Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Stortini, left, and Nashville Predators left wing Triston Grant, right, fight in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, Oct. 12, 2009. Stortini scored two goals as the Oilers won 6-1. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
After a convincing 7-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight and a dominating blast past the Blue Jackets on Monday night, the Nashville Predators find themselves in a spot they haven’t seen too often.
With 43 points, they find themselves tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the Central Division. The Blackhawks, however, do have a couple of games in hand but the Preds are in their rearview mirror. They sit in 6th spot in the Western Conference with a 20-11-3 record.
Steve Sullivan picked up his seventh career hat trick to help the Preds take down their prey in Columbus Monday night.
"I've been known to be a streaky goal-scorer my whole career,'' said Sullivan, who'd scored once in his past 13 games. "I think I wait for my opportunities and hopefully they come in bunches.''
Even though that line has not been together very long, they sure are connecting and all three are producing points for the Preds. Jason Arnott has four goals in his last seven games, with a goal tonight, Erat now has 11 points in his last eight (including a hat trick Dec. 8) and Sullivan notched a hat trick against the Jackets.
"Our line of late has been playing very well,” said Sullivan. “Martin Erat with a recent hat trick, Jason Arnott with goals quite a bit lately. We've been clicking."
On the injury front, the Preds lost a key player on Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings. Jordan Tootoo took a hard slap shot from Shea Weber which has resulted in a broken bone in his right foot and is expected out of the line-up for three to four weeks. Losing Tootoo will hurt the Preds as he was currently playing some of the best hockey of his career. In the 19 games he’s played, he has recorded nine points and is a plus three. That is already half way to his career high 18 points.
"He continues to grow every single year,'' Sullivan said. "I feel like in the last two or three weeks, it's probably the best hockey I've ever seen him play. So to lose him now, we just hope it's not a long time.''
The Predators are sitting in third place for the fewest penalty minutes with 134 total penalties in 34 games. They average 9.6 minutes in the box per game. The NJ Devils have the fewest with 116.
As for their special teams however, their PP unit is sitting at 27th in the league. They’ve had 129 opportunities and only scored 21 times which is good for 16.3%. On the PK, the Preds are not any better sitting in 29th in the league with a 77.2% on the PK. The Oilers are just above them sitting in 25th spot for a 78.6% on the PK.
The Preds will travel to face our Oilers right here in Rexall Place on Thursday night. Tickets are still available! Watch these two hot teams battle for two points. Preds need to keep pace with the Blackhawks if they want to stay on top and the Oilers look to start winning at home and improve their record of 5-1 in the last six games.