TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
The Blue Jackets make their first trip to Bridgestone Arena tonight for the second match-up of the season between these two Central Division foes. The home team has won 19-of-22 games dating back to Dec. 27, 2007. Nashville boasts the longest active home winning streak in the NHL with 17 wins on home ice against the Jackets.
In the season opener for both squads on Oct. 7, the Predators edged the Blue Jackets 3-2 at Nationwide Arena. Seven different players posted points for the Predators, including Ryan Suter, who opened Nashville’s 2011-12 schedule with his 32nd multiple-point effort (1g-1a). Rookie Craig Smith scored his first NHL goal in his NHL debut, becoming the first Predator to score a goal in his club debut since Joel Ward on Oct. 10, 2008 at St. Louis. Matt Halischuk notched his second game-winning goal in as many contests against Columbus after he scored just 39 seconds into the final frame. Halischuk also had the GWG in the second-to-last game of the 2010-11 season against Columbus, a 4-1 victory. Pekka Rinne, who made 32 saves, weathered Columbus’ late offensive attack to secure the Predators’ first victory of the season.
Nashville closed out its 2010-11 home schedule against the Jackets on April 8, 2011. The Blue Jackets outshot the Predators 45-25, but Rinne stopped 44 of those shots in the 4-1 win, giving him a career-high 33 wins on the year. Patric Hornqvist led the Preds with three points (2g-1a) on the night. While Halischuk and Sergei Kostitsyn also scored.
Nashville has outscored Columbus 52-30 during the 17-game home winning streak, with five of the last seven contests decided by one goal, and four of those needing overtime/a shootout to decide a victor. Going beyond the home winning streak, the Predators have only one regulation loss to the Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena since the start of the 2001-02 season, going 26-1-(1)-1 in that span. Overall, Nashville is 27-5-2 in the series since 2006-07, and 44-14-(4)-1 against the Jackets all time.
Shea Weber has amassed 22 points (7g-15a) in 31 career games against the Blue Jackets, his highest total of any team. In addition to his three-point (1g-2a) effort on Jan. 2, 2011, Nashville’s captain posted a career-high four points (1g-3a) against Columbus on Oct. 18, 2008… Martin Erat has 10 points (3g-7a) in nine games against the Blue Jackets since the start of the 2009-10 season. The Trebic, Czech Republic native has more career goals and points against the Blue Jackets than any other team in the League (13g-29a-42pts, 48gp), including 41 points (9g-32a) in 43 games since the start of the 2003-04 campaign… Nashville’s 2007 first-round pick Jonathon Blum made his NHL debut against the Blue Jackets on Feb. 22, 2010 in the arena where he took the stage as the 23rd overall pick (first round) in the 2007 Entry Draft. The Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., native scored his first NHL goal against the Blue Jackets on Feb. 27, 2011, a 3-2 victory… Jordin Tootoo has 95 penalty minutes in 38 games against Columbus, the highest total of any player against a single team in franchise history.
With a two-goal performance on Thursday night, Martin Erat continued his offensive hot streak for the Predators. The Trebic, Czech Republic native has posted points in seven of nine games since returning from injury on Oct. 29, amassing nine points (5g-4a) in that span; Erat was knocked out of the season opener vs. Columbus and missed Nashville’s next eight games. His effort on Thursday was the 11th two-goal game of his career, and the first since Dec. 17, 2010 against New Jersey. He was also a plus-three for the second straight game. Nashville is now 4-0-0 on the season when Erat scores.
After combining for just six points in Nashville’s first nine games, the defense pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter is leading the way for the Predators. Weber (3g-9a-12pts) has posted nine points (3g-6a), and Suter (4g-7a-11pts) has notched eight points (2g-6a) in Nashville’s last nine games. Weber has been on the ice for 31 of Nashville’s goals scored this season, while Suter has been on the ice for 30 of Nashville’s goals scored, which puts them both among the League’s Top 10 in the category. Suter and Weber have been present for the last eight Predator goals going back to the Predators 1,000th regular-season game last Saturday, while Weber has been on the ice for the last nine goals scored dating back to Nov. 9 at Anaheim.
The duo ranks among the League’s top three in plus/minus for the season, as Nashville’s captain paces all NHLers (+18) and Suter (+15) is tied for second. Both posted plus-four efforts on Thursday night – it was Suter’s first plus-four since Jan. 5, 2011 against Anaheim and the first time Weber has hit the plus-four mark since posting a plus-five in an 8-0 victory over Detroit on Feb. 28, 2009. Suter has led the team in ice time in all but six contests this season, and ranks second in the League in average ice time (27:26). Weber, who has led the team the five times, ranks sixth (26:38).
RINNE RELOADED Pekka Rinne is 8-1-2 in his last 11 starts dating back to an Oct. 22 shutout at Calgary with a 1.71 goals-against average, a .948 save percentage and three shutouts – his win total is tops in the League since that date. For the season, he is 10-4-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. The Kempele, Finland native is tied for second among all goaltenders in wins (10), and leads the NHL in both shots faced (543) and saves (508).
LAST 10 GAMES
In its last 10 games, Nashville has posted a 7-1-2 record (16pts), helping the club move from 14th in the topsy-turvy Western Conference prior to the stretch to fourth entering the weekend. The Predators have gone 4-0-1 at home and 3-1-1 on the road during the stretch. They have been outshot or had an equal number of shots as their opponent in nine of those 10 games, but have moved into first in the NHL in wins when being outshot (9). Nashville has outscored its opponents 34-21 overall dating back to Oct. 27 against Tampa, while holding a 16-7 goal advantage in five home games.
The Predators penalty kill has been integral to the club’s success the past 10 games and all season long. They’ve been perfect 10 times through 18 games, ranking sixth in the NHL (87.8 percent).
• In their 10 victories this season, the Predators have received game-winning goals from 10 different players.
• The Predators are now 10-2-2 when they have scored at least two goals, and are 8-0-2 when holding their opponent to two goals or less.
• In the last 12 games, the Predators are 38-for-42 on the penalty kill (90.4 percent).
• Jonathon Blum ranks among the League’s top five in blocked shots (45).
• With 50 hits on the season, Jerred Smithson ranks among the League’s Top-20 in the category.
• Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz notched his 465th career win on Thursday vs. Toronto, passing Edmonton’s Glen Sather for fifth on the games won with a single team list.
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 (along with Conference-winners Vancouver and Washington) to amass more than 55 points and have fewer 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 159 wins on home ice good for third in the League behind Detroit (165) and San Jose (161).
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.