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PREDATORS (9-7-5) AT SHARKS (9-6-4)
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
With their second visit to HP Pavilion in the last month, the Nashville Predators wrap up their 2012-13 season series against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. In Nashville’s first visit here 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 that night, 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. Ten days later on Feb. 12, Colin Wilson broke a scoreless tie at 2:08 of overtime and Rinne recorded a 25-save shutout in the sixth overtime/shootout game between these two games in their last eight meetings.
Nashville has picked up points in all but one of its last 10 games against the Sharks, posting a 5-1-3 record, and is 4-1-1 in the series since the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign.
Among Western Conference teams, Shea Weber has a .70 points per game average or better against three teams – Columbus (0.81), Edmonton (0.74) and San Jose (0.72). He has 18 points (5g-13a) in 25 career games against the Sharks, including five points (2g-3a) in his last six games… Rinne has stopped 51-of-52 shots in two 2012-13 games against the Sharks to improve his career record against them to 7-2-4 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage… Paul Gaustad has seen greater goal-scoring success against San Jose than any other NHL team with five goals in nine career games… Martin Erat, who missed the Feb. 2 game with a lower-body injury, has four points (1g-3a) in his last four games against San Jose… 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.
Shea Weber has been nearly a point-per-game player as of late, after collecting seven points (3g-4a) in his last eight outings. That streak has moved Nashville’s captain into a tie for fourth in team scoring with eight points (3g-5a). Weber’s defensive partner, Roman Josi more than doubled his season points total with the first four-point outing (2g-2a) of his career last Monday against Dallas. It was the first four-point performance by a Preds d-man since Oct. 18, 2008, when Weber posted a goal and three assists against Columbus. The Bern, Switzerland native now ranks sixth on the team in scoring with seven points (3g-4a) this season.
Weber has led the Preds in ice time in 17-of-21 games this season and ranks eighth in the league in the category (25:58). Josi – who has led the team in the other four outings – ranks second on the team in time on ice this season (22:25). That total is four minutes more than his average from a season ago (18:23). Despite their high ice time, Weber has only been on the ice for nine even-strength goals against, while Josi has been present for just 10 even-strength goals against this season.
THE CLUNE-SMITH CONNECTION
Nashville’s lone goal of Wednesday’s loss came courtesy of Craig Smith, who found the back of the net for the second consecutive game after notching Nashville’s first goal of Monday’s 5-4 overtime victory vs. Dallas. It is the third time the Madison Wis., native has scored in back-to-back games, and the first since Nov. 8-9, 2011. He has never had a three-game scoring streak. After recording one point/assist in his first 15 games of 2012-13, Smith’s production has picked up of late – he has four points (3g-1a) in his last six outings.
Rich Clune has garnered an assist on each of Smith’s last two goals, his first two assists as a Predator and his first time recording points in back-to-back contests. Clune played 11:33 on Wednesday, the third consecutive game he’s played more than 10 minutes after averaging 7:00 in his first 17 games of 2012-13. He also finished Wednesday’s game with a +1 rating, and in 34 career NHL contests, has finished with a minus rating just twice. He is also tied for seventh in the League with seven fighting majors and among the League’s Top 20 in hits (52).
LAST TIME OUT: Nashville 1 at Anaheim 5
Nashville failed to earn a point against the Ducks for the first time in nine regular season games dating back to Nov. 7, 2010… The Preds fell to 9-2-5 when scoring at least one goal… Nashville gave up more than four goals for the second time this season… Kyle Palmieri recorded the 29th hat trick against the Predators… The Ducks outshot the Predators, 28-21. It marked just the second time in the last nine games Nashville has been outshot, and it was the Preds lowest shot total since Feb. 10 vs. Chicago (17)… The Predators won the face-off battle 35-24 (60 percent). Paul Gaustad led the way by winning 15-of-24 draws taken (79 percent), while both David Legwand (8 of 12) and Craig Smith (6 of 9) won 67 percent of their face-offs taken. Gaustad has the best face-off winning percentage in the league at 63.8… Kevin Klein recorded his fifth assist of the season. He did not record his fifth assist of the 2011-12 campaign until Dec. 15, Game No. 31… Shea Weber led all skaters with four hits… Patric Hornqvist tied for a game high and led all Predators with five shots on goal.
The Predators are 6-2-2 against the Pacific Division in 2012-13… Colin Wilson has been a point-per-game player for the Preds as of late, posting 14 points (4g-10a) in his last 14 games played. He leads the Preds in points this season (5g-10a-15pts), after being in on 15 of the last 32 Predator goals… In his last 14 appearances going back to Jan. 31, Pekka Rinne’s numbers rank among the League’s top goaltenders during that span – he is 8-4-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. He also has three shutouts – tied for first in the League – in his last 10 starts. Overall in 2012-13, Rinne ranks seventh in goals-against average (2.10) and is 11th in save percentage (.919) among starting netminders, in addition to ranking third in time on ice (1,115:10) and being tied for seventh in wins (8)… Nashville ranks seventh in the league in team goals-against average (2.29)… The Predators are third in the League in blocked shots (328), and have three players ranked among the League’s Top 30 in the category – Kevin Klein (42), Shea Weber (39) and Scott Hannan (38). Mike Fisher leads all NHL forwards in blocked shots with 28… Nashville has posted the second-fewest penalty minutes per game in the League this season (10.1). The Preds led the League in the category in 2011-12 (8.4) and 2009-10 (8.7), and ranked second in 2010-11 (8.8).
EXTRA TIME NEARLY HALF THE TIME
The Predators have gone to overtime or a shootout in an NHL-high 10 of their first 21 games in 2012-13, with Monday’s 5-4 overtime victory against Dallas. Thanks to a Roman Josi goal 28 seconds into sudden death, the team improved their record to 5-5 in games that go beyond 60 minutes. Monday’s win was also Nashville’s 100th all-time OT win, and third in the second half of February – they topped San Jose 1-0 (Colin Wilson, 2:08) on Feb. 12 and Detroit 4-3 (Shea Weber, 0:44) on Feb. 19. The Preds are now 3-1 in the five-minute, four-on-four session, and 2-4 in shootouts. Last season, Nashville needed extra time on 16 occasions in 82 games, tied for the third fewest in the NHL. The Preds didn’t go beyond 60 minutes for the 10th time in 2011-12 until game No. 43 on Jan. 12, 2012 vs. Colorado.
BARRY TROTZ: LONGEST TENURED COACH IN THE NHL
Having been at the helm since the franchise’s first game on Oct. 10, 1998, Nashville Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz is the longest tenured head coach in the National Hockey League (1,087 games) and has the second longest active tenure in all four major sports behind only Gregg Popovich of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. A Jack Adams Award finalist in both 2010 and 2011, Trotz is 15th on the all-time coaching wins list, and his 512 wins with the Preds is fourth on the wins with a single team list, just four shy of Billy Reay’s total with Chicago for third. The Dauphin, Man., native is the only coach to lead his team to the postseason in seven of the last eight seasons.