TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. ANAHEIM
The Anaheim Ducks make their final appearance of the 2011-12 season at Bridgestone Arena tonight. Since 2008-09, Nashville is 7-3-2 against Anaheim, including a 5-1-1 mark on home ice, highlighted by a two-game sweep a season ago.
These two teams last met on Nov. 9 at the Honda Center, as Craig Smith scored twice and added an assist to cap off the second three-point game of his rookie campaign. Smith opened the scoring a little more than a minute into the game and Colin Wilson added another marker 3:34 later. Martin Erat tallied the Predator's first penalty shot goal since 2008 – and the seventh penalty shot goal in franchise history – on a shorthanded chance midway through the second period. Smith found the back of the net again in the opening minutes of the third to seal the 4-2 victory for Nashville. Patric Hornqvist also posted the third three-assist performance of his career as he capped off a seven-game point streak.
In their first match-up of the 2011-12 season, goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped all 20 shots he faced to move into sole possession of first on the franchise’s all-time shutout list with his 22nd, and become the second netminder in club history to hit the century mark in wins. Led by Hornqvist’s seven shots – the highest by a Predator this season – Nashville outshot Anaheim 29-20, the only time this season it has outshot the opposition. It was Hornqvist’s first shot that proved most important, as it gave him his second goal of the season 14 seconds into the tilt, the third-fastest goal in franchise history. Erat found the back of the net in the waning seconds of the first period, and Shea Weber tallied his first goal of the season in the final frame. Both Weber (1g-1a) and defensive partner Ryan Suter (2a) posted multi-point efforts – it was Weber’s first multi-point performance of the season and Suter’s second.
Hornqvist has posted 11 points (4g-7a) in his last six games against the Ducks… Weber has 13 points (5g-8a) in his last 13 games against Anaheim dating back to the 2008-09 season… Weber and Hornqvist have both had 10 shots on goal in a game against Anaheim – Weber on Jan. 2, 2010 and Hornqvist on Nov. 5, 2010… As a Predator, Sergei Kostitsyn has four points (3g-1a) in just three games against the Ducks… Nick Spaling has three points (1g-2a) in four career regular season outings against Anaheim.
Nashville’s three European forwards, Martin Erat, Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist, combined for five points (2g-3a) against Columbus on Thursday, including the two extra-attacker goals in the final 1:23 minutes of play.
Erat posted the primary assists on both the game-tying and game-winning goals against the Blue Jackets. That outing marked the fourth multiple-point outing of the season for the Trebic, Czech Republic native. He has compiled 16 points (5g-11a) in 19 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29, a total ranks him sixth on the team.
Kostitsyn posted two points (1g-1a) against Columbus, including the game-tying power-play goal with just 13 second remaining in regulation. Those were his first points since Nov. 17, when he posted a three-point night (3a) against Toronto. In 22 games this season, he has 13 points (4g-9a).
Hornqvist has points in back-to-back games (1g-1a) after being held scoreless in 11 straight going back to Nov. 12, when he posted three assists against Anaheim. The Sollentuna, Sweden native tallied Nashville’s second goal just seconds after Pekka Rinne was pulled for the extra-attacker; the goal marks his second extra-attacker goal of the season, after potting one against Los Angeles on Nov. 8. He has posted 13 points (8g-5a) in 27 games this season, including a seven-game point (7g-4a) streak from Oct. 27-Nov. 9, 2011, longest by a Predator this season.
In Nashville’s last 13 games, Shea Weber has posted 12 points (5g-7a), and with 20 points (6g-14a) through 28 games, Nashville’s captain is tied with Ryan Suter (5g-15a) for second in team scoring. Suter posted his fifth multiple-point outing of the season against Columbus on Thursday. The Madison, Wis., native has 12 points (2g-10a) in his last 13 games.
Both the 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 (Nov. 9-22), has been on the ice for 46-of-74 goals this season, while Suter has also been present for 45 Predator goals. Both players rank among the Top 10 in the category.
The duo ranks among the League’s Top 10 defensemen in plus/minus for the season – Weber (+14) is third and Suter (+11) is also among the Top 10. 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 (26:50). Weber, who has led the team in eight of the other nine games, ranks seventh (26:05).
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
Since scoring a pair of man-advantage markers on Nov. 19 against Columbus, 11 of Nashville’s last 24 goals have come via the power play. For the season, Craig Smith and Shea Weber are tied for the team lead with four man-advantage goals. Ryan Suter leads the team with 10 power play points (3g-7a), while three other players have at least nine points on the power play: Smith (4g-5a), Weber (4g-5a) and David Legwand (2g-7a). Colin Wilson also has three power-play markers on the season.
Nashville boasts the League’s fourth-best success rate (20.2 percent) with the man advantage. The team 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 12 goals on 56 man-advantage opportunities (21.4 percent) on the road.
After allowing seven power-play goals in five games (Nov. 17-26), the Predators penalty kill has been perfect in five-of-six games – killing 12 of 14 shorthanded chances – dating back to Nov. 28 at Edmonton. Nashville’s penalty kill has climbed to 12th in League (83.8 percent).
TROTZ POISED TO PASS REAY
Head Coach Barry Trotz will coach his 1,013th game tonight, passing Chicago’s Billy Reay for third in games coached with a single team behind only Al Arbour (1,500, NYI) and Lindy Ruff (1,093, BUF). Trotz has racked up 468 wins through 1,012 games and recently passed Edmonton’s Glen Sather for fifth on the games won with a single team list. The Dauphin, Man., native ranks 19th in all-time coaching wins, and became just the 20th person to join the 1,000 games coached club on Nov. 12 vs. Montreal.
• The Predators have given up an average of 25.67 shots per game in the last six contests – holding their opponent in the teens twice, and in the 20s two other times during that span. Prior to that stretch, they were allowing an average 33 shots per game.
• Nashville’s last two victories have come after trailing by two goals at some point during the game. They overcame a two-goal deficit against Vancouver on Dec. 1 (6-5).
• Craig Smith has five points (1g-4a) in Nashville’s last four games. He leads the team in points (8g-14a-22pts) and ranks among the League’s top five rookies in points and goals.
• David Legwand has four points (2g-2a) in the Predators’ last four games.
• Jordin Tootoo has six points (3g-3a) in his last seven games played.
• The Predators are 9-1-2 when holding their opponent to two goals or less.
• Pekka Rinne’s 10 wins this season tie him for 10th in the League. He paces all goalies in shots against (758) and saves (697). He ranks second in minutes played (1,428:05).
• Kevin Klein (61) and Jonathon Blum (59) rank among the League’s Top 20 in blocked shots.
• In their 13 victories this season, the Predators have received game-winning goals from 11 different players. Nick Spaling and Colin Wilson are the only players with multiple game-winning goals.