TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHILADELPHIA
The Predators make their only trip of the 2011-12 season to Philadelphia tonight. Nashville is 6-6-(3)-0 in 15 all-time games against Philadelphia, with six of those needing overtime or a shootout. At Wells Fargo Center, the Predators have a 3-4-1 mark.
These teams met just 19 days ago, as the Predators beat the Flyers 4-2 in front of a sold-out Bridgestone Arena. Pekka Rinne made 36 saves and Nick Spaling notched his third game-winner of the season as the Preds won their fourth straight. Martin Erat opened the scoring for Nashville with just 57 seconds remaining the first, Sergei Kostitsyn notched his second goal in as many games and Mike Fisher iced the win for Nashville with an empty-netter.
The Predators and Flyers have had more transactions (17) than games (14) between them since Nashville’s inaugural season in 1998-99. The biggest deal came on Feb. 15, 2007, as Nashville acquired future hall-of-famer Peter Forsberg from Philadelphia for forward Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent (who Nashville would reacquire three years later in another trade with the Flyers), a first-round (which Nashville reacquired to select Jonathon Blum) and third-round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Erat has a goal in five of six games against Philadelphia dating back to Dec. 3, 2005, amassing nine points (5g-4a) in eight games all-time against the Flyers… Mike Fisher has played more games against the Flyers than any other Predator. He has posted 14 points (5g-9a) in 36 career games against Philly.
PREDATORS POST A 13-2-0 RECORD IN THEIR LAST 15 GAMES
The Predators lost no momentum following the All-Star break, as they continued their streak as the League’s hottest team. Nashville has posted the NHL’s best record (13-2-0) since Dec. 28, while outscoring the opposition 49-28, despite being outshot 451-425 (minus 26) during that stretch. In Nashville last 14 games, it has averaged 3.26 goals per game, while allowing just 1.86 goals per game. The Predators’ current streak includes outscoring foes 40-24 while at even strength. In the 36 games prior to the current streak, the Predators were outscored 54-72 at even strength. Those totals have pushed Nashville’s goals per game average from 2.60 prior to the stretch to 2.78 (11th) currently, while its goals against has fallen from 2.80 to 2.55 (ninth).
Three players have posted at least 13 points in Nashville’s last 15 games. Mike Fisher paces the team with 15 points (7g-8a) in those games, including seven points (6g-1a) in his last five outings. The Peterborough, Ont., native ranked third in the NHL in points during the month of January. His two goals against the Wild on Tuesday tied him with Sergei Kostitsyn for the team lead in goals (7) in the last 15 games. It was Fisher’s fourth multi-goal effort of the season and his second in three games. For the season, the Predators are 17-2-1 when Fisher records a point and 9-0-1 when he scores a goal.
Martin Erat has posted 13 points (3g-10a) in the last 15 games, moving him into first in team scoring. Kostitsyn has posted seven goals, to go along with six assists, during the stretch. During the month of January, Kostitsyn has scored on seven of 14 shots and leads the League in shooting percentage in 2011-12 (25 percent).
Tuesday night’s come-from-behind victory over Minnesota marked the seventh time this season that the Predators have overcome a two- or- three-goal deficit to win. In those victories, the Predators have outscored their opponents 14-3 (plus 11) in the third period and have notched three overtime winners. Tuesday was also the sixth time the Predators have posted a comeback victory since Dec. 1, 2011. Nashville overcame just three two-goal deficits all of last season.
On Tuesday night, the Predators posted their first win when trailing by three goals on the road since April 1, 2009 at St. Louis (4-3). The Preds trailed 3-0 after 29 minutes of play before Matt Halischuk got the Predators on the board midway through the second. Minnesota once again extended its three-goal lead just seconds into the final frame, but the Predators responded with their first four-goal period of the season. In the final 11 minutes, Nashville received goals from Brandon Yip at the 9:22 mark, before Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher pocketed goals just 21 seconds apart to pull even with three minutes remaining. Then, with just 20.8 ticks left on the clock, Fisher snuck a shot past Josh Harding to give the Preds the 5-4 come-from-behind win. Nashville is the only team in the League to record two regulation wins after trailing by three goals this season. Florida is the only other team (vs. New Jersey) to post a win in regulation after trailing by three goals.
