TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
Columbus makes its second trip to Bridgestone Arena tonight, after earning its first win in the Music City in more than five years on Nov. 19. Nashville is 28-5-3 in the series since 2006-07, and 45-14-(4)-2 against the Jackets all time. The home team has won 19-of-24 games dating back to Dec. 27, 2007.
These teams last met in Columbus on Dec. 8, it was a back-and-forth affair, as the Predators overcame a two-goal deficit twice to force overtime. Patric Hornqvist scored his second extra-attacker goal of the season with 1:36 left in the third period to pull the Predators within one. Sergei Kostitsyn netted the Predators second extra-attacker goal of the game just 1:23 later to force overtime. In the extra frame, Colin Wilson buried a one-timer from Martin Erat – who assisted on the game-tying and game-winning goals – at 1:45 to secure the Predators come-from-behind victory, 4-3.
On Nov. 19, 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 period. The Jackets took the lead in the third, before Nick Spaling tallied his second goal of the season 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 the game winner just 39 seconds into the final frame. Rinne weathered Columbus’ late offensive attack, stopping 32 shots, to secure the Predators’ first victory of the season.
Shea Weber has amassed 25 points (7g-18a) in 33 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 12 points (3g-9a) in 11 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-31a-44pts, 51gp)… 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.
RINNE NAMED NHL’S SECOND STAR OF THE WEEK Pekka Rinne was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week on Monday after going 3-0-0 with a .957 save percentage for the Predators from Dec. 12-18. He made at least 35 saves in each of those starts, beginning with a 35 save effort in a 2-1 victory over Calgary on Dec. 13. He turned aside 37 shots in Nashville’s come-from-behind victory over Detroit last Thursday, then matched his season high with 39 saves and three shootout stops in a 2-1 victory against St. Louis on Saturday.
Rinne earned NHL Three Stars of the Week honors more than any other player in team history. Of the six Predators to be recognized as one of the three stars since December 2008, Rinne has accounted for five of them. He was named the Third Star of the Month twice in 2010-11 (January and March), making him the first Predator since Shea Weber (October 2008) to receive the honor.
For the season, the Kempele, Finland native is 15-9-4 with a 2.42 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and three shutouts in 2011-12. He leads all NHL goaltenders in shots faced (891) and saves (823), and ranks second in appearances (29). The 2011 Vezina Trophy finalist has posted at least 29 wins in three consecutive season, and has more shutouts (23) since the beginning of 2008-09 than any other netminder.
With his assist on Sergei Kostitsyn’s goal on Tuesday night, captain Shea Weber has moved into the Predators points lead with 25 (8g-17a) on the season. In Nashville’s last 18 games, Weber has 17 points (7g-10a), moving him into second among NHL defensemen in goals (8), tied for second in power-play goals (5) and third in points (25). He also ranks among the League’s top five blueliners in plus/minus rating (+15) and shots (100). His 86 goals since the start of the 2006-07 season are the most by an NHL d-man.
Five of his eight goals this season have come in the final 20 minutes of play, and Nashville is 5-1-1 when its captain scores. The Sicamous, B.C., native has been on the ice for nearly 62 percent of Nashville’s goals this season. He was present for every Nashville goal in 13 straight games (Nov. 9-22), and has been on the ice for 52-of-85 goals in 2011-12.
He notched his seventh-career two-goal game, and first since Oct. 22, 2009 against Ottawa, after scoring the final two goals against Detroit a week ago. His two goals were the second time this season a Predator has had two goals in a period and the seventh time a player has had two goals in a game. The first goal moved him past Jason Arnott and into second on the franchise’s all-time power-play goals list (41), and the second tally tied him with Steve Sullivan for sixth on the Predators all-time game-winning goals list (16).
POINTS UNDER PRESSURE
Nashville continues to produce timely goals in the final 20 minutes of play. This month, the Predators have outscored their opponents 13-8 (plus five) in the third period, despite being outshot 89-86 (minus three) in those nine games. For the season, Nashville ranks in the League’s top five in third-period scoring with 38 goals, while its opponents have scored 32 goals in the third (plus four). Those goals have come despite being outshot 344-297 (minus 47).
Tonight marks front end of Nashville’s fifth 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 even, posting a 2-2-0 record on the front end and a 2-2-0 record 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.
• According to Stats Inc., Nashville’s 10 consecutive one-goal games from Nov. 28-Dec. 17 were just two games short of the NHL record. The Predators went 7-3-0 in those contests
• The Predators are 5-1-2 against the Central Division in 2011-12, including a 2-0-1 mark on home ice.
• The Predators are 14-1-2 when scoring two goals or more.
• David Legwand has six points (3g-3a) in nine games.
• Ryan Suter has 13 points (2g-11a) in his last 18 games.
• Colin Wilson has seven points (3g-4a) in his last nine games.
• In their 17 victories this season, the Predators have received game-winning goals from 13 different players. Colin Wilson (3) and Nick Spaling (2) are the only players with multiple game-winning goals.