TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DETROIT
The Predators welcome the Detroit Red Wings to Bridgestone Arena tonight for the second time in 11 days. A season ago, the Predators claimed the season series 4-2-0; they lost the first contest on Oct. 30, 2010 then reeled off four straight victories – just the second time they’ve ever done it against Detroit – before dropping the last game of the season series on April 2, 2011. Nashville has never won five straight against the Wings, and only once (April 18, 2006-Feb. 24, 2007) has it claimed three straight on home ice. Since the start of the 2008-09 campaign, Nashville has picked up at least a point in nine of 10 home games against Detroit (6-1-3), while outscoring the Wings 32-20 in those 10 games.
The Red Wings made their first appearance of the season in the Music City a little more than a week ago. The game was tied at one after David Legwand netted his eighth goal of the year in the first period. The Wings jumped out to a 3-1 lead midway through the second frame, but Nashville responded in the final 23 minutes. Jordin Tootoo pulled the Predators within one at the 17:22 mark of the second period then captain Shea Weber ignited in the final 4:46, tallying a power-play goal to pull the Predators even. Weber found the back of the net less than three minutes later completing his seventh career two-goal game, as Nashville defeated the Red Wings, 4-3.
These teams opened their 2011-12 season series on Nov. 26 in the Motor City. Valtteri Filppula scored twice, and Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary added markers in a 4-1 victory for the Wings. Jack Hillen responded with his first goal in a Predators sweater at 5:34 of the third period. Pekka Rinne made 33 saves for Nashville in its second game of a five-game road swing. Roman Josi made his NHL debut for the Predators after being called up from Milwaukee the day prior.
Rinne has gone 9-3-3 in his career against the Wings with a 2.30 goals-against average and three shutouts … Sergei Kostitsyn has eight points (5g-3a) in his last eight games against the Red Wings. His two-point performance (1g-1a) on Feb. 9, 2011 put him over the century mark in points for his career… Ryan Suter has seven points (1g-6a) in his last six games against Detroit… Weber notched his 200th career point with an assist vs. Detroit on Feb. 9, 2010.
CAPTAIN RELIABLE Shea Weber has posted an assist in four straight games, tying a career high set earlier this season (5a, Nov. 15-Nov. 22). He is also on a five-game point streak, where he has posted eight points (2g-6a), dating back to the Dec. 15 game against Detroit. That night, Weber scored the game-tying and game-winning goals to complete the Predators come-from-behind victory over the Red Wings. His career-long point streak is nine games (3g-10a-13pts) set nearly a year ago (Dec. 31, 2010-Jan. 16, 2011).
In Nashville’s last 20 games, Weber has 21 points (7g-14a), moving him into first in team scoring (8g-21a-29pts). Nashville’s captain ranks second among NHL defensemen in goals (8), tied for second in power-play goals (5) and third in points (29). He also ranks among the League’s Top 10 blueliners in plus/minus rating (+14) and shots (106). 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 58-of-94 goals in 2011-12.
POWER PLAY PRODUCTION
In Nashville’s last 17 games, its power play has been among the League’s best, converting 32.1 percent (18-for-56) of its man-advantage opportunities. The power play has scored two man-advantage goals in back-to-back games. Shea Weber (5g-8a) and his defensive partner, Ryan Suter (3g-10a), lead the team with 13 points on the power play. David Legwand, who has power-play goals in back-to-back games, is third with 12 points (4g-8a). Rookie Craig Smith (4g-7a) is just one point behind with 11 man-advantage points this season.
Nashville has the League’s second-best power-play success rate (22.5 percent). The team has been consistent both at home and on the road, scoring 13 man-advantage goals in their last 11 games (seven home, four road). The Predators have scored a power-play goal in eight of their last nine games at Bridgestone Arena, and have posted 13 goals on 54 chances (24.1 percent) on home ice, while scoring 14 goals on 66 man-advantage opportunities (21.2 percent) on the road.
In the Predators 11 games this month, they have outscored their opponents 16-10 (plus six), while outshooting the opposition 105-104 (plus one) in those game. Nashville’s 16 third-period goals in December have come from 10 different skaters.
For the season, Nashville ranks among the League’s top five in third-period scoring with 41 goals, while its opponents have scored 34 goals in the third (plus seven). Thirteen of Nashville’s goals have come in the final 90 seconds of play, including three extra-attacker goals, and four more game-winning goals. The Predators third period success has continued despite being outshot 359-316 (minus 43) in the final 20 minutes.
David Legwand has been the best Pred in the final minutes of play, as seven of his team-leading 10 goals have come in the third period or overtime.
THE PREDS ON BOXING DAY
The Predators have played the day after Christmas in all but one season (2005-06) since their inaugural campaign in 1998-99, compiling a 6-5-0 record. Nashville has played a Central Division foe on five consecutive Boxing Days, with its last win on this date coming in 2008 when it hosted the Red Wings (3-2).
The franchise has had several memorable wins on Dec. 26 dating back to its first in 1998, when the club topped the defending Eastern Conference Champion Washington Capitals, 3-1, to finish a sweep of the previous season’s Stanley Cup Finalist; the Preds had beaten Detroit, 5-3, the day before the Christmas break. The 2000 edition of the game was a 5-2 win over Colorado, highlighted by Scott Walker’s hat trick – the second in club history and first on Bridgestone Arena ice.
• Nashville is 6-1-2 against the Central Division this season, including a 3-0-1 mark on home ice.
• 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 last eight Predator victories have been by a one-goal margin.
• The Predators are 15-2-2 when scoring more than two goals.
• Ryan Suter has 16 points (2g-14a) in his last 20 games.
• Martin Erat has six points (3g-3a) in five games. He has 23 points (8g-15a) in 26 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29. Nashville is now 6-0-0 when Erat scores.
• David Legwand has seven points (4g-3a) in 10 games.
• Colin Wilson has 10 points (3g-7a) in his last 11 games.
• Pekka Rinne is now 16-9-4 with a 2.65 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and three shutouts in 2011-12. He leads all NHL goaltenders in shots faced (929), saves (853) and appearances (31).
• Predators have never lost in regulation when Nick Spaling scores a goal. They were 6-0-0 last season, 1-0 during last year’s playoffs and are 4-0-1 this season.
• In their 18 victories this season (17 non-shootout wins), the Predators have received game-winning goals from 13 different players. Colin Wilson (3), Martin Erat (2) and Nick Spaling (2) are the only players with multiple game-winning goals.