Earlier this month, the Predators trailed Colorado after the first period, but responded with goals from David Legwand and Sergei Kostitsyn to force overtime. In the extra frame, Legwand netted his second game-winner of the season to give the Preds the 3-2 victory. Four of Nashville’s comebacks occurred in the final month of 2011. The Predators opened December with a come-from-behind thriller in Vancouver to win 6-5, after trailing 5-3 midway through the second. Against Columbus on Dec. 8, the Predators overcame two-goal deficits twice, the last coming when they scored two extra-attacker goals in the final 1:36 of regulation to force overtime – where Colin Wilson notched the winner 1:45 into OT. Captain Shea Weber was the catalyst for the Predators against Detroit on Dec. 17, as he tallied the game-tying and game-winning goals in the final 4:24 to win 4-3.
On Dec. 22, the Predators rallied from a 4-1 deficit at the first intermission to defeat the Blue Jackets 6-5 on Martin Erat’s goal with 8.8 seconds remaining.
RINNE NAMED THIRD STAR OF THE MONTH Pekka Rinne was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month for January after posting an 11-1-0 record during the month, marking just the third time since the start of the 2005-06 season that a netminder has recorded more than 10 wins in a month (Jimmy Howard – 12 in March 2010 and Ray Emery – 12 in March 2006). Rinne has won a franchise record 10 consecutive wins dating back to Jan. 7, allowing two goals or fewer in nine of 10 outings, and since Dec. 28, he is 13-1-0 with a 1.77 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
Rinne has posted 19 wins since Dec. 1 to lead the League since that date. He is 19-2-0 in his last 21 appearances to improve to 29-11-4 on the season – the second-most wins in the League. He ranks second in the League in saves (1,269), shots against (1,374) and appearances (46).
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
The Predators penalty kill has extinguished 19 of 21 shorthanded opportunities in the team’s last nine games, and 37 of 43 opposing power plays in their last 15 – moving them from 24th in the NHL prior to the stretch (79.8 percent) into a tie with Philadelphia for 14th (82.6 percent) currently.
Nashville’s power play has posted five goals in their last five games (5-for-13), and has scored 11 man-advantage goals in their last 11 games. For the season, Nashville’s power play ranks second in the League (22.4 percent). They have scored 38 power-play goals through 51 games after scoring 41 man-advantage markers in 82 contests a season ago.
• Nashville took 22 of a possible 26 points in January (11-2-0), giving them the highest point total and points percentage (.846) in the League for the month.
• Nashville is 6-1-0 in its last seven road games. The team has allowed just 11 goals during those contests.
• Nashville has posted an 11-2-2 mark against the Central this season, including five consecutive wins against divisional foes. That is the best record of any team against its divisional opponents.
• Nashville is 25-2-2 when scoring three or more goals, and 23-1-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• Rookie Craig Smith leads the team with 19 points (7g-12a) in 23 road games.
• In his last 32 games, All-Star defenseman Shea Weber has 27 points (9g-18a), moving him into second in team scoring (10g-25a-35pts). The Sicamous, B.C., native is third among NHL defensemen in goals (10), power-play goals (5), and points (34).
• In their 31 victories this season (28 non-shootout wins), the Predators have received game-winning goals from 15 different players. Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher lead the team with four game-winners each.
• The Predators and Flyers are tied for the most 10-goal scorers of any team in the NHL (nine each).
• The Predators are 21-2-3 when scoring first, ranking among the top five the League. They have led after one period in just 16 of 51 games (31 wins), going 13-1-2 in those contests. Nashville is also 14-3-1 when tied at the first intermission.
• Nashville’s special teams are now plus-11 on the season after finishing plus-3 in 2010-11. Nashville ranks third (105) in the League in combined special teams play (PP%+PK%), behind only Vancouver (108.6) and Pittsburgh (105.5).
• The Predators rank among the League’s top five in third-period scoring this season. Nashville has potted 59 goals in the final frame this season, including 34 goals in its last 27 third periods. Eighteen of Nashville’s goals have come in the final 90 seconds of regulation, including three extra-attacker goals, and four more game-winners.
• In its last 17 games, Nashville has outscored its opponent 18-10 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.