TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. EDMONTON
Nashville and Edmonton face off for the third time in six days tonight at Rexall Place. Since 2006-07, Nashville is 16-5-1 against the Edmonton Oilers, averaging 3.36 goals per game, while allowing only 2.77 goals per game in the process.
A week ago, after being outshot 13-3 in the opening period, Pekka Rinne was relieved by Anders Lindback to open the middle frame. Nashville rebounded in the second in front of Lindback, outshooting the Oilers 18-7. Jordin Tootoo got the Predators on the board with 8:28 remaining in the final frame with his first goal of the season, and Jonathon Blum added his second goal of the year at 19:40 to cut the final margin to 6-2. In their first match up of the season on Oct. 17, Sergei Kostitsyn extended his five-game point streak to start the 2011-12 season with his first goal of the campaign just two minutes into the second period, but Edmonton responded with a three-goal third period to beat Nashville, 3-1. Rinne faced 25 shots, giving up just two goals for the fourth time in five starts.
A season ago, Nashville picked up five of a possible eight points against Edmonton (2-1-1 record), going 1-0-1 in the NHL’s northernmost city. Both games in Edmonton went to a shootout – the Predators prevailed by a 3-2 margin on Jan. 23, while the Oil won 2-1 on March 1 despite Blake Geoffrion scoring his first career goal. Nashville outshot Edmonton by a 130-92 margin in last season’s four games, including a plus-31 differential in the first period (54-33). Nashville also won the special teams battle, highlighted by an 11-for-12 (91.7 percent) performance on the penalty kill.
Kostitsyn has five points (2g-3a) in seven career games vs. the Oil… Patric Hornqvist has posted eight points (5g-3a) in 11 career games vs. the Oilers… Martin Erat notched his first career hat trick, a natural hat trick, at Rexall Place on March 4, 2008, the second road hat trick in franchise history… David Legwand (10g-20a-31pts, 42gp) and Shea Weber (7g-8a-15pts, 21gp) have seen more offensive success against Edmonton than any other non-divisional opponent… Rinne has won seven of his 12 career decisions against Edmonton (7-4-1).
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, and made his NHL debut on Saturday at Detroit. 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 to 17:03 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 13:10 in 2011-12.
The Predators are also 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 tie him for third among all first-year players in the League, while his three power-play goals and 64 shots on goal rank among the top three rookies in the respective categories. The Madison, Wis., native also leads the team in both points and goals (tie).
ERAT ELEVATES Martin Erat has posted 11 points (5g-6a) in 13 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29; Erat was knocked out of the season opener vs. Columbus and missed Nashville’s next eight games. The Trebic, Czech Republic native returned on fire, posting nine points (5g-4a) in his first nine games back. He put up two goals against Toronto on Nov. 17, the 11th two-goal game of his career, and the first since Dec. 17, 2010 against New Jersey. Nashville is 4-0-0 on the season when Erat scores.
The Predators have scored four power-play goals in the last four games, including their second game this season with multiple man-advantage goals on Nov. 19 against Columbus, after being held scoreless on power play in the four previous games from Nov. 9-17. Ryan Suter and Craig Smith lead the way for Nashville with three power-play goals each.
Nashville has climbed to 18th in the League in success rate (15.8 percent), building off its home power-play success, after posting six goals on 37 chances (16.2 percent). Away from Bridgestone, the Predators have posted seven goals on 45 man-advantage opportunities (15.6 percent).
• Pekka Rinne’s 10 wins on the season are tied for seventh among all goaltenders, and he leads the League in shots against (652), saves (603) and ranks second in minutes played (1,192:07).
• Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have each posted 12 points – Weber (3g-9a) and Suter (3g-9a) – in Nashville’s last 13 games.
• Jordin Tootoo has four points (2g-2a) in the last three games.
• Mike Fisher has posted six points (1g-5a) in six games dating back to Nov. 15 against Washington.
• The Predators are 10-4-3 when they score 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 (52).
• With 58 hits on the season, Jerred Smithson ranks among the League’s Top 20 in the category.
• In their 10 victories this season, the Predators have received game-winning goals from 10 different players.
• Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz notched his 465th career win on Nov. 17 vs. Toronto, passing Edmonton’s Glen Sather for fifth on the games won with a single team list.
• The Predators roster boasts five players who cut their teeth in the Western Hockey League – Shea Weber (Kelowna), Martin Erat (Saskatoon/Red Deer), Jerred Smithson (Calgary), Jordin Tootoo (Brandon) and Jonathon Blum (Vancouver).