Start Time: 6 pm CT (radio pregame starts at 5 pm CT) TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (DirecTV 644 SD, 644-1 HD; Dish 444 SD, 9514 HD; Comcast Nashville 1675; Comcast Chattanooga/Cleveland/Knoxville 401; Comcast Memphis 830) Radio: Preds Radio Network Flagship - 102.5-FM The Game; Network Affiliates Away Game Viewing Headquarters: Visit any Middle Tennessee O’Charley’s location to watch all Preds road games
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. CAROLINA
The Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes face off tonight at RBC Center in their second and final meeting of the season. Nashville has posted six consecutive wins over the ‘Canes and points in eight straight dating back to Dec. 3, 2003 (6-0-(0)-1 record). The Predators last regulation loss to Carolina was the only time the Hurricanes have beat them on home ice – a 2-1 Hurricanes victory on Dec. 3, 2002. Nashville is 4-2-(1)-1, and 11-3-(1)-1 in 14 all-time matchups against Carolina.
In their first match-up of the season on Jan. 7, the Predators notched a season high four power-play goals on their way to a 5-2 win over the Hurricanes. Patric Hornqvist had two power-play markers on the night, while Shea Weber, Craig Smith and Ryan Ellis – who tallied his first career NHL goal – all scored for the Predators. Pekka Rinne made 27 saves as he began a stretch that would see him post a franchise-record 11 straight wins.
Shea Weber has seven points (4g-3a) in seven games against the ‘Canes… Pekka Rinne has posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.63 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage for his career against Carolina.
As the 2011-12 trade deadline came to a close yesterday afternoon, the Predators were able to bolster their line-up with the addition of forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad – both are expected to make their Predators debut tonight against the Hurricanes. Nashville began deadline day by acquiring Kostitsyn from Montreal for a pair of draft picks. It was the second transaction with the Habs in the past 10 days; the Predators acquired Hal Gill on Feb. 17. Andrei, the older brother of current Predator Sergei Kostitsyn, becomes the fourth former Canadien to appear on the Predators roster this season – Sergei, Gill and Francis Bouillon are the others. The elder Kostitsyn has posted 24 points (12g-12a) in 53 games thus far in 2011-12.
The Predators second and final transaction of the day saw them acquire Gaustad and a fourth-round selection in the 2013 Entry Draft from Buffalo for a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Gaustad has 17 points (7g-10a) and 70 penalty minutes in 56 games for the Sabres this season, in addition to ranking 10th in the League in face-off efficiency (56.8 percent) and eighth among forwards in average shorthanded ice time (2:52). The Fargo, N.D., native has finished among the NHL’s Top 10 in face-offs each of the past two seasons (third in 2010-11, 59.8 percent and sixth in 2009-10, 57.4 percent).
NASHVILLE POSTS A 19-5-3 RECORD IN ITS LAST 27
Nashville has posted a 19-5-3 record in its last 27 games, outscoring the opposition 82-57 (plus 25), despite being outshot 832-743 (minus 89). Since the run started on Dec. 28, Nashville has averaged 3.03 goals per game, while allowing just 2.11 goals per game. Those totals have pushed its goals per game average from 2.60 prior to the stretch to 2.78 (10th) currently, while its goals-against average has fallen from 2.80 to 2.49 (eighth). The Predators’ current streak includes outscoring foes 66-45 at even strength; they were outscored 72-54 at even strength in the first 36 games of 2011-12.
NASHVILLE’S VEZINA CANDIDATE Pekka Rinne posted his League-leading 35th victory of the season against L.A. on Monday, surpassing his previous career high for wins in a season set in 2010-11 (34). That total is the second highest in franchise history, and just one win shy of tying Tomas Vokoun’s franchise-record 36 wins set during the in 2005-06 season. Since Dec. 28, Rinne has posted a League-best 19-3-3 record with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage, improving to 35-13-7 on the season. He leads the League in saves (1,599), shots against (1,727) and appearances (57).
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 12 points (2g-10a) in 15 games. For the season, he ranks seventh among NHL blueliners with 37 points (7g-30a), 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-19a-22pts), and ranks fourth in the League in average ice time (26:33), 15 seconds ahead of Weber (26:18), who ranks fifth.
