TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CHICAGO
The Predators welcome the Chicago to Bridgestone Arena for the first time in 2011-12 tonight. Nashville has posted a 19-12-6 record all-time against the Hawks in the Music City, including two-of-three games a season ago.
These teams last met in the Windy City on Halloween, as the Blackhawks topped the Predators in overtime. Patric Hornqvist – who was in the midst of a six-game goal scoring streak – opened the scoring just 26 seconds into the game and added a power-play goal in the second. Craig Smith also scored and David Legwand tied the game with less than six minutes remaining to force overtime. In the extra frame, Viktor Stalberg beat Pekka Rinne to secure the Blackhawks’ 5-4 victory.
Ryan Suter has four assists in his last five games against Chicago. The Madison, Wis., native has more points against Chicago (2g-17a-19pts) than any other team… Martin Erat has 14 points (6g-8a) in his last 15 games against Chicago… With 48 points (19g-29a), David Legwand is tied for the most goals and points against Chicago than any other player against any other team in franchise history. He registered his first career hat-trick and first career four-point game (3g-1a) against Chicago on Jan. 20, 2007; it is one of just four hat tricks the Predators have notched against the Hawks all-time.
After a night off when the Preds played the NY Rangers on Tuesday, goaltender Pekka Rinne returned on Thursday night in Columbus, posting his fourth shutout of the season and the 24th of his career. He turned away all 38 shots he faced, as the Predators improved to 11-0-1 when Rinne makes 35 saves or more this season. Since Dec. 28, he is 9-1-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage and a shutout. He ranks second to Ottawa’s Craig Anderson in all goaltending categories by the smallest of margins (10-1-0, 1.67, .949) during that span.
The Kempele, Finland native is in the middle of his second six-game win streak of the season, and has posted a 15-2-0 record in his last 17 decisions to improve to 25-11-5 on the season – the second-most wins in the League. He also ranks second in the League in shots against (1,276), saves (1,179) and appearances (41). Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Rinne’s 119 wins are fifth in the League, and his 24 shutouts lead all NHL goaltenders.
PENALTY KILL SUCCESS
The Predators penalty kill has been perfect in 11 of the last 13 games, successfully extinguishing 33 of the last 35 times shorthanded (94.2 percent) to move from 24th in the NHL prior to the stretch (79.8 percent) to 11th (83.0 percent) currently. A key component to the Predators improvement has been their road penalty kill, which is tied for fifth in the NHL (87.0 percent).
Staying out of the box has aided in the Predators recent PK success. In Nashville’s first 26 games of 2011-12, it posted a 12-10-4 record while going shorthanded 103 times – an average of four per game. It allowed at least one power-play marker in 13 of those 26 outings. In the team’s last 21 games, it has posted a 15-6-0 record and has been shorthanded just 56 times – 2.66 times per game. Nashville has allowed a power-play goal in only six of those 21 contests.
The Predators have been assessed 462 penalty minutes this season, moving them into the League’s top five in fewest penalty minutes per game (9.8 minutes). A season ago, The Predators were assessed 720 penalty minutes, the second-lowest total in franchise history and the second-lowest total in the NHL (8.8 per game).
WINNERS OF NINE IN THEIR LAST 11
In their last 11 games, the Predators have posted a 9-2-0 record, while outscoring the opposition 32-20 during that stretch. In those 11 games, Nashville has averaged 3.11 goals per game, while allowing just 2.48 goals per game. Those totals have pushed the Predators goals per game average to 13th (2.66) in the League and their goals against to 11th (2.60). Three players have led the way for Nashville with nine points each during that stretch – Martin Erat (3g-6a), Mike Fisher (2g-7a) and Sergei Kostitsyn (6g-3a).
The Predators rank among the League’s top five in third-period scoring this season. Nashville has potted 51 goals in the final frame this season, including 26 goals in its last 23 third periods. Sixteen of Nashville’s goals have come in the final 90 seconds of regulation, including three extra-attacker goals and four game winners. David Legwand has been the best Predator in the final 20-plus minutes of play, as eight of his team-leading 13 goals have come in the third period or overtime.
ONE WIN SHY OF 300
The Predators are now just one win shy of becoming the fifth team to post 300 wins since the beginning of the 2005-06 season. Nashville will join Detroit (335), San Jose (321), Vancouver (306) and New Jersey (304) in the 300-wins column. Nashville is also one of four teams (Detroit, San Jose and Calgary) to reach the 40-win mark in every season dating back to the 2005-06 campaign.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
Entering tonight’s game, the Predators have won 10 of their last 12 home games, giving them 14 home wins on the season. Nashville ranks among the League’s best on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign, compiling 169 home victories – third-most behind only Detroit (176) and San Jose (171) in that span. Additionally, the Predators are the only team in the League to post at least 23 home victories in six consecutive seasons.
A factor in the Predators success has been the atmosphere in Bridgestone Arena. The Predators have sold out Smashville for 14 of their 24 home games this season; 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 16,712 fans per home game this season – 97.7 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 8-2-2 against the Central Division this season.
• The Predators are 21-7-4 (.719) in games decided by two goals or fewer, giving them the best point percentage in the League in that situation, and the second-most wins.
• Nashville is 21-2-2 when scoring three or more goals, and 20-1-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• In his last 28 games, Shea Weber has 25 points (9g-16a), moving him into first in team scoring (10g-23a-33pts). The Sicamous, B.C., native is tied for second among NHL defensemen in both goals (10) and power-play goals (5), and is third in points (33).
• Sergei Kostitsyn has registered six goals on nine shots during the month of January. He currently leads the League in shooting percentage (25.6 percent).
• In their 27 victories this season (17 non-shootout wins), the Predators have received game-winning goals from 15 different players.
• The Predators are 19-2-3 when scoring first, tied for fourth in the League. They have led after one period in just 14 of 47 games (27 wins), going 11-1-2 in those contests. Nashville is also 13-3-1 when tied at the first intermission.
• The Predators rank second in the League in power-play efficiency at 21.4 percent. They have scored 34 power-play goals through 47 games after scoring 41 man-advantage markers in 82 contests a season ago.
• In its last 13 games, Nashville has outscored its opponent 14-7 in the first period.
ALL-STAR GAME BOUND
For just the second time in franchise history, the Predators will be sending two players to the All-Star Game as the tandem of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are Ottawa bound. For Weber, this is his third All-Star Game selection, and the first for Suter. They will be joined by first-year forward Craig Smith who will take place in the rookie portion of All-Star Weekend after ranking among the rookie leaders in goals, assists, points, power-play goals and shots on goal to this point in 2011-12. In 2011-12, Weber ranks among the defensive leaders in goals, points, power-play goals, plus/minus and time on ice in addition to leading the Predators in points – the only d-man to lead his team in points. Suter ranks among the League leaders in average ice time and blueliner scoring. Weber and Suter are two of only seven d-men to rank in their teams top three in scoring, and both have been on the ice for more than 55 percent of Nashville's goals this season.