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TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. SAN JOSE
Tonight, the Predators and Sharks close out their season series at HP Pavilion. Nashville is 2-1-0 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 Preds also garnered six points against the Sharks in 2005-06 (2-0-2) and 2006-07 (3-1-0). Close games have been the trend between these two clubs as of late, as 13 of the last 17 games – dating back to Feb. 9, 2008 – have been decided by one goal.
San Jose and Nashville last met in the Music City on Feb. 25, as the Predators beat the Sharks, 6-2 – their largest margin of victory over San Jose since Feb. 14, 2007, when Nashville shutout San Jose, 5-0. Colin Wilson and Shea Weber scored just 1:20 apart to put the Preds up 2-0 early in the first. Kevin Klein added another goal for Nashville late in the opening frame to give it a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes. Weber notched his second goal of the game on the power play as the teams traded markers in the middle period. Martin Erat and Nick Spaling iced the win for the Predators with goals in the final two minutes of play.
Weber has nine points (3g-6a) in Nashville’s last seven games against San Jose… David Legwand has six points (3g-3a) in his last six games against the Sharks… Pekka Rinne is 5-2-3 with a 2.43 GAA and a .932 save percentage in 11 career games against San Jose.
ERAT HITS 50 AGAIN
With his second three-point (1g-2a) effort of the season against Phoenix on Monday, Martin Erat hit the 50-point plateau for the fifth time in his last six campaigns (17g-35a-52pts). The Trebic, Czech Republic native is the only player in franchise history to post at least 50 points more than three times. Erat’s 52 points are just five points shy of his career-high 57 points hit in both the 2006-07 (16g-41a) and 2007-08 (23g-34a) seasons. He has notched 10 points (4g-6a) in his last 10 games and has been a point-per-game player (9g-20a-29pts, 29gp) since Jan. 7. Erat ranks among the League’s Top 15 point getters during that span.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP LINE
While playing alongside Erat, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn have continued to drive the Predators recent offensive success. Since the calendar flipped to 2012, Fisher has posted 27 points (14g-13a) in 30 games. His 14 markers since the Jan. 1 rank among the Top 15 players in the League during that span. Fisher is a plus-13 in 2011-12 despite playing against the eighth most difficult quality of competition among NHL forwards, according to the behindthenet.ca. He is tied for the team lead in goals (21) and leads Nashville forwards in average ice time (19:11). The Predators are 14-0-3 when Fisher scores this season.
With assists on Nashville’s first two goals in Monday’s 5-4 SO win at Phoenix, Kostitsyn notched the primary assists on four straight Predator goals dating back to Nashville’s second goal against Detroit on March 10. Kostitsyn has back-to-back multi-point games for the first time this season, giving him a total of nine multiple point efforts on the year. The younger Kostitsyn has posted 15 points (5g-10a) in his last 16 games. He ranks among the League’s most accurate shooters, after scoring 17 goals on 80 shots this season (21.3 percent).
Nashville has cemented itself among the top teams in the League this season by using a balanced scoring attack. Outside of their top line of Erat, Fisher and Kostitsyn, the Predators have received timely scoring down the roster:
• Patric Hornqvist is tied with Fisher for the team lead in goals this season after posting 14 points (9g-5a) in his last 17 outings, including three goals in his last four games. 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.
• Andrei Kostitsyn potted the game-deciding goal against Phoenix on Monday night in his first shootout with the club. The elder Kostitsyn has posted six points (3g-3a) in six games as a Predator. Those points have pushed him past the 30-point plateau for the fifth consecutive season (15g-15a).
• David Legwand has tallied 11 points (2g-9a) in his last 13 outings. He is just one helper shy of hitting 30-assist plateau for the third time in his career.
• Ryan Suter has posted 16 points (2g-14a) in his last 21 games, giving him 41 points (7g-34a) on the year. This is only the second time in his career that he has posted least 40 points, and he is now just four points shy of tying his career-high 45 points (7g-38a) set during the 2008-09 season.
THE PLAYOFF PUSH
As Nashville makes a push for its seventh playoff berth in the last eight seasons, it has posted a 41-21-7 record for 89 points through 69 games this season. A season ago, Nashville was 35-24-10 for 80 points through 69 games. It went 9-3-1 in its final 13 games of 2010-11 to finish with 99 points, good for fifth in the West. This season, the Preds play seven of their final 13 games against teams currently holding a playoff position.
This month has been a strong one for the Predators the past two-plus seasons; they have posted a 25-9-3 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.
The Predators have won 18 road games this season – the fourth most in franchise history. They are just two road wins shy of posting at least 20 road victories for the third straight season. Eight of Nashville’s final 13 games will be played away from Bridgestone Arena, including three in the Pacific Time Zone, two in the Central, two in the Eastern, and the final game of the regular season in the Mountain.
With its 3-2 win over Detroit last 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. The Predators are now just four wins shy of the franchise’s 500th victory.
• The Predators are 5-2-0 in seven road games against the Pacific Division this season.
• Nashville has posted a 23-7-3 record in its last 33 games, outscoring the opposition 104-75 (plus 29), despite being outshot 1,022-914 (minus 108). Since the run started on Dec. 28, Nashville has averaged 3.15 goals per game, while allowing just 2.27 goals per game. The current streak includes outscoring foes 85-61 at even strength; they were outscored 72-54 at even strength in the first 36 games of 2011-12.
• 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.
• Nashville is 34-5-4 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 (.710) in combined one- and two-goal games. They rank among the League’s Top 10 in one-goal games (19-9-7) and are tied for the NHL’s best record (13-2) in games decided by two goals.
• Nashville’s special teams are now plus-12 on the season after finishing plus-three in 2010-11. Nashville (104.0) 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 14 goals – he brought 12 markers with him from Montreal.
• Pekka Rinne built on his franchise-record with his League-leading 39th victory of the season against Phoenix on Monday. Since Dec. 28, Rinne has posted a League-best 23-4-3 record with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage, improving to 39-14-7 on the season. He also leads the League in saves (1,738) and shots against (1,880), and ranks second in appearances (62). Nashville is 14-0-2 this season when Rinne makes 35 saves or more.
• Nashville has scored 60 goals in the middle frame this season, including at least one goal in 15 of their last 16 second periods, outscoring the opposition 20-12 during that span. It has outscored the opposition by 15 in the second period (60-45) this season. That is the fifth-best differential in the League and second-best in the West behind only San Jose.
• The Predators rank among the League’s top five in third-period scoring this season. Nashville has potted 74 goals in the final frame, including 24 goals in its last 22 third periods. Twenty-two of Nashville’s 74 third-period goals have come in the final 100 seconds of regulation.