TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. VANCOUVER
The Predators and Canucks close out their season series tonight at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators have taken three of a possible six points in the series, going 1-1-0 in Vancouver, and picking up a point in a shootout loss in the first meeting in the Music City. Nashville has posted a 9-9-(1)-5 record all-time against the Canucks on home ice.
These teams met just two weeks ago, the game was tied at three goals apiece after regulation following goals by Colin Wilson, Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Fisher. After both teams were held scoreless in the extra frame, a six-round shootout was required, with Vancouver taking home the 4-3 victory. Pekka Rinne made 28 saves in regulation, but was held out of the win column for the first time in 11 games.
On Dec. 1 at Rogers Arena, the Predators jumped out to a 3-1 lead after first period goals from David Legwand, Shea Weber and Fisher. Then, after surrendering four goals by the midway point of the second, the Preds mounted a comeback to tie the game at five after 40 minutes. The game remained tied until the 18:44 mark of the third, when Fisher sealed the 6-5 come-from-behind win with his second goal of the night. In their first meeting of the year on Oct. 20 in the Pacific Northwest, Matt Halischuk tallied the lone goal for the Predators, and Anders Lindback saw his first action of the season in relief of Pekka Rinne, stopping 23-of-24 for shots in the final 40 minutes, cutting the final margin to 5-1.
Colin Wilson leads all Predators with five points (2g-3a) against the Canucks this season… Martin Erat has 15 points (5g-10a) in his last 13 games against the Canucks, including his second career hat trick and a career-high four points (tie) on Dec. 8, 2009.
The defensive pairing of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber continues its all-star caliber play on the Predators’ blue line. On Sunday night, Weber drove home a Suter rebound with 0.1 seconds remaining in the first period for a power-play goal. Those points moved Weber (43g-60pts-103pts) and Suter (11g-83a-94pts) into fourth and eighth respectively on the franchise’s all-time power-play points list. Suter’s assist also moved him into 10th all-time in franchise scoring (38g-189a-227pts).
Since returning from injury on Jan. 23, Suter has posted 10 points (2g-8a) in 11 games. He now ranks sixth among NHL blueliners with 35 points (7g-28a) this season, putting him on pace to surpass his career-high 45 points (7g-38a) set during the 2008-09 season. The Madison, Wis., native is third among NHL blueliners in power-play assists and points (3g-17a-20pts) and ranks fourth in the League in average ice time (26:40), just 17 seconds ahead of Weber (26:23). Suter posted his seventh goal of the season against Chicago on Feb. 14; he is now one marker shy of tying his career-high (8) set during 2006-07 season.
With his power-play marker on Sunday, Weber (92g) is now just one goal shy of moving into a four-way tie for sixth on the Preds all-time goal scoring list. In his last 39 games, Weber has 30 points (11g-19a), putting him second in team scoring (12g-26a-38pts). He is second among NHL defensemen in goals (12) and power-play goals (7), third in shots on goal (166) and fourth in points (38). He also ranks among the League’s Top 10 d-men in power-play points (7g-10a-17pts) and plus/minus for the season (+17). He is also the only blueliner to post multiple shorthanded goals (2) this season. Since Oct. 25, Weber has not gone more than two games without a point.
PREDATORS POST A 16-5-2 RECORD IN THEIR LAST 23 GAMES
Nashville has posted a 16-5-2 record in its last 23 games, outscoring the opposition 69-51, despite being out shot 710-639 (minus 71). In its last 23 games, it has averaged 3.00 goals per game, while allowing just 2.21 goals per game. The Predators’ current streak includes outscoring foes 56-39 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 2.75 (12th) currently, while its goals-against average has fallen from 2.80 to 2.56 (T-10th).
NASHVILLE’S VEZINA CANIDATE Pekka Rinne has posted a 16-3-2 record with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in his last 21 decisions, improving to 32-13-6 on the season – tying him with Detroit’s Jimmy Howard for the most wins in the League. He also tied for the League lead in saves (1,483), while he ranks second in shots against (1,605) and appearances (53). He pocketed his third assist of the season on Sunday against the Stars – making him one of just four goalies with three or more helpers this season (Craig Anderson, Martin Brodeur and Martin Biron are the others). Rinne recently posted a franchise record 11-game win streak from Jan. 7-Feb. 4 – matching the longest single-season winning streak by an NHL goaltender over the last 13 years.
The Predators’ line of Martin Erat, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn has been the driving force behind the Predators’ offense of late. Since the calendar flipped to 2012, Erat (5g-14a) and Fisher (10g-9a) have both notched 19 points, which ranks them among the League leaders during that span. Erat’s 14 helpers since Jan. 1 rank him among the League’s Top 15 players. He leads the team with 42 points on the year – his eighth consecutive season with at least 40 points. In his last 99 regular season games dating back to Dec. 1, 2010, Erat has posted 86 points (28g-58a). Fisher – who missed Sunday’s game due to illness – is tied with Patric Hornqvist for the lead the team in goals (17) in 2011-12, and his 10 markers since the first of the year rank among the NHL’s Top 10. For the season, the Predators are 19-2-3 when Fisher records a point and 10-0-3 when he scores a goal. Kostitsyn has notched 18 points (9g-9a) in his last 21 games. He has nine goals on his last 26 shots (34.6 percent), and ranks among the League leaders in shooting percentage (23.3 percent).
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
Entering tonight’s game the Predators have won 14 of their last 17 games on home ice. Nashville ranks among the League’s best on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign, compiling 173 home victories – third-most behind only Detroit (184) 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 29 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 16,630 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.
• Nashville is 13-3-2 against the Central Division this season, which ranks among the league leaders. The team is also 28-15-3 against the Western Conference.
• Nashville’s power play has scored 15 man-advantage goals in its last 19 games. For the season, Nashville’s power play ranks second in the League (21.5 percent). The Preds have already surpassed their power-play output from a season ago, scoring 42 power-play goals through 59 games this season. Last year, the Predators posted 41 man-advantage markers in 82 contests.
• Nashville’s special teams are now plus-nine on the season after finishing plus-three in 2010-11. Nashville (103.4) ranks among the League’s top five teams in combined special teams play (PP%+PK%).
• The Predators have been shorthanded the fourth-fewest times in the Western Conference (188). They have been shorthanded just 76 times on home ice – the fewest times in the League. The Preds are averaging just 9.1 penalty minutes per game – fourth fewest in the NHL.
• Mike Fisher leads the team in home points with 25 (9g-16a) in 27 games this season.
• Nashville is 28-3-4 when scoring three or more goals, and 26-2-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• In their 34 victories this season (31 non-shootout wins), the Predators have received game-winning goals from 15 different players, tying them with Vancouver and Colorado for the second-most players with a GWG – St. Louis leads the League with 16 players. Fifteen of Nashville’s GWGs have come in the third period or overtime, with 11 coming in the final eight minutes of regulation or overtime.
• With nine 10-goal scorers, the Predators rank third in the League for the most players with at least 10 goals this season. Detroit and Philadelphia are tied for the League lead with 10 players with at least 10 goals.
• The Predators lead the League in winning percentage (.707) in one and two-goal games (combined). They rank in the League’s Top 10 teams in one-goal games (16-7-6) and have posted the League’s best record (10-2) in games decided by two goals.
• The Predators are 23-2-3 when scoring first, ranking among the top five the League. They have led after one period in just 19 of 59 games (34 wins), going 16-1-2 in those contests. Nashville is also 15-4-1 when tied at the first intermission.
• Nashville has allowed just nine second-period goals in its last 23 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 65 goals in the final frame this season, including 15 goals in its last 13 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.