Start Time: 9:30 pm CT (radio pregame starts at 8:30 pm CT) TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (DirecTV 644 SD, 644-1 HD; Dish 450 SD, 9573 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. LOS ANGELES
Tonight, the Preds and Kings close out their season series at Staples Center. The Predators are 22-23-(3)-3 all-time against the Kings, including a 13-9-(0)-3 mark in Tinseltown. Los Angeles is the only team the Preds have a winning record against on the road but a losing record against at home (9-14-(3)-3).
These teams met 11 days ago in Nashville as the Kings took home a 5-4 win. Patric Hornqvist scored two goals on the night, becoming the first Preds draftee to post at least 20 goals in three straight seasons for the team. Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn both added goals for the Predators, while Andrei Kostitsyn – who notched his second multi-point effort in as many games – and Ryan Suter added two assists.
Sergei Kostitsyn has eight points (2g-6a) in eight career games against the Kings, while Andrei has eight points (4g-4a) in seven career games vs. L.A., including two multiple point games in two games played this season – one with Nashville and one with Montreal… Ryan Suter has posted six helpers in his last six games against the Kings… Hornqvist has 10 points (7g-3a) in 13 career outings vs. L.A… Martin Erat has 16 points (3g-13a) in his last 16 games vs. the Kings.
ERAT ROLLS ON Martin Erat built upon his team points lead with an assist on Patric Hornqvist’s power-play marker Thursday night. He has notched 11 points (4g-7a) in his last 11 games and has been a point-per-game player (9g-21a-30pts, 30gp) since Jan. 7. Erat ranks among the League’s Top 15 point getters since that date. He is now just two assists shy of becoming just the second player in franchise history to post 300 assists.
On Tuesday, Erat hit the 50-point plateau (17g-36a-53pts) for the fifth time in his last six campaigns with two assists in a 5-4 SO win at Phoenix. The Trebic, Czech Republic native is the only player in franchise history to post at least 50 points more than three times. Erat’s 53 points are just four points shy of his career-high 57 points hit in both the 2006-07 (16g-41a) and 2007-08 (23g-34a) seasons.
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 28 points (14g-14a) in 31 games. His 14 markers since 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 fifth-most difficult quality of competition among NHL forwards, according to behindthenet.ca. He ranks second on the team in goals (21) and leads Nashville forwards in average ice time (19:13). The Predators are 14-0-3 when Fisher scores this season.
Kostitsyn has posted 15 points (5g-10a) in his last 17 games, including six points (2g-4a) in his last five games. The younger of Nashville’s Kostitsyn brothers ranks among the League’s most accurate shooters, scoring 17 goals on 84 shots this season (20.2 percent).
The Predators open their ninth set of back-to-back games tonight before playing Anaheim tomorrow at the Honda Center. 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 3-5-0 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.
THE PREDS ON ST. PATRICKS DAY
The Nashville Predators have played six times on St. Patrick’s Day dating back to March 17, 2000, posting a 4-2-(0)-0 record. Last year on St. Patty’s Day, the Preds topped Boston 4-3 in overtime at Bridgestone Arena, a win that started a six-game winning streak and sparked the team to a 9-2-1 run to end the regular season.
THE PLAYOFF PUSH
As Nashville makes a push for its seventh playoff berth in the last eight seasons, it has posted a 41-21-8 record for 90 points through 70 games. A season ago, Nashville was 35-25-10 for 80 points through 70 games. It went 9-2-1 in its final 12 games of 2010-11 to finish with 99 points, good for fifth in the West. This season, the Preds play six of their final 12 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 25-9-4 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. Seven of Nashville’s final 12 games will be played away from Bridgestone Arena, including two 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 on March 10, 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 last 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.
A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY: BARRY TROTZ AND DAVID POILE
The General Manager-Head Coach tandem of David Poile and Barry Trotz – the only two gentlemen to hold their respective positions in Nashville Predators franchise history – continue to rise up some prestigious lists among their peers.
Trotz is just four wins shy of 500 for his career, a mark attained by only four other benchbosses with a single franchise (Al Arbour, NYI; Lindy Ruff, BUF; Billy Reay, CHI & Toe Blake, MTL). He already ranks third behind only Arbour and Ruff in games coached with a single team, and is one of just four coaches in expansion-team history (among the four major sports) to have a record better than .500.
Tonight, Poile will pass Harry Sinden for second on the all-time GM list for games (2,235), putting him behind only Glen Sather in the category. Earlier this season, Poile became the first general manager in NHL history to guide two separate teams for at least 1,000 games.
• The Predators are 5-2-1 in eight road games against the Pacific Division this season, and 15-2-4 on weekends.
• Nashville has posted a 23-7-4 record in its last 34 games, outscoring the opposition 105-77 (plus 28), despite being outshot 1,057-947 (minus 110). Since the run started on Dec. 28, Nashville has averaged 3.08 goals per game, while allowing just 2.26 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 32-2-2 when holding the opposition to two or less.
• The Predators lead the NHL in winning percentage (.705) in combined one- and two-goal games. They rank among the NHL’s Top 10 in one-goal games (19-9-8) 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 (104.1) ranks among the League’s Top 10 teams in combined special teams play (PP%+PK%).
• Nashville ranks eighth in the League and fourth in the West for fewest times shorthanded this season (214).
• 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 15 goals – he brought 12 markers with him from Montreal.
• With 39 victories on the year, Pekka Rinne holds the franchise-record and the League lead in the category. Since Dec. 28, Rinne has posted a League-best 23-4-4 record with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, improving to 39-14-8 on the season. He also leads the League in saves (1,771) and shots against (1,915), and ranks second in appearances (63). 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 17 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 23 third periods. Twenty-two of Nashville’s 74 third-period goals have come in the final 100 seconds of regulation.