Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The penultimate game of the Nashville Predators 7-stop road trip takes place tonight (9:30 p.m. on FS-TN) against the NHL's lone undefeated team in the San Jose Sharks (7-0-0). Despite their underwhelming 2-2-3 record, however, the Preds may not be as an underdog tonight as you might think.
|Nashville Predators||San Jose Sharks|
|5-on-5 Save %||.919||17th||.952||2nd|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.14||28th||5.57||2nd|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.57||4th||4.29||13th|
These are pretty daunting numbers, but the Sharks appear to be riding the percentages to a healthy extent, as their possession stats are fine, but not on the level of teams like St. Louis or Los Angeles. Goaltender Antti Niemi has put up stellar results so far, but he hasn't performed at this level for a lengthy period of time previously, so he's due to fall back to Earth as well.
San Jose Sharks
He leads the league in Goals with 9, and has been nearly a point-per-game player over his career against the Nashville Predators (47 points in 50 games). Yup, the main guy to keep an eye on tonight is longtime Shark Patrick Marleau.
Sure, the fans in San Jose expect Marleau to cool off, but he's traditionally had good success against Nashville, so take no comfort there.
The Sharks come into tonight's game undefeated, but on the heels of back-to-back shootout victories over Anaheim & Edmonton, so it's not like San Jose is a juggernaut rolling through the West at the present time, nor does it sound like the coaches are entirely content with how things are going. Sharks beat writer David Pollak brings word of changes n the San Jose lineup:
For a 7-0 team, some likely new looks for #SJSharks vs. NSH tonight. Demers in and paired with Vlasic, Stuart and Boyle paired, Irwin sits.— David Pollak (@PollakOnSharks) February 2, 2013
Also mixing up forwards at #SJSharks a.m. skate: 3rd line was Gomez-Handzus-Havlat; 2nd line of Sheppard-Couture-Clowe. No Wingels.— David Pollak (@PollakOnSharks) February 2, 2013
Despite the valor shown in Thursday night's 2-1 shootout triumph in Los Angeles, the Preds have a long way to go before looking like the Cup contender that took to the ice in last spring's playoff.
One lineup decision to be watched tonight is whether Roman Josi goes back to work alonside Shea Weber. Scott Hannan got the nod there Thursday at Los Angeles, but three trips to the penalty box argue that perhaps he's not well-suited to match up against top opposing forwards. Chemistry between Josi & Weber will certainly be a work in progress, but it's probably for the best to keep that work moving along as quickly as possible.
So make sure to check back tonight for another late-late-late Game Thread!