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Sharks come rolling into matchup with Predators

by Brian Compton /

PREDATORS (7-7-1) at SHARKS (12-4-2)

Last 10: Nashville 5-4-1; San Jose 8-1-1.

Season Series:
This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. In their final matchup of the 2008-09 campaign, Radek Bonk and Martin Erat each had a goal and an assist to leads Nashville to a 3-2 victory at the Sommet Center.

Big Story:
After a mediocre start, San Jose is rolling. On Saturday night at HP Pavilion, the Sharks pummeled the defending Stanley Cup champions in a 5-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The victory improved San Jose's home record to 5-0-1.

Team Scope:

Character has played a key role for Nashville this season, and it showed again on Saturday afternoon when the Preds earned an impressive 3-1 victory at Los Angeles. Two of their goals came from defensemen (Francis Bouillon and Cody Franson), while Dan Ellis put forth a 27-save effort. It was his first start since Oct. 28.

"That's a big thing for our team. We need our defensemen to score," Ellis said after beating the Kings. "We don't have an abundance of talent and we don't have a surefire sniper. Jason Arnott is the closest thing we've got, so we need to score by committee and we need to score with grit. That's what we're starting to do."

Sharks: It took some time to gel following the acquisition of sniper Dany Heatley, but the Sharks are now firing on all cylinders. San Jose has scored 61 goals in 18 games -- the most in the Western Conference -- and has outscored its opponents by a 14-5 margin this month.

"It's important that we have it spread out," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of his team's goal scoring. "It's nice to see the second unit get some power-play time."

Who's Hot: No single player is on a torrid scoring pace for the Preds, but their special teams has been solid. Bouillon's goal on Saturday came via the power play, which gives Nashville eight special-teams tallies (six on the man advantage) in its last seven games.

For the Sharks, their best players have been their best players. Despite being stripped of the captaincy prior to the start of the season, Patrick Marleau (11 goals, 11 assists) is tied with Joe Thornton (4 goals, 18 assists) for the team lead in scoring. Heatley is tied with Marleau in the goal-scoring category, while Dan Boyle has chipped in with 9 points (1 goal, 8 assists) on the power play.

Injury Report:
Nashville forwards J.P. Dumont (upper body) and Colin Wilson (groin) are day-to-day. Both missed Saturday's game at Los Angeles. For San Jose, defenseman Rob Blake (shoulder) is out indefinitely, as is right wing Devin Setoguchi (lower body). Ryan Vesce (lower body) has resumed skating, but his return date is unknown. Torrey Mitchell (knee) is also practicing, but has yet to make his season debut.

Stat Pack:
Nashville has become a third-period team of late. The Preds have scored nine times in the final 20 minutes of regulation in their last seven contests. … San Jose has allowed only seven goals in its last seven games, thanks to some splendid goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov, who has a 2.14 goals-against average in 17 appearances.
Puck Drop:
This is another big test for the Predators after Saturday's big win against the Kings, who are one of the up-and-coming teams in the League. San Jose is 9-1-1 in its last 11 games and is showing no signs of slowing down. The Preds will simply have to survive the first 10 minutes and then go from there.

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