TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. SAN JOSE
Tonight, the Sharks visit the Music City for the second and final time this season. Nashville is 1-1-0 against San Jose this season after going 2-0-2 against San Jose in 2010-11, tying its best record against the Sharks in franchise history – the Predators also garnered six points against the Sharks in 2005-06 (2-0-2) and 2006-07 (3-1-0). Close games has been the trend between these two clubs as of late, as 13 of the last 16 games – dating back to Feb. 9, 2008 – have been decided by one goal. Five of those 14 have needed extra time, including the three of the last four.
These teams last met in San Jose on Nov. 5, as the Predators overcame a two-goal deficit to win by a 4-3 score. David Legwand notched two-goals, including the overtime winner, to lift the Predators to victory. Ryan Suter and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the Predators, and Pekka Rinne turned away 35 shots in the win. In the first match-up at Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 25, San Jose jumped out to an early lead and held it until the 13:12 mark of the third, when rookie Craig Smith scored his third goal of the season. The Sharks tallied two unanswered goals however, to take home the 3-1 win.
Shea Weber has seven points (1g-6a) in Nashville’s last six games against San Jose… Legwand has five points (3g-2a) in his last five games against the Sharks… Rinne is 4-2-3 with a 2.47 GAA and a 931 save percentage in 10 career games against San Jose.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
Entering tonight’s game the Predators have won 15 of their last 19 games on home ice, going 15-2-2 in that span. Additionally, the Preds have not lost in regulation on Bridgestone Arena ice in 10 contests (8-0-2). Nashville ranks among the League’s best on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign, compiling 174 home victories – tying them with San Jose (174) for second behind only Detroit (184) 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 31 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 16,601 fans per home game this season – 97 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’S VEZINA CANIDATE
With 33 wins on the season, Pekka Rinne currently leads the League in wins and is just one victory shy of surpassing his career high set last season. Since Dec. 28, he has posted a League-best 17-3-3 record with a 1.93 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage, improving to 33-13-7 on the season. He ranks second in League in saves (1,537), shots against (1,662) and appearances (55).
The defensive pairing of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber continues its all-star caliber play on the Predators blue line. Since returning from injury on Jan. 23, Suter has posted 11 points (2g-9a) in 13 games. He is now tied with Dan Boyle for seventh among NHL blueliners with 36 points (7g-29a), 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 points and assists (3g-18a-20pts), and ranks fourth in the League in average ice time (26:39), 16 seconds ahead of Weber (26:23).
In his last 41 games, Weber has 30 points (11g-19a), putting him second in team scoring (12g-26a-38pts). He is second among NHL defensemen in power-play goals (7), third in goals (12) and shots on goal (170), and fourth in points (38). He also ranks among the League’s Top 10 d-men in power-play points (7g-10a-17pts) and among the Top 15 in plus/minus (+18). 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.
ERAT-FISHER-KOSTITSYN POWER PREDS
The line of Martin Erat, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn continues to be the driving force behind the Predators’ offense of late. Since the calendar flipped to 2012, Fisher has posted 22 points (11g-11a) in 22 games, and his 11 markers since the first of the year rank among the NHL’s Top 15 players. He has already posted 37 points (18g-19a) on the season, surpassing his total from his 2010-11 campaign (19g-17a-36pts, 82gp). Fisher leads the team with 18 markers on the year and he is now just one goal shy of matching his total from a season ago. For the season, Nashville is 20-2-3 when Fisher records a point and 11-0-3 when he scores a goal.
Erat has posted 21 points (5g-16a) since Jan. 1 (23gp) and his 16 helpers during that span rank among the League’s Top 15 players. The Trebic, Czech Republic native’s 31 assists on the season are just two shy of his total in two of the previous three seasons (33 in both 2010-11 and 2008-09) and more than he posted during his 2009-10 campaign (28). He leads the team with 44 points on the year – his eighth consecutive season with at least 40 points. In his last 100 regular season games dating back to Dec. 1, 2010, Erat has posted 88 points (28g-60a).
Since the first of the year, Kostitsyn has notched 19 points (10g-9a) in 22 games. His 10 goals during that span have come on 30 shots (33.3 percent), and he ranks among the NHL’s top players in shooting percentage (23.4 percent). Earlier this week, Kostitsyn notched his third career shorthanded goal against the Canucks. It was also the Predators’ fifth shorthanded goal of the season (two by Shea Weber, one by Ryan Suter and one by Erat on a penalty shot).
NASHVILLE POSTS A 17-5-2 RECORD IN ITS LAST 24
Nashville has posted a 17-5-3 record in its last 25 games, outscoring the opposition 74-54 (plus 20), despite being out shot 767-694 (minus 73). In its last 24 games, it has averaged 2.96 goals per game, while allowing just 2.16 goals per game. Those totals have pushed Nashville’s goals per game average from 2.60 prior to the stretch to 2.74 (11th) currently, while its goals-against average has fallen from 2.80 to 2.52 (10th). The Predators’ current streak includes outscoring foes 59-42 at even strength. They were outscored 72-54 at even strength in the first 36 games of 2011-12.
• Last season, when Nashville finished with a 44-27-11 record (99 points) and earned the West’s fifth seed, it was 31-22-8 (70 points) through 61 games. This season, Nashville is 35-19-7 (77 points) with 21 games remaining in the regular season.
• Nashville’s power play has scored 16 man-advantage goals in its last 21 games. For the season, Nashville’s power play ranks second in the League (21.6 percent). The Preds have potted 43 man-advantage goals in 61 games this season, after posting 41 in 82 games a season ago.
• Nashville’s special teams are now plus-11 on the season after finishing plus-three in 2010-11. Nashville (103.8) ranks among the League’s top five teams in combined special teams play (PP%+PK%).
• Mike Fisher leads the team in home points with 28 (10g-18a) in 28 games this season.
• Nashville is 29-3-4 when scoring three or more goals, and 27-2-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• In their 35 victories this season (32 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 are tied for third (Washington) 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 (.709) in combined one and two-goal games. They rank in the League’s Top 10 teams in one-goal games (16-7-7) and have posted the League’s best record (11-2) in games decided by two goals.
• Hal Gill has been on the ice for five of eight Predators goals in his three games with the team, including four-of-six even strength goals and a shorthanded goal.
• The Predators are 24-2-3 when scoring first, ranking them among the top five in the League. They have led after one period in just 19 of 61 games (35 wins), going 16-1-2 in those contests.
• Nashville has outscored the opposition by 14 in the second period (51-37) this season. That is second-best in the Western Conference behind only San Jose. Nashville has allowed just 11 second-period goals in its last 25 outings. The team’s 37 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 66 goals in the final frame this season, including 16 goals in its last 14 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.