone Arena ice, 4-3.
Mike Fisher tied a career high with three points (2g-1a) vs. Toronto on Nov. 27, 2010 (with Ottawa). For his career, Fisher has 32 points (21g-11a) in 56 games against the Maple Leafs… Sergei Kostitsyn has eight points (3g-5a) in 12 career games vs. Toronto and amassed a career-high 20 penalty minutes in a game on March 9, 2009 (with Montreal)… David Legwand tallied his first NHL goal on Oct. 11, 1999 against then-Toronto netminder Glenn Healy… Matt Halischuk notched his first NHL point/assist in his NHL debut against Toronto on Oct. 29, 2008 (with New Jersey)… Francis Bouillon (Oct. 2, 1999 with Montreal) and Brian McGrattan (Oct. 5, 2005 with Ottawa) also made their NHL debuts against Toronto.
ERAT HEATS UP
Since returning on Oct. 29 from an injury that saw him miss eight games, Martin Erat has been an offensive catalyst for the Predators. The Trebic, Czech Republic native has posted seven points (3g-4a) in his last eight games. Against Washington on Tuesday, he completed his first multi-point game of the season (1g-1a) and was a plus-three. Scored Nashville’s first goal – which knotted the score at 1-1 – with less than five minutes remaining, then set up Colin Wilson’s game winner with just 25 seconds left in regulation.
TROTZ TIES SATHER
After becoming just the fourth coach to spend 1,000 games behind the bench of a single team on Saturday, joining Al Arbour (1,500, NYI), Lindy Ruff (1,082, BUF) and Billy Reay (1,012, CHI), Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz notched his 464th career win on Tuesday vs. Washington, tying him with Edmonton’s Glen Sather’s for fifth on the games won with a single team list. The Dauphin, Man., native also recently passed Roger Neilson for 19th on the all-time wins list.
STRONG PENALTY KILL
The Nashville penalty kill was a perfect three-for-three on Tuesday night, improving to 37-for-40 in the last 11 games (92.5 percent). On home ice, Nashville ranks among the League’s strongest penalty killers – allowing only two goals on 18 times shorthanded. For the season, the Predators have allowed eight goals on 72 shorthanded chances, which ranks the unit fourth in the NHL (88.9 percent).
The Nashville Predators look to continue their success on home ice during this five-game homestand, and throughout 2011-12, after being among the League’s best on home ice since the 2005-06 campaign. Last season, Nashville was 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, finishing with a 24-9-8 record (56 points). It marked the sixth consecutive season the Predators have posted at least 23 home victories, making them the only franchise to do so. Since the start of the 2005-06 campaign, the Predators have posted a 158-71-27 record at Bridgestone Arena, good for the third-most home wins (tied with New Jersey) in the League behind Detroit (165) and San Jose (160).
• Through the last nine games, the defensive duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are plus-14 and plus-11 respectively. Both defensemen now rank among the League’s Top Ten in the category.
• Jonathon Blum ranks among the League’s top five in blocked shots (44).
• Craig Smith has 10 points (5g-5a) in his last 11 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 7-1-2 in his last 10 starts dating back to an Oct. 22 shutout at Calgary with a 1.78 goals-against average, a .945 save percentage and three shutouts. For the season, he is third among all goaltenders in wins (9), and leads the NHL in both shots faced (504) and saves (470).
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 in 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.
Not only did the Predators start the 2011-12 season as the youngest team in the NHL, but they have a roster that includes 15 players that have been drafted and developed by the team. Here’s a breakdown of Nashville’s current roster, including Teemu Laakso, who is currently on injured reserve:
• FOUR First-Round Picks – Legwand, Suter, Blum, Wilson
• FOUR Second-Round Picks – Klein, Weber, Geoffrion, Spaling
• THREE Third-Round or Fourth-Round Picks – Laakso, Smith, Tootoo
• FOUR picks from the Fifth Round or Later – Erat (191st overall), Lindback (207th overall), Hornqvist (230th overall) and Rinne (258th overall)
• THREE through Trade – Fisher, Kostitsyn and Halischuk
• FIVE Free agents/waivers – Smithson, Bergfors, McGrattan, Bouillon and Hillen