TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CAROLINA
The Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes face off tonight at Bridgestone Arena in the first of two meetings this season. Nashville has posted five consecutive wins over the ‘Canes and points in seven straight dating back to Dec. 3, 2003 (6-0-(0)-1 record). The Predators’ last regulation loss to Carolina was the only time the Hurricanes have beat them on home ice – a 2-1 Hurricanes victory on Dec. 3, 2002. Nashville is 6-1-(0)-0 on Bridgestone ice, and 10-3-(1)-1 in 14 all-time matchups against Carolina.
A season ago, Nashville took both games in the season series against the Hurricanes. In their last meeting on Dec. 4, 2010, in the Music City, the Predators got off to a quick start as Nashville fired 17 shots on goal in the first period. Patric Hornqvist, Shea Weber and Marcel Goc all scored for the Preds in the first 20 minutes and Cal O’Reilly and Steve Sullivan added third period markers in the 5-2 victory. Anders Lindback made 28 stops to record his fourth career victory. The clubs met in Raleigh just two weeks prior on Nov. 20, with the Predators battling back from a one-goal first-period deficit to win 2-1 in a shootout thanks to a Jerred Smithson goal and shootout markers by O’Reilly and Martin Erat.
All-time series highlight: Two franchise milestones were achieved in the second regular-season game in the Nashville Predators’ inaugural season on Oct. 13, 1998 vs. Carolina: the team’s first goal and the franchise’s first win. Former Predator and current member of the Chicago Blackhawks Andrew Brunette tallied the first goal in club history at 5:12 of the first period after a lengthy video review. Mike Dunham earned the franchise’s win in net with 34 saves. Denny Lambert and J.J. Daigneault also lit the lamp for Nashville in the 3-2 victory over the ‘Canes.
Shea Weber has six points (3g-3a) in six games against the ‘Canes… Pekka Rinne has posted a 2-0-0 record with a 1.44 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage for his career against Carolina.
TOOTOO POSTS CAREER HIGH
With his assist on Gabriel Bourque’s goal against Dallas on Thursday, Jordin Tootoo established career highs in assists (13) and points (19), and is on pace to set a career-high in goals in 2011-12. The Rankin Inlet, Nunavut native has five points (1g-4a) in his last five games, including his fifth multi-point effort (2a) of the season against Calgary on Jan. 1. Prior to this season, he had just 11 multiple-point games in 409 career games and no more than three multi-point efforts in a single season.
THE CAPTAIN RETURNS
After missing four games due to injury, captain Shea Weber returned to the lineup on Thursday night against Dallas, posting a team-high four shots and five hits and 25:45 of ice time. In his last 21 games, Weber has 21 points (7g-14a), moving him into first in team scoring (8g-21a-29pts). The Sicamous, B.C., native is tied for second among NHL defensemen in both goals (8) and power-play goals (5), and ranks third in points (29). He also ranks among the League’s top blueliners in shots (110) and plus/minus rating (+12). 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. In the 36 games he has appeared in this season, Weber has been on the ice for 58 of Nashville’s 95 goals (61 percent).
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
Entering tonight’s game, the Predators have won seven of their last nine home games, giving them 11 home wins on the season. Nashville ranks among the League’s best on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign, compiling 166 home wins – third-most behind only Detroit (173) and San Jose (169) in that span. Additionally, the Predators are the only team in the league to post at least 23 home victories in six consecutive seasons.
On Thursday night, the Predators welcomed a franchise-record seventh consecutive sellout crowd to Bridgestone Arena. The Predators have sold out Smashville for 12 of their 21 home games this season; they did not record their 12th sellout last season until their 31st home game (March 17). That total puts the Predators on pace to break the franchise record of 20 sellouts established during the inaugural season in 1998-99. Bridgestone Arena is averaging 16,623 fans per home game this season – 97 percent capacity. The highest average attendance for a season in franchise history occurred during the 1999-2000 season, when the Predators averaged 16,600 fans per game.
• Nashville is 3-2-2 against the Eastern Conference in 2011-12, including a 2-1-0 mark against the Southeast Division.
• Pekka Rinne is 19-11-4 with a 2.63 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and three shutouts. He is tied for third in wins (19) and leads all NHL goaltenders in shots faced (1,072), saves (983) and appearances (36).
• Martin Erat has six points (3g-3a) in 10 games. He has 23 points (8g-15a) in 31 games since returning from injury on Oct. 29. Nashville is 6-0-0 when Erat scores.
• Last month, Jerred Smithson led the NHL in faceoff percentage (67 percent) among forwards with at least 50 draws in December. He ranks in the League’s top 15 in faceoff percentage this season (55.4 percent).
• The Predators are 16-2-2 when scoring more than two goals.
• In their 21 victories this season (17 non-shootout wins), the Predators have received game-winning goals from 14 different players. Colin Wilson (3), Martin Erat (2) and Nick Spaling (2) are the only players with multiple game-winning goals.
• In its last 16 outings, Nashville has scored 19 third-period goals. The Predators rank among the League’s Top 10 in third-period scoring with 44 tallies. Fourteen of Nashville’s goals have come in the final 90 seconds of regulation, including three extra-attacker goals, and four more game winners. David Legwand has been the best Predator in the final 20-plus minutes of play, as seven of his team-leading 10 goals have come in the third period or overtime.
• Goaltender Jeremy Smith is the 11th United States-born player to appear on Nashville’s roster this season. That total ranks second in the League behind Buffalo’s 14 U.S. born players who have seen time at the NHL level. Smith joins fellow Americans Ryan Suter, David Legwand, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Francis Bouillon and Jack Hillen on the active roster.
• 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.