TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CHICAGO
The Blackhawks make their second trip of the 2011-12 season to the Music City tonight. Nashville has posted a 20-12-6 record all-time against the Hawks in Nashville, including wins three of the last four games on Bridgestone Arena ice. Overall, the Preds are 2-0-1 against Chicago this season.
These teams last met in the Windy City on Jan. 24 in their final match-up before the All-Star break. Nashville jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on goals from Craig Smith and Mike Fisher. Chicago would cut the deficit to 2-1 midway through the final frame, before Colin Wilson notched an empty-net goal with 12.8 second remaining to secure the 3-1 win for Nashville. Pekka Rinne stopped 24-of-25 shots for his ninth of what would be 11 straight wins. Three days prior, the Predators defeated the Hawks 5-2 in front of a sold out Bridgestone Arena crowd. The game was tied after one, before Nashville opened a 4-1 lead in the second on goals from Kevin Klein, Sergei Kostitsyn and Wilson. Nashville’s lead was cut to 4-2 just 48 seconds into the final frame, but Patric Hornqvist restored the Preds three-goal lead just a few minutes later.
Smith has three goals in three games against the Hawks this season… Ryan Suter has five assists in his last six games against Chicago. The Madison, Wis., native has more points against Chicago (2g-18a-20pts) than any other team… Martin Erat has 15 points (6g-9a) in his last 17 games against Chicago… David Legwand now has 51 career-points (19g-32a) against Chicago, making him the first Predators to post 50 points against a single 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.
FISHER-ERAT-KOSTITSYN LINE CONTINUES TO CLICK
The Predators’ line of Martin Erat, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn has been the driving force behind the Predators’ recent success. Since the calendar flipped to 2012, Erat and Fisher have both ranked in the NHL’s Top 15 in point production. Erat paces the team with 19 points (5g-14a) in his last 18 outings. The Trebic, Czech Republic native leads the team with points (42) and has now posted at least 40 points in eight consecutive seasons. In Erat’s last 96 regular season games, dating back to Dec. 1, 2010, he has posted 86 points (28g-58a).
Against Boston on Saturday, Fisher put the Preds ahead late in the third with his eighth goal in as many games. Since Jan. 1, Fisher has tallied 18 points (10g-8a), including 10 points (9g-1a) in his last 10 outings. He is now tied with Patric Hornqvist for the lead the team in goals (17) in 2011-12. He ranks in the NHL’s top five in goals since the first of the year. For the season, the Predators are 18-2-3 when Fisher records a point and 10-0-3 when he scores a goal.
Sergei Kostitsyn has notched 16 points (9g-7a) in his last 18 games. He has nine goals on his last 25 shots (36 percent), and ranks among the League leaders in shooting percentage (23.7 percent). With nine goals since Jan. 1, he is currently tied for sixth among the League’s top goal scorers in that span.
HORNQVIST HONES IN
With 10 points (5g-5a) in his last nine games, Patric Hornqvist has moved into a tie with Mike Fisher for the team lead in goals this season (17). On Saturday, Hornqvist notched his seventh multi-point game (1g-1a) of the season, including his 10th third-period goal of the year. He now ranks among the NHL’s top players in final frame scoring, just three goals behind Pittsburgh’s James Neal’s League-leading 13 third-period markers. The Sollentuna, Sweden native ranked fifth in the NHL in third-period goals (16) in 2009-10, when he posted a career-high 30 goals and 51 points (30g-21a).
PREDATORS POST A 14-4-2 RECORD IN THEIR LAST 20 GAMES
Nashville has posted a 14-4-2 record in its last 20 games, outscoring the opposition 62-45, despite being out shot 623-578 (minus 45). In its last 20 games, it has averaged 3.10 goals per game, while allowing just 2.25 goals per game. The Predators’ current streak includes outscoring foes 50-33 while at even strength. In the 36 games prior, 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 2.77 (12th) currently, while its goals-against average has fallen from 2.80 to 2.59 (T-11th).
