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KINGS (3-3-1) at PREDATORS (4-2-3)
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (Dish: 444/HD: 9514; Direct TV: 644/HD: 644-1 ; Comcast Nashville 1675; Comcast Chattanooga/Cleveland/Knoxville 401; Comcast Memphis 830; Charter Nashville 33/810; AT&T Nashville 724/1724)
Radio: Preds Radio Network Flagship - 102.5-FM The Game Radio Network; Network Affiliates
The Predators exploded for six goals on Tuesday night against St. Louis; that total was one-half of their regulation goals total prior to Tuesday’s tilt – 12 goals in eight games. The victory over St. Louis was the most lopsided victory in series history and just the 10th time Nashville has won by five or more goals in a road game.
Martin Erat returned from a lower-body injury to register his franchise-record 106th career multi-point game (1g-2a). The Trebic, Czech Republic native continues to pace the team this season with seven points (3g-4a) in eight games. Colin Wilson also recorded a three-point effort for the Preds with a career-high three assists on the night. It was Wilson’s first multi-point game of the season and his first three-point game since Dec. 1, 2011 against Vancouver (1g-2a). Wilson now finds himself second in scoring for Nashville with five points (1g-4a) on the year.
Three players tallied two-point efforts for Nashville on Tuesday, as Jonathon Blum recorded the first multi-point/multi-assist game of his career (2a), Ryan Ellis opened the scoring for Nashville with a power-play goal and added an assist on Erat’s third period goal to recorded his fourth-career multi-point game and Paul Gaustad posted his first points of the season with two helpers on the night.
Six more Predators posted a single point on the night, including Nick Spaling’s second goal of the year. All time, Nashville is 15-1-1 when Spaling finds the back of the net. Gabriel Bourque and Kevin Klein both recorded their first goals of the season, while Roman Josi record his first point of the year with an assist on Spaling’s goal. Brandon Yip added an assist on Spaling’s marker, giving him three points (2g-1a) in his last five outings. Not to be outdone, Rich Clune posted his first-career NHL goal and his first point in a Preds sweater with his marker at 15:53 of the first period. In 22 career games with Nashville and Los Angeles, Clune has tallied three points (1g-2a).
A SUCCESSFUL ROAD TRIP
The Predators return to Bridgestone Arena ice tonight for the first time since Game No. 2 of the season on Jan. 21. Since then, they have been traveling across North America, finishing a franchise-record tying seven-game road trip with a 4-2-1 record, giving them the third-best road record in the NHL. After going 1-2-1 in the first four games of the trip with a win in Minnesota (3-1), regulation losses in St. Louis (3-0) and Phoenix (4-0) and a shootout loss at Anaheim, the Predators reeled off three straight victories; they dropped the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings by a 2-1 score in a shootout last Thursday, then handed the San Jose Sharks their first defeat of the season (S.J. was 7-0-0 entering the game) on Saturday by the same score. Nashville capped off the trip with a 6-1 decision at Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Tuesday.
The Predators have posted three straight wins – and a 4-2-3 record overall – thanks in large part to solid defensive play. Led by goaltender Pekka Rinne, the Predators enter Thursday’s game having not allowed an even-strength goal in 230:26 going back to the Phoenix game on Jan. 28 – a span of more than three games. During the stretch, Rinne has turned aside 65 consecutive shots at even strength and 86-of-89 shots overall. He now has a 2.02 goals-against average on the season, sixth-best among netminders who have played in at least half their teams’ games.
On the season, Nashville is allowing just 2.00 goals per game, the best mark in the Western Conference and second best in the NHL. At even strength, the Preds have allowed 10 goals in nine games, an average of 1.11 – tied for second in the League.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
Nashville has been one of the League’s best teams on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, compiling 181 home victories, tied for fourth behind Detroit (192) and San Jose (187) and Vancouver (183) in that span. The Predators are the only team in the NHL to post at least 23 home victories in seven consecutive seasons.
Tonight is expected to be the team’s franchise-record 16th consecutive sellout, dating back to March 6, 2012 vs. L.A.
Last season, the Predators sold out a record 25 games and averaged 16,690 fans, the highest average attendance in a single season, surpassing the 1999-2000 season, when the Predators averaged 16,600 fans per game. They sold out all five playoff games, and the first two games of 2012-13 on Jan. 19 and 21.
