TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. DETROIT
Tonight, the Red Wings make their final trip of the 2011-12 regular season to Bridgestone Arena. Detroit leads the season series 3-1, but the teams have split games in Music City thus far. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, Nashville has picked up at least a point in nine of 11 home games against Detroit (6-2-3), while outscoring the Wings 33-24 in those 11 games.
In their last meeting on Feb. 17, the Red Wings jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the first period, but the Predators would tie the game with Nick Spaling’s goal at 14:58 of the middle frame. The game remained knotted at 1-1 until the 19:54 mark of the third, when Pavel Datsyuk beat Pekka Rinne to secure 2-1 win for the Wings.
Rinne has gone 9-5-3 in his career against the Wings with a 2.38 goals-against average and three shutouts … Jordin Tootoo leads all Preds with four points (1g-3a) against the Wings this season… Sergei Kostitsyn has eight points (5g-3a) in his last 10 games against the Red Wings… Ryan Suter has seven points (1g-6a) in his last eight games against Detroit.
CENTRAL DIVISION SUCCESS
The Predators have the fourth-best intra-division record in the League this season (13-3-3, .763), behind only Vancouver (14-3-1, .805), Boston (16-4-1, .786) and Calgary (13-4-0, .764). The team is also 32-15-4 against the Western Conference. Mike Fisher leads the team in goals with eight markers in 16 divisional games. Three Predators are producing near a point-per-game pace against the Central this season, as Martin Erat’s 17 points (4g-13a) in 18 games, David Legwand’s 16 points (5g-11a) in 19 Central Division games and Ryan Suter’s 15 points (2g-13a) in 17 games lead the team against the division. Shea Weber has posted a plus-10 rating in 17 games in Central Division games.
As Nashville makes a push for its seventh playoff berth in the last eight seasons, they have posted a 39-21-7 record for 85 points through 67 games this season. Nashville is now one win shy of becoming just the second team to post at least 40 wins in seven consecutive seasons – Detroit is the only other team to do so. The Predators play nine of their final 15 games against teams currently holding a playoff position. A season ago, Nashville was 33-24-10 for 76 points through 67 games. It went 11-3-1in its final 15 games to finish the season with 99 points (fifth in the West).
The Predators will play nine of their final 15 games away from Bridgestone Arena, including four in the Pacific Time Zone, two in the Central, two in the Eastern and the final game of the regular season in the Mountain.
The month of March has been a strong one for the Predators the past two seasons; they have posted a 23-9-3 record in March since 2010. Nashville posted a franchise-record 11 wins during March 2010 (11-5-1 record) – a mark tied in January 2012 (11-2-0 record) – and went 10-3-2 in this month a season ago.
MAKING A POINT FOR THE NORRIS Ryan Suter has posted 41 points on the year (7g-34a), giving him at least 40 points for just the second time in his career. He is now just four points shy of surpassing his career-high 45 points (7g-38a) set during the 2008-09 season. Since returning from injury on Jan. 23, Suter has posted 16 points (2g-14a) in 19 games. Nashville is the only club with two defensemen who have at least 40 points this season, as Suter and Shea Weber (14g-27a-41pts) are tied for fifth among NHL blueliners. 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 (26:35).
RINNE’S RECORD Pekka Rinne set a franchise-record with his League-leading 37th victory of the season against Colorado on Thursday. Since Dec. 28, Rinne has posted a League-best 21-4-3 record with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, improving to 37-14-7 on the season. He also leads the League in saves (1,672) and shots against (1,808), and ranks second in appearances (60).
IN SELKE FORM Mike Fisher has been an offensive catalyst for the Predators of late, posting 26 points (13g-13a) in 28 games since Jan. 1. His 13 markers since the calendar flipped rank him among the Top 15 players in the League during that span. Fisher recorded his 20th goal of the season on Thursday against the Avalanche, giving him five 20-goal campaigns in the last seven seasons. The Peterborough, Ont., native notched his 400th career point and his fifth career 40-point season with an assist against the Kings on March 6. Fisher also ranks among the League’s Top 15 players with six game-winning goals this season. The Predators are 13-0-3 when Fisher scores.
