Start Time: 6:30 pm CT (radio pregame starts at 5:30pm CT) TV: national broadcast on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus Network); no local television 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. CHICAGO
The Predators make their final trip of the 2011-12 season to the United Center tonight. The Predators are 16-22-2 in the Windy City all-time. Overall, the Preds are 3-0-1 against Chicago this season.
These teams last met on Valentine’s Day, as the Predators edged the Blackhawks 3-2 in the Music City. The teams traded goals through the first 46 minutes of play, with Ryan Suter and Nick Spaling finding the back of the net for Nashville. With less than six minutes remaining, rookie Ryan Ellis notched his second career game-winner to seal the win for the Predators. Pekka Rinne turned aside 30 shots on the night.
Suter has six points (1g-5a) in his last seven games against Chicago… Martin Erat has 15 points (6g-9a) in his last 18 games against Chicago… David Legwand now has 52 career points (19g-33a) against Chicago, making him the first Predator to post 50 points against a single team in franchise history. He registered his first career hat-trick and first career four-point game (3g-1a) against Chicago on Jan. 20, 2007; it is one of just four hat tricks the Predators have notched against the Hawks all-time.
THE 10-12-74 LINE
The line of Martin Erat, Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn has been the driving force behind the Predators offense during the second half of the season. The trio has been in on the scoring on 63 out of Nashville’s 112 goals (56.2 percent) since the calendar flipped to 2012.
Erat has been a point-per-game player (10g-24a-34pts, 34gp) since Jan. 7 and ranks among the League’s Top-20 point getters since that date. He has already tied his career-high 57 points (18g-39a) in just 67 games this season, making him the only player in franchise history to post at least 50 points more than three times in his career. Erat has posted 57 points three times in his career – the others came during the 2006-07 (16g-41a) and 2007-08 (23g-34a) seasons. He is now just two helpers shy of his career-high 41 assists set in 2006-07.
Fisher has posted 32 points (16g-16a) in 36 games since Jan. 1, and his 16 goals since that date have him second on the team in goals (23) and among the Top 20 players in the NHL during that span. He has tallied seven game-winners this season ranking him in the League’s Top 15 in the category and putting him within one of the franchise record. Fisher is a plus-10 in 2011-12 despite playing against the fourth-most-difficult quality of competition among NHL forwards (60gp) according to behindthenet.ca. He leads all Nashville forwards in average ice time (19:15), and the Predators are 15-1-3 when Fisher scores this season.
Kostitsyn has posted 16 points (5g-11a) in his last 22 games, including seven points (2g-5a) in his last 10 outings. The younger of Nashville’s Kostitsyn brothers ranks among the NHL’s most accurate shooters, scoring 17 goals on 91 shots this season (18.6 percent).
Last night, forward Alexander Radulov played his first home game in a Predators sweater since Game Six of the 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals vs. Detroit (April 20). Radulov notched an assist on Matt Halischuk’s second-period goal, giving him two points (1g-1a) in two games since returning to the Predators lineup on March 22 at Pittsburgh. Radulov recorded 20:29 of ice time in last night’s contest – the most of any Nashville forward.
WEBER SOLIDIFIES NORRIS CANDIDACY
Last night, Shea Weber recorded an empty-net power-play goal at 19:50 of the third. That marker gives him 20 power-play points (9g-11a) on the season – tying the most power-play points in his career (7g-13a-20pts, 2009-10). Weber ranks among the Top 10 d-men in power-play points and leads all NHL d-men with nine PPGs on the year.
The Sicamous, B.C., native ranks among the League’s Top 10 d-men with 44 points on the year (15g-29a), while his 15 goals rank him third among blueliners. Weber is now plus-17 on the season – that ranks him second among defensemen with at least 40 points this season behind only Zdeno Chara.
The Predators are on the back-end of their 10th set of back-to-back games tonight after defeating Winnipeg last night 3-1 in the Music City. 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 7-3-0 record on the front end and a 4-5-0 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.
TROTZ APPROACHES 500 WINS
Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz – the only coach in franchise history – is just two wins shy of 500 for his career, a mark attained by only four other bench bosses with a single franchise (Al Arbour, NYI; Lindy Ruff, BUF; Billy Reay, CHI and 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.
• The Predators have posted a 14-3-3 record, including a 6-2-1 mark on the road, against the Central Division this season.
• Nashville has posted a 25-10-4 record in its last 39 games, outscoring the opposition 117-94 (plus 23), despite being outshot 1,183-1,097 (minus 86).
• Nashville’s power play has posted seven goals in its last eight games dating back to March 10 vs. Detroit. For the season, Nashville’s PP leads the League (21.5 percent). The team has posted 51 PPGs in 75 games this season, after scoring 41 PPGs in 82 games a season ago.
• Nashville (104.3) ranks among the NHL’s top five teams in combined special teams play (PP%+PK%).
• The Predators have six players – not including trade deadline acquisition Andrei Kostitsyn – with five or more power-play goals this season – the most of any team in the NHL. Pittsburgh and Vancouver are second with five players with at least five PPGs.
• 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 40 victories on the year, Pekka Rinne holds the franchise-record and is tied for first in the League in the category. He leads the League in saves (1,841) and shots against (1,997), and ranks second in appearances (67). Nashville is 14-0-2 this season when Rinne makes 35 saves or more.
• The Predators have sold out Smashville for a franchise-record 22 games this season – surpassing the previous record of 20 sellouts established during the 1999-2000 campaign. Bridgestone Arena is averaging 16,658 fans per home game this season – 97.3 percent capacity.
THE PLAYOFF PUSH
As Nashville makes a push for its seventh playoff berth in the last eight seasons, it has posted a 43-24-8 record for 94 points through 75 games. A season ago, Nashville was 40-25-10 for 90 points through 75 games. It went 4-2-1 in its final seven games of 2010-11 to finish with 99 points, good for fifth in the West. This season, the Preds play five of their final seven 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 27-12-4 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 19 road games this season, and are just one road win shy of posting at least 20 road victories for the third straight season. Four of Nashville’s final eight games will be played away from Bridgestone Arena, including two in the Central Time Zone, one in the Eastern and the final game of the regular season in the Mountain.
With its 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. The team accomplished the feat in just 68 games – the third fastest in franchise history. The Predators are now just two wins shy of the franchise’s 500th victory.