TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. ST. LOUIS
Tonight, Nashville welcomes St. Louis to Bridgestone Arena for the second time this season. Close battles have been a trend between these two Central Division rivals with 16 of the last 24 meetings decided by one goal. Nashville is 21-11-7 all-time against the Blues on Bridgestone ice, including 5-2-3 mark since 2008-09. The series has required a franchise-high 22 overtime periods to decide a winner. The Predators are 12-6-4 in those games, with all 11 wins coming since the 2005-06 season. Additionally, 11 of those 22 games have gone to a shootout, tying Nashville and St. Louis for the League lead during that span. Nashville has an 8-3 record in shootouts against St. Louis.
These teams last met on Dec. 30 in the Gateway City. The game was tied after the first period on goals from Matt Halischuk and T.J. Oshie, and would remain tied through the final 40 minutes. A shootout was required after the teams couldn’t break the tie in five minutes of four-on-four overtime play. Martin Erat notched the shootout-decider in the fifth round to defeat the Bluenotes, 2-1.
In the Blues’ last trip to Nashville on Dec. 17, extra time was needed once again to determine a winner. The game was scoreless through 52 minutes, before Erat tallied his sixth goal of the season. Oshie tied the game with a little more than three minutes remaining to force overtime. Neither team could break through in the overtime period, so the post-overtime tiebreaker was required. David Legwand scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Predators the 2-1 victory. Pekka Rinne stopped 39-of-40 shots on the night to extend his win streak to five games. These two teams squared off for the first time this season on Oct. 8, as rookie Craig Smith posted his first-career multiple point effort (1g-2a) in his second NHL game. Kevin Klein notched his first-career game winner at 13:14 of the final frame. Legwand pocketed two goals on the night, spoiling the home opener for the Blues, 4-2.
Hornqvist has nine points (4g-5a) in 15 career games against the Blues. He made his NHL debut against the Blues on Oct. 10, 2008, and notched a career-high three assists in a 3-2 victory at Scottrade Center on April 1, 2010… Jordin Tootoo has seen more offensive success against the Blues than any other NHL team. He has 13 points (6g-7a) in 36 career games against St. Louis – he has no more than four goals against any other Western Conference club. Tootoo also has racked up 91 career penalty minutes against the Blues – the second-most for a single player against a team in franchise history.
PREDATORS POST A 13-3-0 RECORD IN THEIR LAST 16 GAMES
Nashville has posted the NHL’s best record (13-3-0) since Dec. 28, outscoring the opposition 50-32 in process, despite being outshot 479-452 (minus 27) during that stretch. In Nashville’s last 16 games, it has averaged 3.12 goals per game, while allowing just 2.00 goals per game. The Predators’ current streak includes outscoring foes 41-27 while at even strength. In the 36 games prior to the current streak, the Predators were outscored 72-54 at even strength. Those totals have pushed Nashville’s goals per game average from 2.60 prior to the stretch to 2.75 (12th) currently, while its goals against has fallen from 2.80 to 2.58 (10th).
Three players have posted at least 13 points in Nashville’s last 16 games. Mike Fisher paces the team with 15 points (7g-8a), including seven points (6g-1a) in his last six outings. The Peterborough, Ont., native ranked third in the NHL in points during the month of January. Fisher is also tied with Sergei Kostitsyn for the team lead in goals (7) in the last 16 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 16 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 scored on seven of 14 shots and he currently ranks among the League leaders in shooting percentage (23.5 percent).
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 last 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 games dating back to Jan. 7, allowing two goals or fewer in nine of 10 outings. Since Dec. 28, he is 13-1-0 with a 1.77 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
Additionally, Rinne is 19-2-0 in his last 21 appearances, improving to 29-11-4 on the season – the second-most wins in the League. He ranks third in the League in saves (1,269), shots against (1,374) and second in appearances (46).
First-year forward Craig Smith – fresh off an appearance at All-Star Weekend – is in the midst of a career-long five-game point streak (2g-3a) after posting the primary assist on Ryan Suter’s third-period goal on Thursday night. That assist gives Smith 20 helpers on the season, moving him into second in assists by a Predator rookie in a single season, behind only Martin Erat (24, 2001-02). With 31 points (11g-20a) on the season, Smith finds himself tied for third in team scoring and among the League’s top five rookies in points. He also ranks third on the franchise’s all-time rookie points list behind Alexander Radulov (18g-19a-37pts) and Erat (9g-24a-33pts).
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
The Predators penalty kill has extinguished 21 of 24 shorthanded opportunities in the team’s last 10 games, and 39 of 46 opposing power plays in their last 16 – moving them from 24th in the NHL prior to the stretch (79.8 percent) to 16th (82.4 percent) currently.
Nashville’s power play has posted five goals in its last six games (5-for-17), and has scored 11 man-advantage goals in its last 12 games. For the season, Nashville’s power play ranks second in the League (21.8 percent). They have scored 38 power-play goals through 52 games after scoring 41 man-advantage markers in 82 contests a season ago.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
Entering tonight’s game, the Predators have won 12 of their last 14 home games, giving them 16 home wins on the season. Nashville ranks among the League’s best on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign, compiling 171 home victories – third-most behind only Detroit (178) and San Jose (173) 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 26 home games this season, a total that puts them on pace to break the franchise record of 20 sellouts established during the inaugural season in 1998-99. Bridgestone Arena is averaging 16,179 fans per home game this season – 95 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 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.
• The Predators are 10-2-3 this season in games played on the weekend.
• 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 25-2-2 when scoring three or more goals, and 23-1-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• In his last 33 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 ranks fourth in points (35).
• 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 lead the Western Conference and are tied with Philadelphia 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 52 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-10 on the season after finishing plus-3 in 2010-11.
• The Predators rank among the League’s top five in third-period scoring this season. Nashville has potted 60 goals in the final frame this season, including 35 goals in its last 28 third periods. Eighteen of Nashville’s goals have come in the final 100 seconds of regulation, including three extra-attacker goals, and five more game-winners.
• In its last 17 games, Nashville has outscored its opponent 18-11 in the first period.