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TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CHICAGO
The Predators make their second trip of the 2011-12 season to the United Center tonight. Nashville and Chicago have spilt the first two games season series thus far. The Predators are 15-22-2 in the Windy City all-time.
These teams met just three days ago in Nashville, as the Predators defeated the Hawks 5-2 in front of a sold out Bridgestone Arena. The game was tied after one, before Nashville opened a 4-1 lead in the second on goals from Kevin Klein, Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson. Marian Hossa cut the Nashville lead to 4-2 just 48 seconds into the final frame, but Patric Hornqvist restored the Preds three-goal lead just a few minutes later. Pekka Rinne turned away 20-of-22 Blackhawk shots to earn his seventh consecutive win.
Nashville made their last trip to Chicago on Halloween, as the Blackhawks topped the Predators in overtime. 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 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 15 points (6g-9a) in his last 16 games against Chicago… With two assists on Jan. 21, David Legwand now has 50 career-points (19g-31a) against Chicago; making him the first Predators to post 50 points against a single team in franchise history (Martin Erat became the second by notching his 49th and 50th points vs. Columbus last night). 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.
With eight consecutive wins, Pekka Rinne now holds the franchise record for longest win streak by a netminder (Jan. 7-23). The previous record of seven games was hit four times – twice by Rinne and twice by Tomas Vokoun. Since Dec. 28, the Kempele, Finland native is 11-1-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. Those numbers rank him first in the League in both wins and goals-against average, and second in save percentage during in that span.
Rinne has posted a 17-2-0 record in his last 19 decisions to improve to 27-11-5 on the season – the second-most wins in the League. He ranks second in the League in saves (1,224) and appearances (44), and third in shots against (1,324). Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Rinne’s 121 wins are sixth in the League, and his 24 shutouts lead all NHL goaltenders.
WINNERS OF 11 IN THEIR LAST 13
In their last 13 games, the Predators have posted the League’s best record (11-2-0), while outscoring the opposition 41-23 during that stretch. In those 13 games, Nashville has averaged 3.15 goals per game, while allowing just 1.76 goals per game. Those totals have pushed Nashville’s goals per game average from 2.60 prior to the stretch to 2.74 (12th) currently, while its goals against has fallen from 2.80 to 2.55 (ninth).
Three players have posted at least 11 points in Nashville’s last 13 games. Mike Fisher has 12 points (4g-8a) in those games, including his third two-goal performance of the season against Columbus last night. For the season, the Predators are 15-2-1 when Fisher records a point and 7-0-1 when he scores a goal. Martin Erat posted his fifth multiple-point game in his last 13 outings last night to give him 12 points (3g-9a) in the last 13 games. Those totals have pushed the Trebic, Czech Republic native to first in team scoring. Sergei Kostitsyn leads all Predators with seven goals, to go along with four assists, during the stretch. During the month of January, Kostitsyn has scored on seven of 12 shots.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
The Predators penalty kill has been perfect in seven straight and in 13 of the last 15 games, successfully extinguishing 36 of 38 times shorthanded in that span to move from 24th in the NHL prior to the stretch (79.8 percent) to 11th (83.3 percent) currently. Nashville’s seven straight games without allowing a power-play goal is tied for second in franchise history hit four times; the record is nine straight without allowing a man-advantage goal. Nashville has 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 23 games, it has posted a 17-6-0 record and has been shorthanded just 59 times – 2.57 times per game. Nashville has allowed a power-play goal in only six of those 23 contests.
Nashville’s power play scored twice against the Blue Jackets last night, giving them power-play markers in three straight games. The Predators have now pocketed 10 man-advantage goals in their last nine games. For the season, Nashville’s power play ranks second in the League (22.3 percent). They have scored 37 power-play goals through 49 games after scoring 41 man-advantage markers in 82 contests a season ago. The duo of Shea Weber (5g-10a) and Ryan Suter (3g-12a) are tied for the team lead with 15 points each on the power play.
Nashville’s special teams are now plus-12 on the season after finishing plus-3 in 2010-11.
Nashville closes out its seventh set of back-to-game games this season tonight against the Blackhawks, after defeating the Blue Jackets last night in Nashville. The Predators play just 11 sets of back-to-back contests this season – the lowest total in the team’s last four campaigns. Thus far, Nashville has posted a 5-2-0 record on the front end and a 2-4-0 record on the back half in 2011-12. A season ago, the Predators were 9-4-0 on the front end and 6-6-1 on the back end of two-games-in-two-nights scenarios.
• Nashville is 10-2-2 against the Central Division this season.
• Nashville is 23-2-2 when scoring three or more goals, and 22-1-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• Rookie Craig Smith leads the team with 17 points (6g-11a) in 22 road games.
• Six of Mike Fisher’s 11 goals this season have come in 11 games against the Central Division.
• In his last 30 games, Shea Weber has 26 points (9g-17a), moving him into second in team scoring (10g-24a-34pts). The Sicamous, B.C., native is tied for second among NHL defensemen in both points (34) and power-play goals (5), and he ranks third in goals (10).
• In their 29 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 20-2-3 when scoring first, ranking among the top five the League. They have led after one period in just 15 of 49 games (28 wins), going 12-1-2 in those contests. Nashville is also 14-3-1 when tied at the first intermission.
• In its last 15 games, Nashville has outscored its opponent 16-8 in the first period.
• The Predators have sold out Bridgestone Arena for 15 of their 26 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.
• The Predators have eight players with 10 or more goals, second only to Philadelphia’s nine.
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.