TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DETROIT
Nashville opens its season series against Central Division rival Detroit tonight at Joe Louis Arena. A season ago, Nashville claimed the season series (four games to two), for the second time in three years. The Predators dropped the first meeting of the teams on Oct. 30, 2010 in Detroit, but reeled off four straight victories – just the second time they’ve ever posted four straight wins against Detroit – with two coming at Bridgestone Arena and two at Joe Louis Arena. Since 2005-06, the Predators are 9-9-3 against the Red Wings in the Motor City.
In their last meeting on April 2, 2011, the Predators saw a three-goal lead dwindle as the Red Wings battled back to force overtime at Bridgestone Arena. Ryan Suter had a power-play goal and an assist, Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat scored, and Mike Fisher had two assists for the Predators. Kostitsyn became Nashville's first 20-goal scorer of season and extended his point streak (4g-7a) to a career-best nine straight games. The clubs met just 14 days prior on March 19 in the Music City; the Predators gave up the first goal of the game with just 22 seconds left in the first period, but rallied to tie it on Blake Geoffrion’s first career home goal in the second, then win it on fellow rookie Jonathon Blum’s first-ever game-winning goal, on the power play, at 8:42 of the third.
In Nashville’s last trip to Motown on Feb. 9, the Predators claimed a 4-1 decision, just the second time in 38 all-time trips there that it has won by more than a single goal. In their second meeting of the season on Dec. 8, 2010, at the Joe, the Predators started a five-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on goals in the final minute of the first period by Colin Wilson (19:27) and Martin Erat at 49 seconds of the second frame to mark the first time in franchise history a goal was scored in the final minute of one period and in the first minute of the next period.
Pekka Rinne has gone 8-2-3 in his career against the Wings with a 2.12 goals-against average and three shutouts … Kostitsyn led all Predators against Detroit in 2010-11 with seven points (4g-3a) in six games. His two-point performance (1g-1a) on Feb. 9 put him over the century mark in points for his career… Ryan Suter has six points (1g-5a) in his last four games against Detroit. Suter’s defensive partner, captain Shea Weber, notched his 200th career point with an assist on Feb. 9, giving him four points (1g-3a) and a +4 rating against Detroit in 2010-11.
Nashville continues to be a team that prides itself on homegrown talent, as its current roster boasts 16 players who were drafted and developed under the guidance of President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile and his staff after 2008 second-round pick Roman Josi was recalled on Friday. No fewer than 13 Nashville draftees have been in the lineup for a game this season, including the home opener on Oct. 15 vs. Phoenix when all six defensemen were of the homegrown variety.
Learning from veterans like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Nashville’s first-ever draft selection David Legwand, the younger players are seeing increased roles in 2011-12. Colin Wilson averaged 13:17 a season ago, but is up over 17:00 per game this season; Nick Spaling’s ice time has increased roughly four minutes this season; and Matt Halischuk has gone from 10:07 per game in 2010-11, to 13:17 in 2011-12.
The Predators are also the one of the three youngest teams in the NHL with an average age of 26 years, seven months, and currently have five Calder-eligible rookies on the roster – forwards Craig Smith and Blake Geoffrion, defensemen Jonathon Blum, Josi and Teemu Laakso, and goaltender Anders Lindback. Smith has 16 points (7g-9a) this season, which rank him second among all first-year players in the League, while his three power-play goals and 62 shots on goal lead all rookies in the respective categories. The Madison, Wis., native also leads the team in both points and goals (tie).
In Nashville’s last 12 games, the defensive duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter has led the way for the Predators. Both blueliners are producing at a point per game clip during that span – Weber (3g-9a) and Suter (3g-9a). The duo is tied for second on team and eighth among NHL defensemen with 15 points – Weber (3g-12a) and Suter (5g-10a). With his power-play goal against the Wild on Wednesday, Suter has already surpassed his goals total from each of the previous two seasons (4). Weber tied a career-long assist streak – a total of five helpers in four straight games – with his assist on Jordin Tootoo’s goal on Tuesday night before seeing it end on Wednesday.
The pairing ranks among the League’s top five in plus/minus for the season, as Weber ranks second among all NHLers (+16), while Suter (+13) is tied for fifth. Nashville’s captain has been on the ice for 36 of Nashville’s 57 goals scored this season, while Suter has been on the ice for 35 – both totals rank among the League’s Top 10.
Suter has led the team in ice time in all but eight contests this season, and ranks third in the League in average ice time (27:02). Weber, who has led the team seven of the other eight times, ranks sixth (26:18).
After posting his first goal and multiple point performance (1g-1a) of the year against Edmonton on Tuesday, Jordin Tootoo continued his offensive attack against the Wild 24 hours later, notching another two-point (1g-1a) outing. Those performances mark the first-ever back-to-back multiple point games of his career. With his goal and assist on Tuesday, the Rankin Inlet, Nunavut native posted the 99th and 100th points of his career. For the season, he has seven points (2g-5a) and is on pace to post career-high numbers.
• Pekka Rinne’s 10 wins on the season are tied for fourth among all goaltenders, and he leads the League in shots against (615), saves (570) and ranks second in minutes played (1,132:07).
• In their 10 victories this season, the Predators have received game-winning goals from 10 different players.
• Martin Erat has 10 points (5g-5a) in his last 12 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29.
• The Predators are 10-4-3 when they have scored at least two goals, and are 8-0-2 when holding their opponent to two goals or less.
• Jonathon Blum ranks among the League’s Top 10 in blocked shots (50).
• With 54 hits on the season, Jerred Smithson ranks among the League’s Top 20 in the category.