TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. PHOENIX
The Predators and Coyotes close out their season series tonight at Jobing.com Arena. The Predators have posted a road record of 10-13-2 against the Desert Dogs since the start of the 2003-04 campaign, while posting an overall record of 17-11-(1)-2 in the same span.
These teams last met on Dec. 6, as the Coyotes downed the Predators 3-2 in the Music City. The teams traded goals through the first 52 minutes with Jack Hillen – who played in his 200th game – scoring in the opening period and Shea Weber adding a power-play goal late in the third to tie the game at two. Phoenix notched the game-winning goal with just 1:45 remaining to take a 2-1 lead in the season series.
Hornqvist has 10 points (6g-4a) in 11 career contests vs. Phoenix… For his career, Rinne is 7-5-1 with a 1.91 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage against the Coyotes… Playing on a line with J-P Dumont – who notched a hat trick that night – Matt Halischuk collected his first career two-point/assist performances at Phoenix on Jan. 18, 2011.
THE KOSTITSYN-LEGWAND-HORNQVIST CONNECTION
The Predators new line of Andrei Kostitsyn, David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist powered the Preds to a 3-2 win over Detroit on Saturday. Andrei Kostitsyn lit the lamp twice on the power play, giving him six points (3g-3a) in five games as a Predator. It was his seventh multiple-point game of the season and third as a Predator. The elder Kostitsyn notched his fourth game-winner of the season at the 4:34 mark of third – he had three GWGs with Montreal. Nashville is now second in the League with 17 players posting at least one game-winner this season.
Hornqvist opened the scoring for Nashville at 7:30 of the first period with his team-leading 21st goal of the season. He has posted 14 points (9g-5a) in his last 16 outings, including three goals in his last three outings. Hornqvist became the first Predators draftee to post three consecutive seasons with at least 20 goals with the club after notching two goals against Los Angeles on March 6.
Legwand notched his third career three-assist effort on Saturday night against the Red Wings. It was Legwand’s 11th multiple-point game and second three-plus-point effort of the season. He has posted 11 points (2g-9a) in his last 12 outings and is one helper shy of hitting 30-assist plateau for the third time in his career.
THE OTHER BROTHER Sergei Kostitsyn notched assists on both of his brother’s goals Saturday. The younger Kostitsyn has posted 13 points (5g-8a) in his last 15 games. The Kostitsyn’s have now teamed up for 11 goals in their career. They hadn’t posted a point together since Jan. 17, 2009 – an Andrei Kostitsyn goal against Ottawa (with Montreal). The Kostitsyn brothers have now factored into half of the Predators goals this month (seven of 14 goals).
40 WINS AND THE FINAL PUSH
With its 3-2 win over Detroit on Saturday, Nashville became just the second team in the NHL to post at least 40 wins in seven consecutive seasons – the Red Wings are the only other team to do so. With Saturday night’s win, Nashville also became the only team in the League to post at least 23 home wins in each of the last seven seasons.
As Nashville makes a push for its seventh playoff berth in the last eight seasons, it has posted a 40-21-7 record for 87 points through 68 games this season. A season ago, Nashville was 34-24-10 for 78 points through 68 games. It went 10-3-1in its final 14 games to finish 2010-11 with 99 points, good for fifth in the West. The Predators play eight of their final 14 games against teams currently holding a playoff position. Nine of their final 14 games will be played 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.
This month has been a strong one for the Predators the past two-plus seasons; they have posted a 24-9-3 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.
IN SELKE FORM
Since the calendar flipped to 2012, Mike Fisher has posted 26 points (13g-13a) in 29 games. His 13 markers since the Jan. 1 rank him among the Top 20 players in the League during that span. 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 (19:10), 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.
• Nashville is one of five teams (BOS, PIT, DET and VAN are the others), to rank among the League’s Top 10 in both goals per game and goals against per game.
• The Predators are 4-2-0 in six road games against the Pacific Division this season.
• Nashville has posted a 22-7-3 record in its last 32 games, outscoring the opposition 99-71 (plus 28), despite being outshot 987-879 (minus 108). Since the run started on Dec. 28, Nashville has averaged 3.09 goals per game, while allowing just 2.21 goals per game. The current streak includes outscoring foes 81-57 at even strength; they were outscored 72-54 at even strength in the first 36 games of 2011-12.
• Nashville is 33-5-4 when scoring three or more goals, and 32-2-1 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• The Predators lead the NHL in winning percentage (.704) in combined one- and two-goal games. They rank among the League’s Top 10 in one-goal games (18-9-7) and have posted NHL’s best record (13-2) in games decided by two goals.
• Nashville’s special teams are now plus-10 on the season after finishing plus-three in 2010-11. Nashville (104.2) ranks among the League’s Top 10 teams in combined special teams play (PP%+PK%).
• 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.
• The Predators entered Sunday’s games as one of just five teams without a 50-point scorer this season (STL, MIN, FLA and CBJ are the others). Four of those five teams are in the Western Conference, but only two – Nashville and St. Louis – currently hold a playoff position.
• Pekka Rinne built on his franchise-record with his League-leading 38th victory of the season against Detroit on Saturday. Since Dec. 28, Rinne has posted a League-best 22-4-3 record with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, improving to 38-14-7 on the season. He also leads the League in saves (1,707) and shots against (1,845), and ranks second in appearances (61).
• Nashville has scored 58 goals in the middle frame this season, including at least one goal in 14 of their last 15 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 73 goals in the final frame, including 23 goals in its last 21 third periods. Twenty-two of Nashville’s 73 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.