Martel's Musings: Game 9 - Nashville at San Jose

While Bridgestone Arena is in the process of being taken over by the Country Music Association, Nashville embarks on it's annual trip hovering around the same calendar dates.Up first? Former two-time playoff foe: the San Jose Sharks.

It sure wasn't a fun overtime loss to watch on Saturday night. Yes, regulation was extremely entertaining, however the missed tripping call in overtime -- one that left both players and coaches fuming -- ended up preventing Filip Forsberg from actively back-checking the ensuing Phil Kessel break towards Pekka Rinne.

The next thing you know, the puck is behind Rinne and Pittsburgh skates off with a 2-1 win.

Even so, Nashville is 6-1-1 to start the season. That's better than last season's 5-1-2 start. The Predators, however, have a long way to go in trying to match the 20-8-2 start they had over the first 30 games.

Projected line combinations based on morning skate:

(Line combinations thanks to our buddy Adam Vingan from The Tennessean)

(NOTE: Defensive pairings and goaltender are projections at this point until further information becomes available, however I don't see the defense changing up from its previous outings)

Forward Line One: Filip Forsberg / Mike Fisher / James Neal

Forward Line Two: Colin Wilson / Mike Ribeiro / Craig Smith

Forward Line Three: Gabriel Bourque / Cody Hodgson / Calle Jarnkrok

Forward Line Four: Eric Nystrom / Paul Gaustad / Austin Watson

Projected Defensive Pair One: Shea Weber / Roman Josi

Projected Defensive Pair Two: Barret Jackman / Seth Jones

Projected Defensive Pair Three: Mattias Ekholm / Ryan Ellis

Projected Goaltender: Pekka Rinne


Three Things vs San Jose
Two teams with too much rest
Both Nashville and San Jose are entering tonights contest with three days rest, both last playing this past Saturday night.

(Oddly enough, both share the same gameday schedule for the next three games -- Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday)

Unfortunately for the Predators, they begin their lengthy annual CMA road trip while the Sharks are completing a three-game homestand.

This marks the first time this season that Nashville has gone more than two days without game action, so it will be interesting to see how they come out of the gate.

Saturday night's loss to Pittsburgh should be enough to motivate the Predators for a strong bounce back against San Jose -- as they poured 39 shots on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury while falling in overtime after a controversial missed tripping call.

However, will they be too rested and start off on the wrong foot?

Sharks offensive powerhouse Joe...l Ward?

That's right. You read that correctly. Former Predators standout Joel Ward currently leads all San Jose players in scoring, collecting five goals and three assists in his eight games -- one less than current Predators forward James Neal.

I've always liked the style of game that Ward played while in Nashville and continues to play for the Sharks. If you recall, Ward had a fantastic postseason during the 2010-11 campaign, scoring seven goals and six assists in 12 games. That earned him a contract with the Washington Capitals where he had a whopping 57 goals and 64 assists in 276 games.

He's not exactly the player you would expect to be keeping your eye on for offensive outbursts, especially for a team like San Jose. Yet, the numbers are real. Ward is their biggest weapon right now, narrowly edging the two Joe's -- Pavelski and Thornton.

More scoring by defensemen
The Predators are used to their defensive unit piling up the points during the season. After eight games, only five of Nashville's 23 goals have come from the defense corp.

What's more shocking: less than a quarter of Nashville's goals coming from defensemen or that Seth Jones hasn't contributed to that number?

That's not to say that the defensive unit isn't stellar in their own right, as they are. Even more so with Mattias Ekholm now locked up for the next six seasons. However, it wouldn't hurt for Nashville to see some more scoring from the blue line -- especially during their current four-game road trip.

While we'd all love nothing more than to watch James Neal rattle off goal after goal after goal, the Predators have enjoyed a "scoring by committee" approach for the bulk of their franchise existence. I don't expect that to change anytime soon.

Player to Watch

Seth Jones: Since we just talked about him in the aforementioned musing, let's jot his name down as tonight's PTW. Factor Jones into the scoring with at least a goal as Nashville fights for a win in the Shark Tank -- where the Predators are 11-14-6 all-time against San Jose.


(Game 8 Prediction: 4-3 Predators win. Result? 2-1 Predators overtime loss. CURRENT RECORD: 5-0-1.)

This won't be a perfect homestand, but I think Nashville does enough to pull away with a 4-2 win against the Sharks.