Sharks @ Predators Game Day Preview: Here Comes The Cavalry

After going 1-for-3 in Western Canada, the Nashville Predators return home to some welcome news, as veterans Mike Fisher and Francis Bouillon appear set to join the lineup for the first time this season (7:00 p.m., on FS-TN). Even if they have to take a game or two to work their way up to 100% speed, whatever extent to which they push some of the kids back down the depth chart, it should help the team.

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The Stats

Let's go to the Tale Of The Tape...

San Jose (3-3-0) at Nashville (3-3-1)
San Jose Offense vs. Nashville Defense Nashville Offense vs. San Jose Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 SJS Offense 2.6 (10th) 36.8 (1st) 7 (23rd) 1.9 (7th) 24.8 (2nd) 922 (11th)  SJS Defense
 NSH Defense   2.7 (21st)  34 (30th) 922 (8th) 1.9 (24th) 21.3 (30th) 8.9 (23rd)  NSH Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 SJS 5-on-4 6.1 (12th) 80.2 (1st)  7.5 (24th)   7.4 (24th)  42.8 (6th) 826 (24th)  SJS 4-on-5
 NSH 4-on-5 3.5 (8th)  46.1 (11th)  925 (8th) 6 (13th)  50.8 (14th)   11.8 (11th)   NSH 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

Whoa boy, let's hope those reinforcements really shore things up, because the basic Shots For & Against numbers in 5-on-5 couldn't portray a worse matchup for the Preds. 

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are on a six-game road trip which began with wins at New Jersey and Boston, reversing a prior 3-game losing streak. San Jose is represented on SB Nation over at...

Fear_the_fin_logo_medium_medium

The story with the Sharks is a familiar one - always strongly competitive in the regular season, the one achievement which continues to elude them is that drive to the Stanley Cup Final. It's odd, really, because in the last 7 seasons, they've won at least one playoff series in 6 of those years, so they're hardly postseason flops, but perspective can be a funny thing.

This year, the winning formula is hoped to be found in a pair of trades with Minnesota, which primarily saw the Sharks swap out Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat as the dynamic winger up front, and Devin Setoguchi for Brent Burns, adding some punch to a blueline which has traditionally been viewed as San Jose's Achilles Heel. Burns is one of those guys who flies under the radar a bit, a dynamic two-way defenseman who the Sharks should be able to plug in to just about any situation and rely upon him to perform well (as opposed to Dan Boyle, who is more of an offensive specialist).

Up front, it's not like the Setoguchi loss has left them shorthanded. The big names of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have traditionally chewed up the Preds (Thornton with 41 points in 32 games, and Marleau with 42 in 47 vs. Nashville), and they're supported by the likes of Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe, and Logan Couture, who was runner-up for the Calder Trophy last season.

So rest assured, even though a couple of the faces have changed, this is another strong San Jose team which is expected to be a strong contender to win the West, and represents a steep challenge for the Predators tonight.

Nashville Predators

The news that Mike Fisher has been cleared to play couldn't have come at a better time - Nashville's forwards have been overmatched for the last couple weeks, and his presence in the middle can help shelter some of the younger guys from tougher duty. The interesting question now is whether Craig Smith will move back to wing, or whether he'll remain at center, where he played against Calgary on Saturday.

And who will watch from the press box tonight? Brian McGrattan? Niclas Bergfors? One of the kids?

One thing we don't need to worry about is Pekka Rinne, there's no question that he's come out of the gate ready to dominate on a consistent basis.

On defense, Bouillon's return can hopefully shore up what has been at times a shake blueline, but it should be remembered that when the forwards give up one odd-man rush after another, any defense pair is going to look bad. The bottom line tonight is that whenever he does take the ice, The Cube deserves a standing ovation from the fans for completing a long and I'm sure at times frustrating road to recovery.

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