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Predators have thrived on NHL's busiest nights

by John Kreiser
Saturday will mark the second time this season and the fourth time in NHL history that all 30 teams are playing on the same day. If history is any indicator, it should be a good night for the struggling Nashville Predators.

Nashville has lost six of its last seven games -- but the Predators are one of three teams that are 3-0-0 on days when all 30 teams are in action. The Preds got their third such win on Oct. 3, when they opened their season with a 3-2 shootout win at Dallas. They also beat San Jose at home on the opening night of the 2005-06 season and topped Los Angeles on Oct. 24, 2008.

The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals will also try to remain perfect on 15-game nights. The Rangers won at Philadelphia in 2005 and beat Pittsburgh in 2008 and Ottawa earlier this month at Madison Square Garden. The Caps beat Columbus at home to start the 2005-06 season, won in overtime at Dallas last year and beat Toronto at home three weeks ago.

The Los Angeles Kings are the only team that has failed to get a point on a 15-game night. They've lost at Dallas and Nashville before being beaten 6-3 at home by Phoenix earlier this month. The New York Islanders (0-2-1) are the only other team without a victory; the Islanders did get a point on Oct. 3 when they lost 4-3 to Pittsburgh in a shootout.

Three teams -- Boston, Dallas and Ottawa -- are playing away from home for the first time on a 15-game night. Three others, Carolina, Calgary and San Jose, will be on the road for the fourth time.

Road teams have done increasingly well on 15-game nights. They went 4-11 in 2005, improved to 6-6-3 last year and were 8-7-0 on Oct. 3.

But no team has a stranger set of results than the Florida Panthers. Their 1-2-0 record isn't out of the ordinary -- but all three of the Panthers' games have resulted in shutouts. They beat Atlanta 2-0 in 2005 but lost 4-0 at St. Louis last year and 4-0 to Chicago in Helsinki three weeks ago.

A night of firsts -- Not only did the Islanders finally get their first win of the new season on Wednesday by beating Carolina 4-3 in a shootout, they did something they had never done in their previous 43 shootouts -- go 3-for-3. Jeff Tambellini, Frans Nielsen and John Tavares all scored to give the Islanders a 3-1 margin in the shootout and the extra point.

How rare is it for a team to score on all three of its attempts in a shootout? The Isles' win marked just the second time it's happened this season -- and only the 22nd time in 644 instances since the NHL adopted the shootout in 2005.

No door prize -- There have been plenty of comebacks in the first three weeks of the season, highlighted by Chicago's rally from a 5-0 deficit for a 6-5 win on Oct. 12. But when Vancouver scored twice in the third period on Wednesday for a 3-2 win at Chicago, it marked only the second time this season that a team took a lead into the third period and came out without a point. The first came on Oct. 12, when Florida led 2-1 through 40 minutes and lost 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The third such game came Thursday night, when Columbus led 4-3 after two periods in Edmonton but lost 6-4.

There were 56 such games last season, with the Islanders topping all teams by losing five times when leading after 60 minutes

Nearly perfect -- In contrast, the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins are a near-lock when they get the jump on the opposition. After beating St. Louis 5-1 on Tuesday, the Penguins were 18-0-1 the past two seasons under coach Dan Bylsma when leading after two periods and 21-0-2 when scoring first. They are 7-0 this season when they get the first goal and 6-0 when they record at least 30 shots.

It's baaaack -- Dion Phaneuf's scoring touch has returned. The Calgary defenseman has gone from 20 to 17 (twice) to 11 goals in the past four seasons, but he's already got five this season after scoring Tuesday night in the Flames' 6-3 win over Columbus. It's the most goals by a Calgary defenseman in October since Al MacInnis had five in 1993. Phaneuf had his five goals on just 16 shots, a 31.3 shooting percentage that's nearly five times better than his career mark of 6.4 percent

Nash comes up short -- Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets had no shorthanded goals in his first four NHL seasons, but he's been one of the NHL's most dangerous penalty-killers over the past three seasons.

Nash scored shorthanded goals in back-to-back games against Los Angeles and Calgary, giving him 11 in the last two-plus seasons -- one short of League leader Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers. The goal against Calgary was scored with the Jackets skating 3-on-5, giving him two such goals in his NHL career -- one short of Richards' record of three. They are the only two 3-on-5 goals in the history of the Blue Jackets' franchise; the other one came against Washington on Feb. 5, 2008.

Still a target -- Some things never seem to change in the NHL, and one of them is that any goaltender for the Florida Panthers is going to see a lot of shots.

Through the first three weeks of the new season, the Panthers are allowing a League-high 36.6 shots on goal. But that's nothing unexpected: The Panthers surrendered 34.7 shots per game in 2008-09, the most in the NHL, and were 29th in 2007-08 with 33.6 per game. In fact, over the last eight seasons, the Panthers have allowed more shots than any team in the NHL. In six of those seasons, they've finished 29th or 30th in shots allowed, and only in 2006-07, when they were 15th, did they finish outside of the bottom three.

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