TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
The Predators make their second trip to Nationwide Arena tonight after opening their 2011-12 campaign there on Oct. 7. Nashville is 27-5-3 in the series since 2006-07, and 44-14-(4)-2 against the Jackets all time. The home team has won 19-of-23 games dating back to Dec. 27, 2007.
These teams last faced off on Nov. 19, as the Blue Jackets earned their first win on Bridgestone Arena ice in more than five years. Nashville took the early lead on Colin Wilson’s power play marker with just over a minute remaining in the first period. Columbus pulled even in the second, but Mike Fisher slammed home a Shea Weber rebound on the man-advantage to put the Predators in front at 10:27 of the second. The Jackets took the lead in the final frame, before Nick Spaling tallied his second goal of the season with just more than five minutes remaining to force overtime. In the extra frame, James Wisniewski beat Pekka Rinne with a slap shot to give the Jackets a 3-2 victory.
In the season opener for both squads on Oct. 7, the Predators edged the Blue Jackets 3-2 at Nationwide Arena. Seven different players posted points for the Predators, including Ryan Suter, who posted his 32nd career multiple-point effort (1g-1a). Rookie Craig Smith scored his first NHL goal in his NHL debut, becoming the first Predator to score a goal in his club debut since Joel Ward on Oct. 10, 2008 at St. Louis. Matt Halischuk notched his second game-winning goal in as many contests against Columbus after he scored just 39 seconds into the final frame. Halischuk also had the game winner in the second-to-last game of the 2010-11 season against Columbus, a 4-1 victory. Rinne weathered Columbus’ late offensive attack, stopping 32 shots, to secure the Predators’ first victory of the season.
Shea Weber has amassed 24 points (7g-17a) in 32 career games against the Blue Jackets, his highest total of any team. Nashville’s captain posted a career-high four points (1g-3a) against Columbus on Oct. 18, 2008… Martin Erat has 10 points (3g-7a) in 10 games against the Blue Jackets since the start of the 2009-10 season. The Trebic, Czech Republic native has more career goals and points against the Blue Jackets than any other team in the League (13g-29a-42pts, 50gp)… Nashville’s 2007 first-round pick Jonathon Blum made his NHL debut against the Blue Jackets on Feb. 22, 2010 in the arena where he took the stage as the 23rd overall pick (first round) in the 2007 Entry Draft. The Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., native scored his first NHL goal against the Blue Jackets on Feb. 27, 2011, a 3-2 victory… Jordin Tootoo has 100 penalty minutes in 39 games against Columbus, the highest total of any player against a single team in franchise history.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
Since scoring a pair of man-advantage markers on Nov. 19 against Columbus, 10 of Nashville’s last 20 goals have come via the power play. For the season, Craig Smith and Shea Weber lead the team with four man-advantage goals, after Weber scored on the 5-on-3 advantage against Phoenix (the power play went 1-for-3). Four players are tied for the team lead with nine power-play points – Smith (4g-5a), Weber (4g-5a), Ryan Suter (3g-6a) and David Legwand (2g-7a). Colin Wilson also has three power-play markers on the season.
Nashville boasts the League’s ninth best success rate (19.4 percent) on the power play, and has been consistent both at home and on the road. The Predators have posted eight goals on 43 chances (18.6 percent) at Bridgestone Arena, while scoring 11 goals on 55 man-advantage opportunities (20 percent) on the road.
Since allowing seven power-play goals in five games from Nov. 17-26, the Predators penalty kill has been perfect in four of five games – killing 11 of 13 shorthanded chances – dating back to Nov. 28 at Edmonton. Nashville’s penalty kill has climbed to 12th in League (83.6 percent). Away from Bridgestone Arena, the Predators rank in the League’s Top 10, allowing only 10 goals on 71 times shorthanded (85.9 percent).
The defensive pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter continues to be an offensive catalyst for the Predators. In Nashville’s last 12 games, Weber has posted 11 points (5g-6a). With 19 points (6g-13a) through 27 games, Nashville’s captain is tied with David Legwand for second in scoring. Suter has posted 10 points (2g-8a) in the Predators’ last 12 games and his 18 points (5g-13a) on the season are good for fourth on the team.
Both defensemen have been on the ice for more than 60 percent of Nashville’s goals this season. Weber, who was present for every Nashville goal in 13 straight games between Nov. 9-22, has been on the ice for 44 of Nashville’s 70 goals this season, while Suter has been present for 43 Predator goals. Both players rank among the Top 10 in the category.
The duo also ranks among the League’s Top 10 blueliners in plus/minus for the season – Weber (+14) is second and Suter (+11) is tied for eighth. Suter has led the team in ice time in all but nine contests this season, and ranks second in the League in average ice time (26:51). Weber, who has led the team eight of the other nine times, ranks seventh (26:05).
• Craig Smith has five points (1g-4a) in Nashville’s last three games. He leads the team in points (8g-14a-22pts) and ranks among the League’s Top five rookies in points and goals.
• Legwand has four points (2g-2a) the Predators’ last three games.
• Fisher has notched eight points (3g-5a) in Nashville’s last 11 games.
• Jordin 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 14 points (5g-9a) in 18 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29.
• Pekka Rinne paces all goalies in shots against (734) and saves (676). He ranks fifth in minutes played (1,341:08).
• Kevin Klein (60) and Jonathon Blum (59) rank among the League’s Top 20 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.