LAST TIME OUT: NASHVILLE 6, ST. LOUIS 1 at Scottrade Center
Nashville won its second game in regulation this season… The Preds posted their largest margin of victory since their final game of the 2011-12 season (April 7, 2012), when they defeated Colorado 6-1 at the Pepsi Center… The Preds allowed more than 30 shots for only the third time this season. Two of those games have come against St. Louis (39 shots against on Jan. 21)… Paul Gaustad took a season-high 30 face-offs on the night, winning 67 percent (20-30) of those draws. He has been stellar in the face-off circle over the past three games, winning 46-of-71 (64.8 percent) draws to move into eighth in League face-off efficiency (59.5 percent). Gaustad is expected to play his 500th career game vs. Los Angeles… Seventeen of Nashville’s 18 skaters posted a +1 rating or better on the night… Ryan Ellis’s first period power-play goal was Nashville’s first tally on the man advantage since Jan. 22 vs. Minnesota. The Preds have now converted five of their 29 man-advantage chances… Nashville was shorthanded five-or-more times for the third straight game. Nashville has been shorthanded the ninth-fewest times (35) in the League this season.
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES vs. LOS ANGELES
The Predators will be looking to make it two in a row against the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings tonight in the team’s first home game since Jan. 21. Last Thursday at the Staples Center – in game No. 5 of Nashville’s franchise-record tying seven-game road trip that spanned from Jan. 22-Feb. 5 – the Predators tied a club mark by scoring four times in an eight-round shootout to claim a 2-1 win. Gabriel Bourque, Craig Smith and Sergei Kostitsyn (shootout-deciding marker) all notched their first career shootout tallies, while both Legwand and Bourque assisted on Brandon Yip’s marker just 58 seconds into the contest. Pekka Rinne also recorded his first win of the season, stopping 23 shots and five of eight L.A. shooters.
The win puts Nashville on track against the Kings after dropping three of four games in both 2010-11 and 2011-12. In the four seasons prior from 2005-09, Nashville posted an 11-4-1 mark against L.A., including seven consecutive wins from Oct. 25, 2008-March 14, 2010.
Martin Erat has 27 points (6g-21a) in 36 career games against the Kings… Kostitsyn has eight points (2g-6a) in 10 career games against the Kings… Chris Mason has recorded five shutouts against Los Angeles – his highest total against any team. The total includes his first career whitewash on Jan. 13, 2004. He has a 9-4-1 record with a 1.80 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage against L.A. in his career… Rich Clune was claimed on waivers from Los Angeles on Jan. 15. During the 2009-10 campaign, he played his first 14 NHL regular season games (0g-2a, 26 PIM) – and four playoff contests (0g-0a, 5 PIM) – with the Kings, and was with the organization from 2006-13.
Scott Hannan is tied for sixth among NHLers in blocked shots (25), while Mike Fisher leads all NHL forwards in blocked shots (15)… Hannan has played more games than any NHL defenseman in the last 10 seasons (807), and has averaged more than 20 minutes in nine of those 10 campaigns. In his first season with Nashville, he has played more than 20 minutes in eight of nine games and is averaging 21:50… Shea Weber is ranked seventh in the NHL in average ice time (27:03)… Nashville has gone to a shootout in five of its first nine games – tied for the most in the League. The Predators dropped their first three shootout decisions, before winning last Thursday at Los Angeles (W, 2-1) and Saturday at San Jose (W, 2-1) with shooters going a combined 5 for 10 (50 percent) and Pekka Rinne stopping 8 of 11 shots (.727). A season ago, Nashville only needed the shootout 10 times (5-5) – tied for eighth fewest times in the League – and didn’t reach its fifth shootout of the campaign until Feb. 7, 2012, game No. 53… The Predators ranked among the NHL’s Top 10 in fewest times shorthanded (ninth at 35), five-on-five goals for/against ratio (10th at 1.20) and shots allowed per game (10th at 27.9)… The Preds have garnered a point in every game in which they have scored first, posting a 3-0-3 mark… Nashville has been outshot in eight of its first nine games, posting a 4-2-2 mark when being outshot.