TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
Tonight, the Phoenix Coyotes make their final appearance of the 2011-12 regular season at Bridgestone Arena. These two teams will not meet again until March 12, 2012 in the desert. The Predators have posted a home record of 10-3-(1)-1 against the Desert Dogs since the start of the 2003-04 campaign, while posting an overall record of 17-10-(1)-2 in the same span.
In the Predators first trip to Glendale on Nov. 3, Pekka Rinne – fresh off signing the largest contract in franchise history that morning – celebrated the deal and his 29th birthday by stopping 35 shots for his third shutout of the season to lift the Predators to a 3-0 win over the Coyotes. It was Rinne’s fourth career shutout against the Coyotes, his highest total against any team. Jonathon Blum scored his first of the year in the middle frame and Matt Halischuk added another eight minutes later. Patric Hornqvist scored for a fourth straight game as he added an empty-netter to complete the win for the Predators. Nashville opened its 2011-12 home schedule against the ‘Yotes on Oct. 13. Phoenix took an early 4-0 lead, but Ryan Suter tallied a shorthanded goal and Colin Wilson scored to pull Nashville within two. Shane Doan added an empty-netter to secure the Coyotes’ 5-2 victory.
Hornqvist has nine points (6g-3a) in 10 career contests vs. Phoenix… For his career, Rinne is 7-4-1 with a 1.82 goals-against average, a .937 save percentage against the Coyotes… Playing on a line with J-P Dumont – who notched the most recent Predators hat trick that night – Halischuk and Chris Mueller each collected their first career two-point/assist performances at Phoenix on Jan. 18, 2011.
The Predators have scored nine power-play goals in the last eight games, including a perfect 3-for-3 night in a 6-5 win over Vancouver on Thursday. That performance marked the first time Nashville had scored three power-play goals since Feb. 4, 2010 against Colorado.
Since scoring a pair of man-advantage markers on Nov. 19 against Columbus, nine of Nashville’s last 18 goals have come via the power play. For the season, Craig Smith leads the team with four man-advantage goals, after notching one on Saturday vs. Buffalo (the power play went 1-for-3). Smith (4g-5a) is tied with David Legwand (2g-7a) for the club lead in power-play points, while Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Colin Wilson each have three power-play goals each.
Nashville has climbed to ninth in the League in success rate (19.0 percent). The team has been consistent both at home and on the road. The Predators have posted seven goals on 40 chances (17.5 percent) at Bridgestone Arena, while scoring 11 goals on 55 man-advantage opportunities (20 percent) on the road.
The all-American line of Craig Smith (Wisconsin), Colin Wilson (Connecticut) and David Legwand (Michigan) continues to pace Nashville’s offense, accounting for both goals on Saturday vs. Buffalo. California native Jonathon Blum also added an assist, meaning U.S.-born players accounted for five of the six total points in the game.
With his fourth power-play marker of the season, Craig Smith extended his goals and points lead for the Predators. The Madison, Wis., native has posted 21 points (8g-13a) in 26 games this season. Smith has six points (1g-5a) in six games dating back to Nov. 23 at Minnesota keeping him second among NHL rookies in points and moving him into first among first-year players in power-play goals (4). He ranks among the top five rookies in both shots (72) and goals (8) as well.
David Legwand has back-to-back multiple-point games for the second time this season (the other came Oct. 8-13). He posted a goal and an assist against both the Sabres and Canucks after being held scoreless in his previous five games; he also put a season-high six shots on goal in Saturday’s game. The Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., native is second in team scoring with 19 points (7g-12a) in 22 games played this season (he missed four games, Nov. 9-17, due to injury).
With his assist on Smith’s goal Saturday night, Colin Wilson has four points (1g-3a) in two games. Wilson’s three-point performance (1g-2a) against Vancouver on Dec. 1 was his first three-point outing since Jan. 6, 2011 vs. Los Angeles and tied a career high. He has 16 points (6g-10a) on the season and is on pace to post career-high numbers this season.
• In Nashville’s last 17 games dating back to Oct. 29 vs. Anaheim, Shea Weber has 15 points (5g-10a), and Suter has 14 points (3g-11a). Both Weber (+15) and Suter (+12) rank among the NHL’s Top 15 in plus/minus.
• Mike Fisher has notched eight points (3g-5a) in Nashville’s last 10 games.
• Tootoo has six points (3g-3a) in his last seven games.
• The Predators are 9-1-2 when holding their opponent to two goals or less.
• Martin Erat has posted 13 points (5g-8a) in 17 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29.
• Pekka Rinne ranks second among goalies in shots against (699) and leads the League in saves (644). He ranks fourth in minutes played (1,281:55).
• Kevin Klein (60) and Jonathon Blum (59) rank among the League’s Top 15 in blocked shots.
• In their 12 victories this season, the Predators have received game-winning goals from 11 different players. Nick Spaling is the only player with multiple game-winning goals.