The Cali road trip begins with a visit to The Shark Tank, a place which brings back vivid memories for Preds fans.
But if you exclude the 2015-16 playoff series where the Predators lost all four games in San Jose, their fate have been upgraded to average since then – going 1-1 last season. Nashville will hope for a better outcome on the west coast after a 1-4 record the previous year.
Here’s tonight’s preview for the Preds and Sharks.
San Jose Sharks
San Jose enters tonight fifth in the Pacific at 6-5, and have won three of their last four games. Rather than wheel and deal in the offseason, the Sharks focused on re-signing and extending – most notably giving Marc-Edouard Vlasic eight years, $56 million and Martin Jones six years, $34.5 million, while also keeping Joe Thornton in town for one year, $8 million.
After struggling early in the season on the power play, the Sharks are trending upward since moving rookie Tim Heed to the top unit, making it a two defensemen look along with Brent Burns. Heed is a promising 26-year-old with four points in his last four starts, and has seen his ice time increase as a result.
An important question for San Jose has been: who joins Joe Pavelski and Thornton on the top line? It’s been Kevin Labanc 21 percent of the time, but Joonas Donskoi has also joined the Joe unit at even strength. Labanc was the number one left wing two days ago against Toronto, but Donskoi is outplaying him right now, so we’ll see how this looks come puck drop.
However, Logan Couture has supplied the firepower for the Sharks, tied for sixth in the league in goals with eight.
Another note: the Sharks are the third-best penalty kill team at 88.4 percent.
It’s not exactly a good time for Nashville to begin a four-game road trip given the uncertainty of Juuse Saros. With four games in seven days, we’ll probably see Saros against either Anaheim or Los Angeles, leaving Pekka Rinne to hold down the fort beginning tonight. If you need a reminder of how elite Rinne has been, he has stopped 184 of his last 191 shots faced.
Offensively, it might be time for Peter Laviolette to reunite the JOFA line. Viktor Arvidsson didn’t look the same against New York when playing alongside Pontus Aberg and Calle Jarnkrok. When he, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg have played together, the forwards have combined to total 11 points.
The Predators are seventh-best in the NHL on the man advantage, so this sets up to be an interesting matchup if the whistles are frequent.
Reason #375 we love this team
Reasons to Watch
- Filip Forsberg
- Pekka Rinne
- Craig Smith has tallied a goal in back-to-back games, and is playing just as hard as anyone right now.
- Roman Josi has put tons of pucks on net this season (4.3 shots per game), and last November totaled nine points. It’s only a matter of time before he begins an extended point streak.
Watch and Listen
The radio broadcast remains the same (102.5 The Game), but be aware the game will be aired on NBC Sports Network rather than Fox Sports Tennessee. Puck drop from SAP Center takes place at 9:30 p.m. CT.