Predators Game Day Preview: Nashville @ San Jose

03-19_mediumSharks blog: Fear the Fin

TV Coverage: Fox Sports Tennessee (Dish Network 444, DirecTV 644)

Streaming Video: Yahoo! Sports

Radio: 104.5 "The Zone" (WGFX)

Fresh off of stealing a point in the standings in an OT loss to Anaheim, the Preds conclude a four-game road trip tonight in San Jose, where the Sharks are merely 27-3-4 on home ice.  Keep in mind, however, that it was Nashville that gave San Jose it's first loss at home on November 11 in a 4-3 overtime win. Jason Arnott and Radek Bonk are still not expected to play due to injury.

Questions to be answered: (1) Do the Predators have any gas left in the tank after playing last night? (2) Will Dan Ellis get a rare start in goal? He's made 82 saves on 89 shots in two games against the Sharks this season, a .921 save percentage. (3) Can the Sullivan/Legwand/Erat line recover from a poor game against Anaheim, or will they be split up?

Predators coming in: With the OT loss to the Ducks, Nashville is 2-0-1 on the current road trip, and 8-2-3 in their last 13 games. With 76 points, they currently sit in 7th place in the Western Conference. Edmonton is a point back at 75, but has two games in hand.

Sharks coming in: After losing in Phoenix 4-3 Tuesday night, San Jose held a long closed-door meeting between the players and the hockey operations staff. After a four-game losing streak a couple weeks ago, the Sharks are 3-2 in their last five.

Predators to watch: After I wondered if Ryan Suter might be the hottest Predator yesterday, he went out and recorded three assists last night giving him 36 so far.  The team record for assists by a defenseman in a season is 42, set by Kimmo Timonen in 2006-7. J.P. Dumont had a goal and an assist, giving him consecutive multi-point games.

Sharks to watch: Joe Thornton is tied for 4th in the league in assists with 55, and Patrick Marleau appears rejuvenated under new coach Todd McLellan, playing at roughly a point-per-game pace. Evgeni Nabokov's gaudy win totals keep him among the most overrated players in the NHL; in my book, he's an average starting goaltender behind an incredible lineup.

Here's a look at the two teams in the main statistical categories, along with overall NHL rank:

Nashville San Jose
 Record 35-30-6 17th 45-14-10 2nd
 Pts % .535 18th .725 1st
 Goals For/Game 2.51 25th 3.16 6th
 Goals Against/Game 2.72 8th 2.42 2nd
 5-on-5 GF/GA 0.95 17th 1.16 6th
 PP% 14.6 28th 23.3 3rd
 PK% 84 3rd 83.3 5th
 Shots/Game 29.1 16th 33.9 2nd
 Shots Against/Game 29.3 12th 27.4 1st
 FO % 52.5 3rd 53.5 2nd

Umm... *gulp*. Let's move on.

Here's a review of who draws the penalties, and who takes them for each team (data as of March 16):

 Nashville Penalties Drawn San Jose Penalties Drawn
 Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-  Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-
 Jordin Tootoo 47 42 +5  Joe Thornton 41 24 +17
 Martin Erat 24 24 0  Ryan Clowe 32 17 +15
 Ryan Jones 23 10 +13  Devon Setoguchi 32 17 +15
 Dan Hamhuis 21 24 -3  Joe Pavelski 26 14 +12
 Joel Ward 20 11 +9  Patrick Marleau 25 8 +17
 Vern Fiddler 20 9 +11  Travis Moen 23 23 0
Penalties Taken Penalties Taken
 Jordin Tootoo 47 42 +5  Rob Blake 7 39 -32
 Ryan Suter 16 34 -18  Jody Shelley 22 30 -8
 Shea Weber 14 32 -18  Christian Ehrhoff 19 28 -9
 Greg de Vries 11 25 -14  Joe Thornton 41 24 +17
 Martin Erat 24 24 0  Brad Staubitz 18 24 -6
 Dan Hamhuis 21 24 -3  Travis Moen 23 23 0
 Alexei Semenov 17 23 -6

Rob Blake is at the very bottom of the Penalty Plus/Minus rankings, but having stellar performers at the top end like Thornton, Clowe, Setoguchi, Pavelski and Marleau ensures the Sharks spend more than their fair share of time on the power play. San Jose has enjoyed 309 PP's this season, while only having to fight off 269 PK's, a +40 differential that's among the best in the league.

Lastly, let's check on the goaltenders:

Nashville


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2008 - Dan Ellis 35 1965 11 19 4 5 96 2.93 963 867 .900 3
2008 - Pekka Rinne 41 2320 24 11 2 4 88 2.28 1109 1021 .921 7

San Jose


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2008 - Brian Boucher 21 1232 11 6 3 2 45 2.19 542 497 .917 2
2008 - Evgeni Nabokov 50 2956 34 8 7 0 120 2.44 1344 1224 .911 6

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