TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CALGARY
Calgary makes its first of two trips to Bridgestone Arena tonight, after splitting the season series with the Predators at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Predators are 23-19-9 against the Flames all-time, including a 13-9-3 record on Bridgestone ice.
The Predators and Flames last met on Nov. 29, as Nashville was in the midst of a five-game road swing. Pekka Rinne stopped 28-of-29 shots, but one goal proved to be the difference. Calgary’s Derek Smith scored the game’s only goal with 1:11 remaining in the first frame, and Mikka Kiprusoff stopped all 26 Nashville shots to lead the Flames to a 1-0 victory. In their first meeting of the 2011-12 campaign, it was Rinne who stole the show, turning aside 33 shots to earn 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, both games on Bridgestone ice required extra time to decide a winner. Nashville dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in both teams’ return from the All-Star break on Feb. 1. Martin Erat scored the game’s first goal at 7:43 of the opening frame, and Patric Hornqvist put the Preds ahead 2-1 at the 5:24 mark of the third, but Calgary would tie it 3:40 later and win it in the shootout. The first Preds-Flames meeting in the Music City on Oct. 19, 2010 was highlighted by strong goaltending as both Rinne and Kiprusoff were perfect through regulation. Rene Bourque scored the game-winner just 2:10 into overtime as the Predators extended their 2010-11 season-opening point streak to five games (3-0-2).
Erat has 25 points (8g-17a) in 31 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 40 games against Calgary (9g-15a) and in 38 games against Colorado (8g-16a).
After serving a two-game suspension, Jordin Tootoo notched his third multi-point performance in his last eight games played (1g-1a) in his return Saturday night. Early in the third period, he drew the penalty that led to Roman Josi’s power-play goal, then minutes later, he scored the eventual game winner. The Rankin Inlet, Nunavut native has posted eight points (4g-4a) in his last eight games. For the season, he ranks 10th in team scoring with 11 points (4g-7a) in 27 games.
In Nashville’s last 14 games, Shea Weber has posted 13 points (5g-8a), and with 21 points (6g-15a) through 29 games, Nashville’s captain ranks second in team scoring. Weber’s defensive partner, Ryan Suter, ranks third on the team with 20 points (5g-15a). The Madison, Wis., native has 12 points (2g-10a) in his last 14 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 47-of-77 goals this season, while Suter has been present for 45 Predator goals. Both players rank among the Top 10 in the category.
The duo ranks among the League’s Top 15 defensemen in plus/minus for the season – Weber (+14) is third and Suter (+11) is also among the Top 15. 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 (26:54). Weber, who has led the team in eight of the other nine games, ranks seventh (26:08).
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
Since scoring a pair of man-advantage markers on Nov. 19 against Columbus, 12 of Nashville’s last 27 goals have come via the power play, good for a 30.8 percent conversion rate (12-for-39) in the last 11 games. For the season, Craig Smith and Shea Weber are tied for the team lead with four man-advantage goals. Ryan Suter (3g-7a) and Weber (4g-6a) lead the team with 10 power-play points each, while Smith (4g-5a) and David Legwand (2g-7a) have posted nine points on the man advantage. Colin Wilson also has three power-play markers on the season.
Nashville is tied with Philadelphia for the third-best power-play success rate (20.4 percent). The team has been consistent both at home and on the road, scoring seven man-advantage goals in their last five home and road games. The Predators have posted nine goals on 47 chances (19.2 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 from Nov. 17-26, the Predators penalty kill has been perfect in four straight games – killing 14 of 16 shorthanded chances – dating back to Dec. 3 vs. Buffalo. Nashville’s penalty kill has climbed to 12th in League (84.1 percent).
Led by Mike Fisher’s 10-3 record in the face-off dot on Saturday (77 percent) – and the Peterborough, Ont., native’s 69.9 success rate in the past six games (69 of 107) – the Predators have won the face-off battle in four straight games, highlighted by a 65 percent clip on Saturday and a 63 percent success rate on Dec. 3 vs. Buffalo. Fisher improved his season face-off percentage from 47.5 to 52.8 in the six-game span, moving him into the League’s Top 30 in the category.
• Craig Smith has five points (1g-4a) in Nashville’s last five games. He leads the team in points (8g-14a-22pts) and ranks among the League’s Top five rookies in points and goals.
• Colin Wilson has six points (2g-4a) in his last five games.
• David Legwand has four points (2g-2a) in the Predators’ last five games.
• The Predators are 10-1-2 when holding their opponent to two goals or less.
• Pekka Rinne’s 12 wins this season tie him for eighth in the League. He paces the League in saves (712), and ranks second among goalies in shots against (775) and minutes played (1,461:20).
• In their 14 victories this season, the Predators have received game-winning goals from 12 different players. Nick Spaling and Colin Wilson are the only players with multiple game-winning goals.