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Nashville Predators host the St. Louis Blues Saturday night
Posted By Hank Bonecutter On Friday, February 3, 2012 @ 8:00 pm In Sports | No Comments
 Nashville, TN – Tomorrow night, Nashville welcomes the St. Louis Blues to Bridgestone Arena for the second time this season. The Nashville Predators are one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League.
Close battles have been a trend between these two Central Division rivals with 16 of the last 24 meetings decided by one goal. Nashville is 21-11-7 all-time against the Blues on Bridgestone ice, including 5-2-3 mark since 2008-09. The series has required a franchise-high 22 overtime periods to decide a winner. The Predators are 12-6-4 in those games, with all 11 wins coming since the 2005-06 season. Additionally, 11 of those 22 games have gone to a shootout, tying Nashville and St. Louis for the League lead during that span. Nashville has an 8-3 record in shootouts against St. Louis.
These teams last met on December 30th in the Gateway City. The game was tied after the first period on goals from Matt Halischuk and T.J. Oshie, and would remain tied through the final 40 minutes. A shootout was required after the teams couldn’t break the tie in five minutes of four-on-four overtime play. Martin Erat notched the shootout-decider in the fifth round to defeat the Bluenotes, 2-1.
In the Blues’ last trip to Nashville on December 17th, extra time was needed once again to determine a winner. The game was scoreless through 52 minutes, before Erat tallied his sixth goal of the season. Oshie tied the game with a little more than three minutes remaining to force overtime. Neither team could break through in the overtime period, so the post-overtime tiebreaker was required. David Legwand scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Predators the 2-1 victory. Pekka Rinne stopped 39-of-40 shots on the night to extend his win streak to five games. These two teams squared off for the first time this season on October 8th, as rookie Craig Smith posted his first-career multiple point effort (1g-2a) in his second NHL game. Kevin Klein notched his first-career game winner at 13:14 of the final frame. Legwand pocketed two goals on the night, spoiling the home opener for the Blues, 4-2.
Entering tonight’s game, the Predators have won 12 of their last 14 home games, giving them 16 home wins on the season. Nashville ranks among the League’s best on home ice since the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign, compiling 171 home victories – third-most behind only Detroit (178) and San Jose (173) in that span. Additionally, the Predators are the only team in the League to post at least 23 home victories in six consecutive seasons.
 A factor in the Predators’ success has been the atmosphere in Bridgestone Arena. The Predators have sold out Smashville for 15 of their 26 home games this season, a total that puts them on pace to break the franchise record of 20 sellouts established during the inaugural season in 1998-99. Bridgestone Arena is averaging 16,179 fans per home game this season – 95 percent capacity. The highest average attendance for a season in franchise history occurred during the 1999-2000 season, when the Predators averaged 16,600 fans per game.
Nashville has posted the NHL’s best record (13-3-0) since December 28th, outscoring the opposition 50-32 in process, despite being outshot 479-452 (minus 27) during that stretch. In Nashville’s last 16 games, it has averaged 3.12 goals per game, while allowing just 2.00 goals per game. The Predators’ current streak includes outscoring foes 41-27 while at even strength. In the 36 games prior to the current streak, the Predators were outscored 72-54 at even strength. Those totals have pushed Nashville’s goals per game average from 2.60 prior to the stretch to 2.75 (12th) currently, while its goals against has fallen from 2.80 to 2.58 (10th).
Pekka Rinne was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month for January after posting an 11-1-0 record last month, marking just the third time since the start of the 2005-06 season that a netminder has recorded more than 10 wins in a month (Jimmy Howard – 12 in March 2010 and Ray Emery – 12 in March 2006). Rinne has won a franchise record 10 consecutive games dating back to January 7th, allowing two goals or fewer in nine of 10 outings. Since December 28th, he is 13-1-0 with a 1.77 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
The puck drops 7pm, Saturday night at the Bridgestone Arena.
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