The Nashville Predators kick off a California road trip tonight, taking on the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. The Predators are 36-25-5, have 77 points, and cling to the 7th spot in the West by two points over the Calgary Flames. The Sharks are 42-14-9, with 93 points, and lead the Western Conference by a slight margin over the Chicago Blackhawks. This is Nashville's final game against San Jose this year, and being a preview of a possible first round matchup, will be a good measuring stick for the Predators.
As always, below are your game breakdown, lineups, and prediction...
Nashville coming in
The Predators got a much needed win against the Thrashers to kick off their road trip, getting a power play marker from Ryan Suter and the game winner from rookie Colin Wilson. Dan Ellis was excellent in net, so it'll be interesting to see who gets the call from Barry '400' Trotz tonight.
The Predators' special teams have improved quite a bit, particularly the power play. The Preds scored power play goals against Vancouver and Atlanta, both without PP catalyst Shea Weber, and is up to 20th league wide with a 17.4% conversion rate. The penalty kill still toils near the bottom, but as newcomer Dustin Boyd is acclimated, we may see that number start to creep up.
San Jose coming in
The Sharks have reeled off three comeback wins in a row since the Olympic break, and are hoping to catch the Capitals in the race for the President's Trophy. As usual, the big question in San Jose is how the team will perform in the playoffs, and lately if Evgeni Nabokov is ready for the postseason.
The Sharks have an absolutely lethal special teams, with the power play at 4th in the NHL (22.2%) and the penalty kill in 2nd (86.2%). Obviously, if the Predators special teams really have turned the corner, they'll need a huge effort tonight on both ends of the ice. Check out the San Jose perspective of tonight's game here.
|2009 - Colin Wilson||19||4||3||7||-4||0||1||0||2||0||28||14.3|
|2009 - David Legwand||66||10||23||33||0||22||0||1||3||0||122||8.2|
The Guys in Goal
For the Preds, John Glennon reports that Trotz will return to the hot hand:
|2009 - Dan Ellis||29||1599||14||12||69||2.59||796||727||.913||1|
Perennial Vezina candidate, Russian Olympian, this guy has seen it all:
|2009 - Evgeni Nabokov||56||3343||36||10||126||2.26||1726||1600||.927||2|
Nashville Predators Injuries
San Jose Sharks Injuries
Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
John Glennon says that Shea Weber skated yesterday, so he may be a game-time decision. Yay!
Looks like Scott Nichol will return from injury tonight, but if not, Ryan Vesce will take his place:
Did you know?
- Nabokov is 6-1 with a 1.99 GAA in his last seven starts against the Preds.
- All three games in the season series have been by a score of 4-3
- The Sharks have one of the highest faceoff percentages in the league (55.9%), with centers Manny Malhotra, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all excelling in the circle.
Though Nashville has played fairly well in the last four games, they are still without two key defensemen, and are running into an offensive juggernaut in the Sharks. San Jose is one of the more balanced teams in the league, and can kill you in just about every facet of the game. I fully expect the Predators to play hard- it just won't be enough. San Jose 4, Nashville 2.