Predators Game Day Preview: San Jose @ Nashville

03-26_medium

Sharks blog: Fear the Fin

TV: FS-TN (Dish 444/9514 HD, DirecTV 644/644-1 HD, Comcast 28/247 HD)

Radio: 104.5 "The Zone" (WGFX)

Who needs centers? As if having Jason Arnott out wasn't enough of a challenge, David Legwand took a puck in the face yesterday in practice, so the Preds will be without their top two pivots tonight against the #1 team in the NHL. And oh yeah, they desperately need every point they can get as they fight for a playoff spot. Is that enough on the line for you, Preds fans? I have confidence that whichever Predators dress will put forth a great effort, but are the fans in the stands ready to give their best?

Questions to be answered: (1) How will the centers line up? I'm guessing Bonk will move up between Sullivan and Erat, with O'Reilly getting third-line work. (2) Can the defense pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber step up offensively to help alleviate the shortages up front? (3) Will Brad Staubitz face any retaliation for the elbow-bashing he gave Jordin Tootoo last week?

Sharks coming in: Last night they dropped a 6-5 shootout decision in Chicago, so perhaps there might be some tired legs on the San Jose side. Sharks captain Patrick Marleau missed that game as his wife gave birth to their second son Wednesday morning, but is expected in the lineup tonight. San Jose is dinged up a bit, however, as Rob Blake, Ryan Clowe, Marcel Goc, Mike Grier, Kent Huskins, Tomas Plihal, and Claude Lemieux are all out of action right now, per the Sharks preview.

Preds coming in: Three straight OTL points have Nashville still in the thick of the playoff chase, but victories are becoming more important by the day. While it's frustrating to watch rivals like the Ducks play doormats like Colorado, the Preds just have to win the games they're given.

Sharks to watch: Joe Thornton is driving one of the top offenses in the league, and has 11 points in his last five games (4G, 7A).

Preds to watch: Look for Weber & Suter to jump up into the attack as needed to try and snag a lead that the team can lock down. Defensively, whichever center gets matched against Thornton (Bonk?) will probably have the most important job on the ice.

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

San Jose Nashville
 Record 48-14-11 1st 35-30-7 17th
 Pts % .733 1st .534 18th
 Goals For/Game 3.19 5th 2.48 26th
 Goals Against/Game 2.42 2nd 2.68 8th
 5-on-5 GF/GA 1.15 7th 0.94 19th
 PP% 23.7 3rd 14.7 27th
 PK% 83.9 3rd 83.9 3rd
 Shots/Game 33.7 2nd 29.1 19th
 Shots Against/Game 27.4 1st 29.3 12th
 FO % 53.8 2nd 52.2 4th

As one of the users at the Preds message boards pointed out recently (can't find the link at the moment), perhaps Gimli says it best in The Return of the King: "Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?"

Gim_medium

I bet he'd be wicked in front of the opposing net.

Who draws the penalties, and who heads to the box? Data up through March 22nd:

 San Jose Penalties Drawn Nashville Penalties Drawn
 Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-  Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-
 Joe Thornton 42 24 +18  Jordin Tootoo 48 44 +4
 Ryan Clowe 33 17 +16  Martin Erat 25 24 +1
 Devin Setoguchi 31 10 +21  Ryan Jones 24 10 +14
 Joe Pavelski 28 15 +13  Dan Hamhuis 23 24 -1
 Patrick Marleau 25 10 +15  Joel Ward 21 12 +9
 Travis Moen 24 24 0  Vern Fiddler 20 11 +9
Penalties Taken Penalties Taken
 Rob Blake 9 40 -31  Jordin Tootoo 48 44 +4
 Jody Shelley 23 32 -9  Ryan Suter 16 34 -18
 Christian Ehrhoff 19 28 -9  Shea Weber 14 34 -20
 Joe Thornton 42 24 +18  Greg de Vries 11 26 -15
 Travis Moen 24 24 0  Martin Erat 24 24 +1
 Alexei Semenov 17 24 -7  Dan Hamhuis 23 24 -1

And lastly, a look at the goalies for tonight's game. Expect Rinne in net for Nashville, and perhaps Boucher for San Jose as Nabokov played last night in Chicago.

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 54 3205 37 8 8 0 130 2.43 1459 1329 .911 6


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 43 2450 24 11 4 4 91 2.23 1166 1075 .922 7

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