TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CALGARY
In the back end of Nashville’s second back-to-back series in a week, the Predators make their final trip to the Stampede City tonight. Nashville has claimed just three wins on Calgary ice in the past three seasons, going a combined 3-8-2 since the start of the 2008-09 campaign.
In their first meeting of the 2011-12 campaign, the Predators relied on Pekka Rinne to pull them out of a four-game winless stretch. Rinne turned aside 33 shots, earning his 21st career shutout and his first-ever win against the Flames, the final Western Conference team he was winless against. The whitewash against the Flames tied Rinne for the franchise’s shutout record held by Tomas Vokoun. Niclas Bergfors scored his only goal in a Predators sweater and Sergei Kostitsyn added his first goal of the season to ensure the victory.
A season ago, Nashville dropped all four games in the season series with the Flames. In the first meeting at the Saddledome on Jan. 24, 2011, the home team prevailed 3-1 behind a pair of man-advantage markers with David Legwand scoring Nashville’s lone goal. In their final trip of the 2010-11 season, Rinne produced a 33-save effort and Martin Erat and Ryan Suter put the Predators in front 2-1 after 20 minutes. The Flames would battle back on Jarome Iginla’s penalty shot and Curtis Glencross’ late goal to defeat Nashville, 3-2.
Erat has 25 points (8g-17a) in 30 career games vs. Calgary, his highest total against a team outside the Central Division… Outside of the Central Division, Legwand’s next three highest totals come against Northwest foes – he has 31 points (11g-20a) in 43 games against Edmonton, then 24 points in 39 games against Calgary (9g-15a) and 38 games against Colorado (8g-16a).
The Predators have scored five 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 (16.3 percent). The team has been consistent both at home and on the road. The Predators have posted six goals on 37 chances (16.2 percent) at Bridgestone Arena, while the team ranks 13th in the League on the road – posting eight goals on 49 man-advantage opportunities (16.3 percent).
Tonight marks Nashville’s fourth 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 2-2-0 on the front end after last night’s win in Edmonton, while the team is 2-1-0 on the back half this season. 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.
• Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have each posted 13 points – Weber (4g-9a) and Suter (3g-10a) – in Nashville’s last 14 games.
• Jordin Tootoo, named Third Star of Monday’s game, has five points (2g-3a) in the last four games.
• Mike Fisher has posted six points (1g-5a) in seven games dating back to Nov. 15 against Washington.
• Martin Erat has posted 11 points (5g-6a) in 14 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29.
• The Predators are 11-4-3 when they score at least two goals, and are 9-0-2 when holding their opponent to two goals or less.
• Pekka Rinne’s 10 wins on the season are tied for seventh among all goaltenders, and he ranks second among goalies in shots against (652), but leads the League in saves (603) and ranks third in minutes played (1,192:07).
• Jonathon Blum ranks among the League’s Top 10 in blocked shots (54).
• Nick Spaling tallied his third goal of the season and his second game-winner at 12:21 of the final frame in last night's game, becoming the first Predator with multiple game-winning goals on the season. All three of Spaling’s goals this season have earned the Predators points – his two game-winning goals and his goal to force OT against Columbus on Nov. 19.
• With 59 hits on the season, Jerred Smithson ranks among the League’s Top 20 in the category.
• In their 11 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). Assistant Coach Lane Lambert played for Saskatoon and coached both Moose Jaw and Prince George.
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 Nov. 25 and subsequently made his NHL debut the following night 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 16:58 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 13:03 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 six 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 17 points (7g-10a) this season, putting him second among all first-year players in the League, while his three power-play markers lead the rookie class and only Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche has totaled more than his 66 shots on goal. The Madison, Wis., native also leads the team in both points and goals (tie).