Nashville Predators @ San Jose Sharks preview: Kick 'em while they're down

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks passes the puck away from Ryan Suter #20 of the Nashville Predators in the first period during an NHL game at HP Pavilion at San Jose on November 5, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators can take their shot at catching the Red Wings in the Western Conference standings with a win tonight at San Jose (9:30 p.m. Central on FS-TN). Can the Preds take advantage of a Sharks team which has stumbled and staggered their way through the second half of the season?

Let's find out...

Tale Of The Tape

Nashville (41-21-7) at San Jose (34-25-10)
NSH Offense vs. S.J Defense S.J Offense vs. NSH Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH Offense 2.5 (9th) 26.7 (28th) 9.2 (3rd) 2.3 (9th) 30.8 (26th) 926 (4th) NSH Defense
S.J Defense 2.1 (5th) 27.5 (6th) 923 (10th) 2.4 (12th) 33.2 (1st) 7.1 (26th) S.J Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
NSH PP vs. S.J PK S.J PP vs. NSH PK
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH 5-on-4 7.5 (1st) 47.7 (19th) 15.7 (2nd) 6.5 (20th) 53.9 (25th) 880 (15th) NSH 4-on-5
S.J 4-on-5 7.3 (27th) 51.1 (18th) 857 (25th) 6.8 (4th) 65.7 (1st) 10.3 (25th) S.J 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

The Sharks have certainly been victims of a cruel fate, as their fundamental performance measures are among the very best in the NHL. The big opportunity for the Preds is when they get on the power play, as San Jose's PK has not been sharp.

San Jose Sharks

A couple of months ago, the Sharks looked like a real Stanley Cup threat. They had a slim lead in the Pacific Division, but several games in hand on the competition, and their goal differential (+28 at the time) spoke to a team which deserved every bit of its lofty standing. It's all come apart at the seams since then, however, with a 5-11-4 record over their last 20 games. Instead of fine-tuning for a run at the Cup, like Vancouver is, the Sharks find themselves caught in a 5-team battle for two playoff spots.

And I don't like their chances.

Recently, Puck Daddy hosted a roundtable discussion among some Sharks bloggers, trying to get to the bottom of San Jose's woes:

When the Sharks were actually scoring goals, Antti Niemi was having a helluva hard time stopping pucks. Now, with Niemi actually playing pretty well over the last 6 or so games, the scoring has dried up and San Jose has shown a complete lack of ability to finish on their scoring chances. It isn't necessarily a case of everything going wrong at the same time-- it's a case of one area absolutely falling off a cliff while another stays constant, and that whole dynamic taking a 180 degree turn a week later.

Enough to keep things close enough to give you hope, but certainly not enough to win hockey games.

- Mr. Plank from Fear The Fin

One guy who's probably not to blame? 22-year-old center Logan Couture, who has once again hit the 30-goal mark in this, his second full NHL season:


Logan Couture

#39 / Center / San Jose Sharks

6-1

195

Mar 28, 1989



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Logan Couture 67 30 26 56 +5 14 10 2 4 211 14.2

Can this young guy provide the leadership spark to shake this team out of the doldrums?


San Jose Sharks Last 5 Games

@ Calgary Tue 03/13 OT - L 2 - 3
@ Edmonton Mon 03/12 W 3 - 2
@ Phoenix Sat 03/10 L 0 - 3
@ Dallas Thu 03/08 SO - L 3 - 4
Edmonton Tue 03/06 SO - L 2 - 3

Nashville Predators

There's not much of interest going on with the Preds these days, eh?

The goal tonight is to pick up two points and catch Detroit for 4th spot in the Western Conference, an important position because home-ice advantage could prove important in a 1st-round playoff matchup with the Red Wings, who have dominated at Joe Louis Arena (28-4-2) but faltered on the road (16-20-1).

All-time, the Preds are 22-22-2-5 against the Sharks, so this is also a chance to pop above the .500 mark all-time against the team which twice knocked them out of the playoffs, in 2006 & 2007. So far this season, Nashville is 2-1-0 against San Jose.

You know who has a hot hand against the Sharks? Shea Weber, actually. In 22 career games against San Jose, Weber has 5 goals and 13 assists for 18 points, his second-highest total against any opponent (he has 30 in 36 games against Columbus). He'll have his hands full tonight dealing with San Jose's group of talented forwards, though.


Shea Weber

#6 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

6-4

232

Aug 14, 1985



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Shea Weber 65 14 27 41 18 38 8 2 1 192 7.3

It'll be a late start tonight, so rest up for this one, folks! To help pass the time, make sure to stop by Fear The Finand check out their take on tonight's game.

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