In his last 43 games, Weber has posted 32 points (13g-19a), moving him into second in team scoring (14g-26a-40pts) – his fourth consecutive season with at least 40 points. He is tied for first among NHL defensemen in goals (14) and power-play goals (8), is third in points (40) by a d-man, and fourth in shots on goal (174). He also ranks among the League’s Top 15 d-men in power-play points (8g-10a-17pts) and plus/minus (+17). He is 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 LINE POWERS PREDS
The line of Martin Erat, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn continues to be the driving force behind the Predators’ offense. Since the calendar flipped to 2012, Fisher has posted 23 points (11g-12a) in 24 games, and his 11 markers since the first of the year rank among the NHL’s Top 20 players. He has 38 points (18g-20a) on the season and is just one goal shy of matching his total from a season ago. For the season, Nashville is 21-2-3 when Fisher records a point and 11-0-3 when he scores a goal.
Erat has posted 23 points (6g-17a) in 25 games since the beginning of January. His 17 helpers during that span rank among the League’s Top 15 players. The Trebic, Czech Republic native’s 32 assists on the season are just one shy of his total in two of the previous three campaigns (33 in both 2010-11 and 2008-09) and more than he posted during his 2009-10 season (28). He leads the team with 46 points on the year – his eighth consecutive season with at least 40 points. Nashville is 11-0-1 when Erat scores.
Since the first of the year, Kostitsyn has notched 21 points (10g-11a) in 24 games. His 10 goals during that span have come on 32 shots (31.2 percent), and he ranks among the NHL’s top players in shooting percentage (22.4 percent).
After beating Los Angeles on Monday in Nashville, the Predators wind down their eighth set of back-to-back game on Tuesday in Carolina. The Predators play just 11 sets of back-to-back contests this season – the lowest total in the team’s last four campaigns. Thus far, Nashville has posted a 6-2-0 record on the front end and a 3-4-0 record on the back half in 2011-12. A season ago, the Predators were 9-4-0 on the front end and 6-6-1 on the back end of two-games-in-two-nights scenarios.
• Nashville is 6-5-3 against the Eastern Conference this season, including a 3-1-0 mark versus the Southeast Division.
• Nashville’s power play has scored 17 man-advantage goals in its last 23 games. For the season, Nashville’s power play ranks first in the League (21.6 percent). The Preds have potted 44 man-advantage goals in 63 games this season, after posting 41 in 82 games a season ago.
• Nashville’s special teams are now plus-12 on the season after finishing plus-three in 2010-11. Nashville (104.2) ranks among the League’s top five teams in combined special teams play (PP%+PK%).
• Patric Hornqvist is now just two goals shy of becoming the first Predators’ draft pick to score at least 20 goals in three consecutive seasons for the club.
• Craig Smith leads the team in road points this season with 20 (7g-13a) in 29 games, while Hornqvist has a team-high 10 goals in 28 road games.
• Nashville is 30-3-4 when scoring three or more goals, and 29-2-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• In their 37 victories this season (34 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 the addition of Andrei Kostitsyn (12g), the Preds now lead the League with 11 players with at least 10 goals.
• The Predators lead the League in winning percentage (.715) in combined one and two-goal games. They rank among the League’s Top 10 teams in one-goal games (17-7-7) and have posted the League’s best record (11-2) in games decided by two goals.
• Nashville has earned at least a point in all five games Hal Gill has played since being acquired on Feb. 17 (4-0-1).
• In his last 102 regular season games dating back to Dec. 1, 2010, Martin Erat has posted 90 points (29g-61a).
• The Predators are 26-2-3 when scoring first, ranking them among the top five in the League. They have led after one period in just 21 of 63 games (37 wins), going 18-1-2 in those contests.
• Nashville posted a goal in 10 consecutive second periods, outscoring the opposition 13-5 during that span. It has outscored the opposition by 15 in the second period (53-38) this season. That is the second-best differential in the Western Conference behind only San Jose. Nashville has allowed just 12 second-period goals in its last 27 outings. The team’s 38 goals allowed in the middle frame is the lowest total in the NHL.
• The Predators rank among the League’s top five in third-period scoring this season. Nashville has potted 68 goals in the final frame this season, including 18 goals in its last 16 third periods. Twenty-one of Nashville’s 68 third-period goals have come in the final 100 seconds of regulation.