TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
Tonight marks the final regular season match-up of 2011-12 between the Predators and Blue Jackets with Nashville posting a 4-0-1 record against Columbus this season, and a 30-5-3 mark in the series since 2006-07. The home team has won 20-of-26 games dating back to Dec. 27, 2007.
These teams met just four days ago in Columbus, as Pekka Rinne posted his fourth shutout of the year and the 24th whitewash of his career, to defeat the Jackets, 3-0. After a scoreless first period, the Predators got goals from Martin Erat and Mike Fisher just two minutes apart midway through the second to take the 2-0. In the third, Rinne turned aside 18 shots, and Shea Weber, notched his second shorthanded empty-net goal of the season to secure the season series for Nashville.
The Predators posted consecutive comeback victories against the Jackets in the final month of 2011. In the Jackets last trip to the Music City on Dec. 22, the Preds were down 4-1 after the first period, but cut the margin to 5-4 through 40 minutes on goals from Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling and Roman Josi. With less than four minutes remaining, David Legwand tallied a power-play goal to tie the game at 5-5, then Martin Erat completed the comeback by scoring with just 8.4 seconds remaining to give Nashville the 6-5 victory. To this point, it is one of just two times this season that a team has overcome a three-goal deficit to win in regulation (other was Florida beating New Jersey, 4-3, on Nov. 21).
Shea Weber has amassed 29 points (8g-21a) in 34 career games against the Blue Jackets, his highest total against any team. Nashville’s captain posted a career-high four points (1g-3a) against Columbus on Oct. 18, 2008… Martin Erat has 16 points (5g-11a) in 13 games against the Blue Jackets since the start of the 2009-10 season. The Trebic, Czech Republic native has 48 points (15g-33a) in 53 career games against Columbus. That total ranks second to David Legwand (Chicago) for the most points against a single team in franchise history… Jordin Tootoo has 100 penalty minutes in 41 games against Columbus, the highest total of any player against a single team in franchise history. He is five PIMs away from 700 for his career.
WINNERS OF 10 IN THEIR LAST 12
In their last 12 games, the Predators have posted a 10-2-0 record, outscoring the opposition 37-22 during that stretch. In those 12 games, Nashville has averaged 3.08 goals per game, while allowing just 1.83 goals per game. Those totals have pushed Nashville’s goals per game average from 2.60 prior to the stretch to 2.71 (13th) currently, while its goals against has fallen from 2.80 to 2.58 (10th). Three players have posted at least 10 points in Nashville’s last 12 games, with Sergei Kostitsyn’s 11 points (7g-4a) leading the pack. Linemates Martin Erat (3g-7a) and Mike Fisher (2g-8a) are one point behind.
With the win against the Blackhawks on Saturday, Pekka Rinne has now posted seven consecutive victories – tying his career high (Nov. 12-Nov. 25, 2009) and the franchise record hit three times previously. The Kempele, Finland native has posted a 16-2-0 record in his last 18 decisions to improve to 26-11-5 on the season – the second-most wins in the League. He ranks second in the League in saves (1,199) and appearances (41), and third in shots against (1,298). Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Rinne’s 120 wins are fifth in the League, and his 24 shutouts lead all NHL goaltenders.
HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES
With his second multiple-point effort (1g-1a) in Nashville’s last five games, Sergei Kostitsyn has posted 11 points (7g-4a) in his last 10 outings. Since the calendar turned to 2012, Kostitsyn has scored seven goals on 10 shots, and leads the League in shooting percentage (27.3 percent).
A season ago, he led the League in shooting percentage (24.7 percent) after scoring 23 goals on 93 shots, becoming the first player since Detroit’s Patrick Eaves – who scored 20 goals on 100 shots in 2005-06 with Ottawa – to score at least 20 goals while taking 100 shots or fewer. This season, he is on pace to duplicate that feat, with 12 goals on just 44 shots in 42 games.
PENALTY KILL SUCCESS
The Predators penalty kill has been perfect in six straight and in 12 of the last 14 games, successfully extinguishing 34 of 36 times shorthanded in that span to move from 24th in the NHL prior to the stretch (79.8 percent) to 11th (83.0 percent) currently. Nashville the League’s highest penalty kill percentage (94.4 percent) since Dec. 23.
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 22 games, it has posted a 16-6-0 record and has been shorthanded just 57 times – 2.59 times per game. Nashville has allowed a power-play goal in only six of those 22 contests.
The Predators have been assessed 464 penalty minutes this season, moving them into the League’s top five in fewest penalty minutes per game (9.7 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).
PREDATORS REACH 300 WINS
With their win over Chicago on Saturday night, the Predators became just the fifth team to reach the 300-win plateau since the beginning of the 2005-06 season. Nashville joins Detroit (336), San Jose (321), Vancouver (307) and New Jersey (304) in the 300-win 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 Monday’s game, the Predators have won 11 of their last 13 home games, giving them 15 home wins on the season. Nashville ranks among the League’s best on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign, compiling 170 home victories – third-most behind only Detroit (177) 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 15 of their 25 home games this season, a total puts them on pace to break the franchise record of 20 sellouts established during the inaugural season in 1998-99. Bridgestone Arena is averaging 16,729 fans per home game this season – 97.8 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 9-2-2 against the Central Division this season.
• The Predators are 28-16-4 (60 pts) through 48 games this season – matching their point total from a season ago, when they were 27-15-6 (60 pts) through 48 games.
• Nashville is 22-2-2 when scoring three or more goals, and 21-1-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• In his last 29 games, Shea Weber has 25 points (9g-16a), moving him into a tie for 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 fourth in points (33).
• Martin Erat has 10 points (3g-7a) in his last eight games. He now has 33 points (11g-22a) on the year to tie him with Weber for the team lead.
• In their 28 victories this season (17 non-shootout wins), the Predators have received game-winning goals from 15 different players. Colin Wilson leads the team with four game-winners.
• 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 48 games (27 wins), going 11-1-2 in those contests. Nashville is also 14-3-1 when tied at the first intermission.
• The Predators rank second in the League in power-play efficiency at 21.7 percent. They have scored 35 power-play goals through 48 games after scoring 41 man-advantage markers in 82 contests a season ago.
• In its last 14 games, Nashville has outscored its opponent 15-8 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 (a tie) – 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.