San Jose Sharks @ Nashville Predators Preview: Deep Sea Fishing

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San Jose Sharks Nashville Predators
 GF/Game 2.72 15th 2.57 26th
 GA/Game 2.61 11th 2.32 2nd
 SF/Game 33.7 1st 28.9 24th
 SA/Game 28.7 7th 30.0 13th
 PP% 22.3 4th 15.0 26th
 # of PP's 215 10th 194 24th
 PK% 82.2 15th 86.2 2nd
 # of PK's 197 8th 195 6th

5-1.

In a season of ups and downs, that might be the most perplexing number of all. 5-1 is the Nashville Predators' combined record this year against two teams that have consistently had their number over the course of the franchise's existence - the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks.

How does Nashville manage to do so well against the upper crust of the league, and so poorly against the bottom dwellers? I don't know. Whatever the case may be, the Preds must throw the past out the window tonight against the Sharks. San Jose sits a mere one point behind Nashville, and separation, no matter how its attained, is paramount.

San Jose, for their part, are not likely to be happy campers entering tonight's contest. They're at the end of a season-long seven game road trip, and are coming off a loss to the Florida Panthers, which followed a loss to the New Jersey Devils. Compounding a bad situation for Nashville, the Sharks, excepting Antero Niittymaki, are completely healthy.

The point here is this: winning the early parts of the game will go a long way to walking out of Bridgestone Arena with both points. San Jose will undoubtedly come out jumping, and the Predators might, too - but the tendency lately has been to not convert on their (Nashville's) early chances, and then fall behind. The Preds got away with it against Colorado on Saturday, but the story with not quite the happy ending can be found two Mondays ago against the Oilers.

The Sharks are not the Oilers, and they're not the Avalanche. A Nashville failure to weather the early storm posed by San Jose will very likely result in getting knocked out of the 5th playoff seed temporarily, and if the habits aren't kicked, longer than that.

Of course, it isn't all doom and gloom. For a team that supposedly has so much trouble scoring, the Predators have scored nine times in two games, and are in the process of acclimating their biggest trade acquisition since Peter Forsberg. Additionally, Marcel Goc and Marek Svatos should be on their way back into the lineup, bumping a less-effective player out. Who that is remains to be seen, but despite the pessimism, things are looking up once again.

Star-divide

Projected lineups:

Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

207

Nov 03, 1982

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Pekka Rinne 39 2280 20 14 80 2.11 1116 1036 .928

via yesterday's practice:

Forwards
Kostitsyn - Fisher - Erat
Sullivan (A) - Legwand - Hornqvist
Wilson - Goc - Ward
 Smithson - Spaling - Dumont/Svatos
Defense
 Suter (A) - Weber (C)
Klein - Sulzer
Franson - O'Brien

Antti Niemi

#31 / Goalie / San Jose Sharks

6-2

210

Aug 29, 1983

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Antti Niemi 36 2084 17 15 89 2.56 1058 969 .916 4
Forwards
Marleau - Thornton (C) - Setoguchi
Mitchell  - Pavelski - Heatley
Clowe (A) - Couture - Wellwood
 Eager - Nichol - Mayers
Defense
 Boyle (A) - Murray
Vlasic - Huskins
Wallin - Demers
X
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