TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. MINNESOTA
The Predators kick off a five-game road swing tonight at Xcel Energy Center, as they faceoff against the Wild for the first game of their season series. Nashville split road games against Minnesota in 2010-11, and is 6-9-5 all-time in the Twin Cities.
A season ago, the Predators fell 5-2 in their first trip to the Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 26, 2010. Nashville’s only win on Minnesota ice in 2010-11 came by a 4-1 decision on New Year’s Eve when Patric Hornqvist and Cody Franson put Nashville ahead 2-0 after the first two frames. Sergei Kostitsyn and Joel Ward added empty-netters – the first time in franchise history the club scored multiple empty-net goals in one contest – to secure the win for the Preds. Both Shea Weber and David Legwand – in his first complete game (he had 9:06 of ice time against Detroit on Dec. 8 before leaving the game) after missing a total of 18 games due to injury – notched two assists in the 4-1 victory.
Nashville swept the home series against the Wild for the first time since 2005-06 last season, after Pekka Rinne posted his sixth shutout of the season and the 20th whitewash of his career in a 4-0 win on March 10, 2011, at Bridgestone Arena. Nick Spaling stole the show, scoring two goals against the Wild (for the second time in as many games against Minnesota), with Martin Erat and Joel Ward adding markers on the night. On Jan. 11, 2011, Nashville scored four unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes to cruise to a 5-1 victory. Nick Spaling posted his first career two-goal outing – goals number three and four of his career – while Joel Ward netted the game winner just 62 seconds into the second period.
Rinne is 6-2-1 all-time vs. Minnesota with three shutouts… Hornqvist had three points (1g-2a) against the Wild a season ago, and has five points (2g-3a) in eight career games against Minnesota… Nick Spaling has seen more offensive success (4g) against the Wild than any other Western Conference opponent.
Defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter both kept hot streaks alive after each notched an assist on Jordin Tootoo’s third period goal on Tuesday. In Nashville’s last 11 games, Weber (3g-12a-15pts) has posted 12 points (3g-9a), while Suter (4g-10a-14pts) has 11 points (2g-9a). Weber’s assist on Tootoo’s goal tied a career-high with a total of five helpers through four straight games (Jan. 6-11, 2011).
Nashville’s captain has been on the ice for 35 of Nashville’s 55 goals scored this season, while Suter has been on the ice for 33 – both totals rank among the League’s Top 10. Weber had been on the ice for 13 straight of his team’s goals scored dating back to Nov. 9 at Anaheim before the streak ended with Jonathon Blum’s third period goal last night, making him the first player to accomplish the feat since Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer was present for 14 straight goals (March 31-April 6, 2010).
The duo ranks among the League’s top three in plus/minus for the season, as Weber paces all NHLers (+18), and Suter (+14) is tied for third. Suter has led the team in ice time in all but seven contests this season, and ranks second in the League in average ice time (27:02). Weber, who has led the team six of the other seven times, ranks sixth (26:15). Both also rank among the Top 15 blueliners in points.
Nashville has posted 13 points (6-3-1) on the road this season, ranking the team second in the Western Conference behind San Jose. In their last six road games dating back to Oct. 22 at Calgary, the Predators have allowed just 14 goals (2.33 per game) while scoring 20 (3.33 per game). For the season, Nashville has outscored its opponents 29-26 away from Bridgestone Arena.
Craig Smith leads the team with 11 (6g-5a) of his 15 (7g-8a) points in 10 road games, while Colin Wilson is tied for the League lead in road plus/minus at +10. Building on last season’s success, Nashville’s road penalty kill once again ranks among the League’s Top Five, allowing just six goals on 54 times shorthanded (88.9 percent).
Tonight marks Nashville’s third set of back-to-back games on the season. The Predators play just 11 sets of back-to-back contests this season – the lowest total in the team’s last four campaigns. Thus far, Nashville is 1-2 in the front end, after last night’s loss to Edmonton, while the team is a perfect 2-0 on the back half. A season ago, the Predators were 9-4-0 on the front end and 6-6-1 on the back end of two-games-in-two-nights scenarios.
• Nashville has earned points in 10 of its last 12 games. During that stretch, Nashville has posted a 7-2-3 record (17pts), helping the club climb to fifth in the Western Conference.
• Pekka Rinne’s 10 wins on the season are tied for third among all goaltenders, and he leads the League in shots against (585), saves (543) and ranks second in minutes played (1,072:35).
• In their 10 victories this season, the Predators have received game-winning goals from 10 different players.
• The Predators are 10-3-3 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 13 games, the Predators are 43-for-51 on the penalty kill (84.3 percent).
• Jonathon Blum ranks among the League’s Top 10 in blocked shots (48).
• With 53 hits on the season, Jerred Smithson ranks among the League’s Top 20 in the category.