The defensive pairing of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber continues their All-Star presence along the Predators’ blue line. Suter has posted 30-plus minute efforts the last two games, registering 30:07 against Ottawa last Thursday and 31:17 against Boston on Saturday. He now ranks third in the League in average ice time at 26:40 per game, and is tied for third among NHL blueliners in power-play points (3g-16a-19pts). Since returning from injury on Jan. 23, Suter has posted eight points (1g-7a) in his last eight outings, and is a plus-five in those games. On the other side, Weber has posted a plus-nine rating in his last 10 outings, and he currently ranks among the League’s Top 10 defensemen in plus/minus for the season (+20). In his last 36 games, Weber has 29 points (10g-19a), putting him second in team scoring (11g-26a-37pts). He is third among NHL defensemen in goals (11), second in power-play goals (6) and fifth in points (37). He trails only Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson in home points among d-men (7g-16a-23pts). Since Oct. 25, Weber has not gone more than two games without a point.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
Entering tonight’s game the Predators have won 13 of their last 16 games on home ice. Nashville ranks among the League’s best on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign, compiling 172 home victories – third-most behind only Detroit (181) and San Jose (174) 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 16 of their 28 home games this season – that total matches the number of sellouts from a season ago, and puts them on pace to break the franchise record of 20 sellouts established during the 1999-2000. Bridgestone Arena is averaging 16,632 fans per home game this season – 97.3 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.
• The Predators are 3-1-0 all-time on Valentine’s Day, beating Pittsburgh (2010) and Boston (2009) in shootouts in their last two games on this day.
• Nashville has posted a 12-2-2 record against the Central Division this season. They are tied with Calgary (13-3-0) for the best point percentage in intra-division games (.813).
• Nashville’s power play has scored 14 man-advantage goals in its last 16 games. For the season, Nashville’s power play ranks second in the League (21.8 percent). They have already matched their power-play output from a season ago, scoring 41 power-play goals through 56 games this season. Last year, the Predators posted 41 man-advantage markers in 82 contests.
• Nashville’s special teams are now plus-eight on the season after finishing plus-three in 2010-11. Nashville (103.2) ranks among the League’s Top 10 in combined special teams play (PP%+PK%).
• Nashville is 26-3-4 when scoring three or more goals, and 24-1-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• Since Dec. 28, Pekka Rinne is 14-2-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage. Additionally, Rinne is 20-3-2 in his last 25 decisions, improving to 30-12-6 on the season – the second-most wins in the League. He ranks second in the League in saves (1,402), shots against (1,518) and appearances (50) this season.
• Matt Halischuk has five points (2g-3a) in his last seven games. He has 12 goals through 54 games this season, after posting just four goals in 48 career games prior. Halischuk ranks sixth on the team in goal scoring this season, despite averaging just 11:17 of ice time this season (22nd among all players to skate for Nashville this season).
• In their 32 victories this season (29 non-shootout wins), the Predators have received game-winning goals from 15 different players, tied with St. Louis for the most players with a GWG. Mike Fisher leads the team and ranks in the NHL’s Top 10 with five game-winners. He is also one GWG shy of his career-high (six) set in 2009-10 with Ottawa.
• With nine 10-goal scorers, the Predators are tied for second in the League with Philadelphia for the most players with at least 10 goals this season. Detroit leads the League with 10 players with at least 10 goals.
• The Predators rank second in the League in winning percentage (.710) in one and two goal games. They rank in the League’s Top 10 teams in one-goal games (14-6-6) and have posted the League’s best record (10-2) in games decided by two goals.
• The Predators are 22-2-3 when scoring first, ranking among the top five the League. They have led after one period in just 17 of 56 games (32 wins), going 14-1-2 in those contests. Nashville is also 14-4-1 when tied at the first intermission.
• In its last 17 games, Nashville has outscored its opponent 22-16 in the first period.
• Nashville has allowed just nine second-period goals in its last 20 outings. The team’s 35 goals allowed in the middle frame is the lowest total in the League.
• The Predators rank among the League’s top five in third-period scoring this season. Nashville has potted 64 goals in the final frame this season, including 39 goals in its last 31 third periods. Twenty of Nashville’s goals have come in the final 100 seconds of regulation, including three extra-attacker goals, and five more game-winners.
TALE OF THE TAPE
In their three games this season, the Predators have outscored the Blackhawks 12-8 despite being out shot 82-77 in those games. Nashville has outscored Chicago 9-3 in the first two periods of play, while outshooting the Hawks 58-42 in those periods. Nashville penalty kill has also extinguished 11-of-12 (91.7 percent) Blackhawk power plays in the seasons series.
GNASHVEGAS CASINO GALA & AUCTION
The Predators will host the second annual Nashville Predators Foundation GnashVegas Casino Gala and Auction tomorrow night from 6:30-10:30 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena. Fans are invited to mix and mingle at the casino tables with Nashville Predators players and coaches serving as guest dealers, take photos with the Stanley Cup and rub elbows with country music stars Vince Gill and Big Kenny. All proceeds from the annual Predators Foundation GnashVegas Gala & Auction will benefit the Nashville Predators Foundation. Visit nashvillepredators.com/gala to purchase tickets now.