TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. MINNESOTA
The Predators welcome the Minnesota Wild to the Music City tonight for the first time in 2011-12. In 20 all-time games on Bridgestone ice, Nashville has posted a 12-5-3 record against its foe from the Twin Cities.
These teams last met the night before Thanksgiving, as the Predators began a five-game road swing. Nashville got off to quick start, with Jordin Tootoo – who notched his second multiple-point (1g-1a) effort in as many nights – finding the back of the net at 5:21 of the first frame. The Predators would hold the lead until 1:05 of the third, as Minnesota tallied three straight goals to pull ahead, 3-1. Ryan Suter added his fifth goal of the season – surpassing his goal total from the previous two seasons (4g) – on the power-play at 13:57 to cut the final margin to 3-2.
Nashville swept the home series against the Wild for the first time since 2005-06 last season, after Pekka Rinne posted his sixth shutout of the season and the 20th whitewash of his career in a 4-0 win on March 10, 2011, at Bridgestone Arena. Nick Spaling stole the show, scoring two goals against the Wild (for the second time in as many games against Minnesota), with Martin Erat and Joel Ward adding markers on the night. On Jan. 11, 2011, Nashville scored four unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes to cruise to a 5-1 victory. Spaling posted his first career two-goal outing – goals number three and four of his career – while Ward netted the game winner just 62 seconds into the second period.
Rinne is 6-3-1 all-time vs. Minnesota with three shutouts… Hornqvist had three points (1g-2a) against the Wild a season ago, and has five points (2g-3a) in nine career games against Minnesota… Spaling has seen more offensive success (4g-1a) against the Wild than any other Western Conference opponent.
TOOTOO ON PACE
With his assist on Jonathon Blum’s third-period goal, Jordin Tootoo is on pace to set career highs in points, goals and assists. In just 34 games this season, the Rankin Inlet, Nunavut native has posted 15 points (5g-10a), including 12 points (5g-7a) in his last 15 games. He began the 15-game span with the first-ever back-to-back multiple point games of his career against Edmonton (Nov. 22) and Minnesota (Nov. 23). His goal and assist against Minnesota on Nov. 23 marked the 99th and 100th points of his career.
His career high of 18 points has been hit twice – he established the mark in 2007-08, when he posted a personal-best 11 goals, and seven assists, in 63 games. He then tied his career mark last season, when he posted eight goals and 10 assists in 54 games. His eight-season high in assists came in 2008-09 when he notched 12 in 72 games.
ELLIS MAKES HIS DEBUT
Highly-touted prospect Ryan Ellis made his NHL debut on Monday against Detroit, playing 18:13 and putting three shots on goal. He was also on the ice for more than half (5:31) of Nashville’s 10 power-play minutes. Prior to his recall, the Freelton, Ont., native was tied for ninth among American Hockey League defensemen, and tied for first among rookie blueliners, with 17 points (4g-13a) in 26 games.
This is Ellis’ first professional season after spending the previous four seasons with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he was one of the most decorated defensemen in Canadian Hockey League history. Ellis became just the third d-man in OHL history to record 300 career points (73g-241a-314pts, +145, 207 PIMs, 226 gp), joining Rick Corriveau (329) and Denis Potvin (330). He won the 2011 Red Tilson Trophy, awarded to the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player of the Year, the 2011 Max Kaminsky Trophy for the second time in three years as the League’s Most Outstanding Defenseman of the Year and the Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy for leadership on and off the ice.
The Predators first-round selection (11th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Ellis became the 19th Predators’ draft pick to take the ice this season – matching the number from a season ago, when the Predators set a franchise-high in draftees who saw time with the club. He was one of five first rounders on the roster for Nashville on Monday, joining David Legwand (1998), Ryan Suter (2003), Jonathon Blum (2007) and Colin Wilson (2008). All of Nashville’s first selections in the annual entry draft between Legwand – the franchise’s first-ever draft pick – and Ellis have played at least one game with the team.
In the Predators 12 games this month, they have outscored their opponents 17-11 (plus six) in the third period. Nashville’s 17 final-frame goals in December have come from 11 different skaters. For the season, Nashville ranks among the League’s top five in third-period scoring with 42 goals, while its opponents have scored 35 goals in the third (plus seven). Thirteen of Nashville’s goals have come in the final 90 seconds of regulation, including three extra-attacker goals, and four more game-winning goals. The Predators third-period success has continued despite being outshot 365-331 (minus 34) 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.
• Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have combined for 53 points this season – the most by a defensive tandem. They are one point ahead of Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar (52).
• Weber has 21 points (7g-14a) in his last 20 games, 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 points (29).
• Suter has 16 points (2g-14a) in his last 21 games.
• Martin Erat has six points (3g-3a) in six games. He has 23 points (8g-15a) in 27 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 11 games.
• Colin Wilson has 10 points (3g-7a) in his last 12 games.
• Pekka Rinne is now 16-10-4 with a 2.70 goals-against average, .916 save percentage and three shutouts in 2011-12. He leads all NHL goaltenders in saves (871) and appearances (32) and ranks second in shots against (951).
• The Predators are 15-2-2 when scoring more than two goals.
• 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.