TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. ST. LOUIS
The Predators make their second trip of the season to the Gateway City tonight. Close battles have been a trend between these two Central Division rivals with 15 of the last 23 meetings decided by one goal. Nashville is 18-17-3 all-time on Scottrade Center ice, including a 15-7-0 mark at the venue since 2005-06. The series has required a franchise-high 21 overtime periods to decide a winner. The Predators are 11-6-4 in those games, with all 11 wins coming since the 2005-06 season. Additionally, 10 of those 21 games have gone to a shootout, tying Nashville and St. Louis for the League lead during that span. Nashville has a 7-3 record in shootouts against St. Louis.
In their last match-up two weeks ago on Dec. 17, extra time was needed once again to determine a winner. The game was scoreless through 52 minutes, before Martin Erat tallied his sixth goal of the season. T.J. Oshie tied the game with a little more than three minutes remaining to force overtime. Neither team could break through in the overtime period, so the post-overtime tiebreaker was required. David Legwand scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Predators the 2-1 victory. Pekka Rinne stopped 39-of-40 shots on the night to extend his win streak to five games. These two teams squared off for the first time this season on Oct. 8, as rookie Craig Smith posted his first-career multiple point effort (1g-2a) in his second NHL game. Kevin Klein notched his first-career game winner at 13:14 of the final frame. Legwand pocketed two goals on the night, including an empty-netter which sealed the deal for the Predators. Rinne turned away 31 shots, spoiling the home-opener for the Blues, 4-2.
Hornqvist has nine points (4g-5a) in 14 career games against the Blues. He made his NHL debut against the Blues on Oct. 10, 2008, and notched a career-high three assists in a 3-2 victory at Scottrade Center on April 1, 2010… Jordin Tootoo has seen more offensive success against the Blues than any other NHL team. He has 13 points (6g-7a) in 35 career games against St. Louis – he has no more than three goals against any other club. Tootoo also has racked up 91 career penalty minutes against the Blues – the second-most for a single player against a team in franchise history.
CLASS OF 2009
Nashville established a franchise record when Gabriel Bourque made his NHL debut against Minnesota on Wednesday night, making him 20th draftee to suit up for the Predators this season. The game prior – Monday vs. Detroit – fellow 2009 draftee, Ryan Ellis made his NHL debut, tying the previous franchise record of 19 draftees on the active roster set in 2010-11.
The 2009 draft class has been prevalent in 2011-12, as four players selected by the Predators in Montreal that summer have made their NHL debuts. Bourque (fifth round) and Ellis (first round) join Craig Smith (fourth round) and Mattias Ekholm (fourth round) as the 2009 draftees to play for the club this year. Prior to this season, none of Nashville’s 2009 draftees had seen time with the team.
The six remaining draft selections from 2009 are all producing at a high level for their respective clubs and could see time with the Predators in the future, including Taylor Beck (third round) and Michael Latta (third round), who are in their rookie seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. Latta ranks second in Admirals scoring and 12th among AHL rookies with 20 points (10g-10a) in 28 games, while Beck ranks seventh among current Admirals with 15 points (6g-9a) in 28 games.
TOOTOO PRODUCES Jordin Tootoo continues on his career-best pace, as he approaches highs in points, goals and assists. He posted the Predators only regulation goal against Minnesota on Wednesday night, when he tipped Jonathon Blum’s shot past goaltender Josh Harding with 13:00 minutes remaining in the third.
In 35 games this season, the Rankin Inlet, Nunavut native has posted 16 points (6g-10a), including 13 points (6g-7a) in his last 16 games. He began the 16-game stretch 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 Edmonton on Nov. 22 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.
In the Predators 13 games this month, they have outscored their opponents 18-12 (plus six) in the third period. Nashville’s 18 final-frame goals in December have come from 11 different skaters. Entering Thursday’s games, the Predators were tied with Vancouver for second in third-period goals during the final month of 2011, with only Calgary (20) ahead of them. For the season, Nashville ranks among the League’s top five in third-period scoring with 43 goals, while its opponents have scored 36 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 374-341 (minus 33) in the final 20 minutes.
David Legwand has been the best Pred in the final 20 minutes of play, as seven of his team-leading 10 goals have come in the third period or overtime.
• Nashville is 6-2-2 against the Central Division this season.
• Suter has 16 points (2g-14a) in his last 22 games.
• Martin Erat has six points (3g-3a) in seven games. He has 23 points (8g-15a) in 28 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29. Nashville is 6-0-0 when Erat scores.
• David Legwand – who has seven points (4g-3a) in 12 games – became the first Predator to reach the 800 games played milestone on Dec. 26 (Monday) against Detroit.
• Colin Wilson has 10 points (3g-7a) in his last 13 games.
• Pekka Rinne is 17-10-4 with a 2.64 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and three shutouts in 2011-12. He leads all NHL goaltenders in saves (905), shots against (986) and appearances (33) and is tied for third in wins (17).
• 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 19 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.