Fisher is a plus-11 in 2011-12 despite playing against the fourth most difficult quality of competition among NHL forwards, according to the behindthenet.ca. He leads all Nashville forwards in average ice time (19:09), and is logging more than one minute of shorthanded ice time per game. He has amassed 10 points (5g-5a) on the power play and is averaging more than two minutes of power-play ice time per game as a member of one of the League’s most potent power-play units.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
The Predators have gone 18-3-2 in their last 23 home games, and have only been dealt one regulation loss at Bridgestone Arena since Jan. 5 (11-1-2). Nashville ranks among the League’s best on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, compiling 177 home victories – ranking it second behind only Detroit (185) in that span. The Predators are now one home win shy of becoming the only team in the NHL to post 23 home victories in seven consecutive seasons.
A factor in the Predators’ success has been the atmosphere in Bridgestone Arena. The Predators have sold out Smashville for 19 of their 35 home games this season – that is second-highest total in franchise history. The franchise record is 20 sellouts established during the 1999-2000 campaign. Bridgestone Arena is averaging 16,618 fans per home game this season – 97.1 percent capacity.
• Nashville has posted a 21-7-3 record in its last 31 games, outscoring the opposition 96-69 (plus 27), despite being outshot 950-859 (minus 91). Since the run started on Dec. 28, Nashville has averaged 3.09 goals per game, while allowing just 2.22 goals per game. The current streak includes outscoring foes 80-55 at even strength; they were outscored 72-54 at even strength in the first 36 games of 2011-12.
• For the season, Nashville’s power play ranks second in the League (20.8 percent). The Preds have potted 44 man-advantage goals in 67 games this season, after posting 41 in 82 games last season.
• Nashville’s special teams are now plus-10 on the season after finishing plus-three in 2010-11. Nashville (103.2) ranks among the League’s Top 10 teams in combined special teams play (PP%+PK%).
• Nashville is 32-5-4 when scoring three or more goals, and 31-2-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• The Predators are second in the NHL in winning percentage (.697) in combined one and two-goal games. They rank among the League’s Top 15 in one-goal games (17-9-7) and have posted NHL’s best record (13-2) in games decided by two goals.
• The Predators have 10 players who have scored 10 goals or more for them this season, tied for a League high with Detroit and Philadelphia. That doesn’t include Andrei Kostitsyn’s 13 goals – he brought 12 markers with him from Montreal.
• Nashville has scored 58 goals in the middle frame this season, including at least one goal in its last 14 second periods, outscoring the opposition 18-10 during that span. It has outscored the opposition by 15 in the second period (58-43) this season. That is the fifth-best differential in the League and second-best in the Western Conference behind only San Jose.
• The Predators rank among the League’s top five in third-period scoring this season. Nashville has potted 72 goals in the final frame, including 22 goals in its last 20 third periods. Twenty-two of Nashville’s 72 third-period goals have come in the final 100 seconds of regulation.
The Predators’ current roster features 15 players who were drafted and developed by the organization. Six players were acquired via trade, including 2012 trade deadline additions Paul Gaustad, Hal Gill and Andrei Kostitsyn. Two players came to Nashville as free agents, and two players were waiver pick-ups. Of the 10 players not drafted by the Preds, all but three have seen time in the Northeast Division – Mike Fisher and Brian McGrattan (OTT); Francis Bouillon, Gill and the Kostitsyn brothers (MTL); and Gaustad (BUF).
Ten current Predators hail from Canada (6 from Ont., 2 from B.C., 1 from Que., and 1 from Man.). Eight players on the current roster were born in the United States, with a total of 12 U.S.-born players seeing time at the NHL level this season. That total is second only to Buffalo, who has had 13 Americans crack their roster in 2011-12. Nashville’s roster is rounded out by two Belarusians, two Swedes, one Finn, one Czech and one Swiss-born player.
With the acquisition of Andrei Kostitsyn, Nashville became just the third club to have siblings play together this season – the others are the Sedin twins in Vancouver (Henrik and Daniel) and the Benn brothers (Jordie and Jamie) in Dallas. The Kostitsyns are the third set of siblings to play in the Predators system (Sheldon and Wade Brookbank, Mark and Mike Santorelli), but they are the only set to play together in franchise history.
Nashville’s roster has an average height of 6-foot 1.1-inches, including six players that are 6-foot 4-inches or taller – goaltenders Anders Lindback (6-6) and Pekka Rinne (6-5); defensemen Gill (6-7) and Shea Weber (6-4); and forwards Gaustad (6-5) and McGrattan (6-4). The Predators are the League’s sixth-youngest team with an average age of 27 years, 31 days.