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SHARKS (7-2-2) at PREDATORS (5-3-4)
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (Dish: 447/HD: 9517; 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
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. SAN JOSE
The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks meet for the second time in 10 days tonight at Bridgestone Arena, the Sharks only visit to Nashville during the 2012-13 season. On Feb. 2, in game No. 6 of a franchise-record tying seven-game road trip, Sergei Kostitsyn notched his first goal of the season, while NHL sophomore Craig Smith recorded the only goal in the shootout in a 2-1 shootout victory. Pekka Rinne stopped 26 of the 27 San Jose shots he faced, and was a perfect three-for-three in the post-overtime breakaway competition to earn the victory. That shootout marked the fifth time in the last seven games these two teams have needed extra time to determine a winner. Nashville has picked up points in all but one of its last nine games against the Sharks, posting a 4-1-3 record. The Predators are 3-1-1 in the series since the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign. The Predators return to the Bay Area to close out the season series on March 2.
Shea Weber has the highest point-per-game output against San Jose during his career (.75), with 18 points (5g-13a) in 24 games. He has five points (2g-3a) in his last five games against San Jose… Martin Erat, who missed the Feb. 2 game with a lower-body injury, produced above a point-per-game average against San Jose last season with four points (1g-3a) in three games… Scott Hannan was selected 23rd overall (first round) by the San Jose Sharks in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He played 508 regular season games and 58 playoff games for the club from 1998-2007, amassing 127 points (25g-102a) and 329 penalty minutes in the regular season and 13 points (1g-12a) and 79 penalty minutes in the postseason.
NASHVILLE’S STOUT DEFENSE
The Nashville Predators have garnered points in nine of their first 12 games of 2012-13 primarily through strong defense. The team has the third-lowest goals-against average in the league – and lowest in the Western Conference – at 1.92. The Predators are also tied with tonight’s opponent, San Jose, for the second-fewest even-strength goals allowed at 14.
Despite being dealt his first loss in five games on Sunday vs. Chicago, Pekka Rinne continues to be the backbone of the solid defense. He allowed more than two goals for only the third time this season against the Blackhawks, and Marcus Kruger's goal at the 6:14 mark of the second period was the first even-strength goal allowed by Rinne in 316:40 (dating back to Jan. 28 at Phoenix). The Kempele, Finland native is 4-1-0 in his last five outings, stopping 136 of 142 shots for a .958 save percentage and a 1.16 goals-against average. Overall, Rinne is sixth in goals-against average (1.92) and seventh in save percentage (.929) among netminders with more than three starts. Since the start of the 2008-09 season, the Kempele, Finland native is tied with the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist for first in shutouts (26), and is seventh in wins (141).
GOOSE IS LOOSE
Paul Gaustad remains one of the League’s top face-off men, having won 9-of-14 draws on Sunday, and 57 of his last 88 draws taken (64.8 percent) to move into second in the NHL in face-off efficiency (60.9 percent). The Portland, Ore., native has also gotten the offense going recently, posting three points (1g-2a) in his last four games. On Saturday night at Minnesota, he tallied his first regular-season goal in a Predators sweater – he tallied his first goal for the Preds in Game One of the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals against Detroit (April 11, 2012). Last Tuesday at St. Louis, he tallied his first multi-point effort (2a) of the season last Tuesday against the Blues – it was his first multi-point game since Jan. 31, 2012 (1g-2a). Gaustad joined the Predators at the 2012 Trade Deadline in a deal with the Buffalo Sabres, and signed a four-year contract with the team last summer.
THE SHOT BLOCKERS
The Predators blocked 14 more shots against Chicago to boost their season total to 191 – good for fourth in the League and just seven off the lead held by the Edmonton Oilers. Scott Hannan leads the shot-blocking charge – he’s tied for 10th in the category (29), while Kevin Klein also ranked among the League leaders (23). Among forwards, Mike Fisher is first in the League in blocks (21) with a third more than the four players tied for second place (14). Fisher tied for eighth among NHL forwards in blocked shots a season ago (76), and led the League in 2010-11 (89).
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 182 home victories, tied for fourth and just one win shy of third place. The Predators are 1-1-2 at Bridgestone Arena in 2012-13 with only Los Angeles and Chicago having played fewer games on home ice. Nashville is also the only team in the NHL to post at least 23 home victories in seven consecutive seasons.
The Preds have sold out a franchise-record 17 games 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. The team sold out all five 2012 playoff games, and the first four games of 2012-13 to bring the streak to 17.
THE NEWEST NASHVILLE PREDATOR
Rich Clune was claimed on waivers from the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 15, 2013 – just four days prior to the season opener – and has solidified his spot in the line-up since his Predators debut on Jan. 21. Clune is the only player on the team to record a plus or even rating in every game he’s played in 2012-13, and has had only one game in his career (24 games played) with a minus rating (March 12, 2010 with L.A.). The Toronto native has five fighting majors in 11 games for the Predators to lead the team in penalty minutes (29). He logged 11:48 of ice time on Sunday vs. Chicago, a season high, and the second highest total of his career (14:05, March 2, 2010 with Los Angeles).
The line of Gabriel Bourque, David Legwand and Colin Wilson has been in on eight of Nashville’s last 12 goals. Wilson has six points (2g-4a) in his last five games to pace the line… Kevin Klein has registered a +7 rating over the last eight games, while Shea Weber has led the Predators in ice time in 11 consecutive games and ranks seventh in the League in average ice time (26:37). Despite his high ice time, Weber has only been on the ice for three even-strength goals against… Nashville has needed extra time to determine a winner in six of its 12 games. One game (Saturday at Minnesota) was settled in overtime, while five more went to a shootout. Nashville posted a 2-3 record in those five shootout games, most recently winning Jan. 31 at Los Angeles and Feb. 2 at San Jose by identical 2-1 scores. 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. In 2011-12, the team didn’t need extra time for a sixth time until game No. 28 on Dec. 8, 2011 against Columbus… Nashville has scored first in eight of its 12 games, garnering a point in each of those contests (4-0-4 record).
LAST TIME OUT: Chicago 3, Nashville 0 at Bridgestone Arena
Sunday night’s tilt marked only the third time that the Predators have failed to earn at least a point in the standings this season (5-3-4, 14 pts)… All three of Nashville’s regulation losses this season have been shutouts… Nashville won the face-off battle, winning 29-of-49 draws (59.2 percent). The Predators are eighth in the NHL in efficiency (51.2 percent)… Mike Fisher blocked three shots on the night. He leads all NHL forwards in the category this season (21)… Nashville was outshot for the 11th time this season – it is 5-3-3 in those situations… Ryan Ellis, Paul Gaustad and David Legwand led the team with three shots on goal… Nashville was shorthanded just two times on Sunday. The Preds have been shorthanded the 10th-fewest times in the League this season (44).