Nashville Predators @ San Jose Sharks
9:30 pm CST
TV: FSTN Radio: 104.5 The Zone and the Predators Radio Network
Well, here we go! A serious three-game roller coaster that could determine Nashville’s post-season fate!
Okay, perhaps that’s a bit dramatic considering there’s still a lot of hockey left, but every game is definitely important. Tonight’s game against the Sharks will be yet another good measuring stick for where the Predators stand, and should Shea Weber
play tonight (and all indications are he will) it will also be a good sign to get the big gun back on the point for the Preds. Hopefully being out a game or two hasn’t hampered his ability to contribute and ramp right up to game speed, and it probably won’t be much in the way of an adjustment past the first shift or two.
That said, the Sharks come into tonight’s game waving around some impressive numbers:
Team Offense – 4th 3.26 GF per game
Team Defense – 1st 2.33 GA per game
Power Play – 4th 22.2%
Penalty Kill – 2nd 86.2%
These guys can not only put the puck in the net, but keep it out, too. That’s going to be the big challenge for Nashville is defending the top six forwards for the Sharks while trying to figure out how to generate scoring opportunities. Ideally, tonight is a game where you might get a match for your top line here and there, check their top six closely, and get a chip-in goal from your third or fourth unit.
Dan Ellis will get a turn in net again for the Preds after a solid performance against Atlanta for the win on Tuesday night, and he will definitely need to be at his best to beat the Sharks. For those who remember, Ellis stood on his head last season when the Predators came out with an amazing overtime win at HP Pavillion. His 54 saves in that game is a Preds team record, and I’m sure one that he’d be happy going nowhere near in tonight’s contest.
The Sharks will get Scott Nichol back in the lineup tonight after he suffered a scary crash into the endboards following a hit by Montreal’s Maxim Lapierre that injured his shoulder, but his fears were alleviated after learning that the damage was much less severe than initially suspected. Nichol missed only one game, and considers himself lucky that he was able to see the hit coming out of the corner of his eye.Notes:
Keys to the Game
- The Sharks have had four days off, sitting idle since a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at home last Saturday. It was San Jose’s 11th straight home win over the Blue Jackets.
- Dany Heatley has two goals and three points in his last three games, while Patrick Marleau has four points in his last two games.
- Evgeni Nabokov’s win over Columbus was the 288th of his career, moving him into sole possession of 29th place for wins all-time among NHL goaltenders.
- Stop the Sharks Swarm. Nashville has to be able to clear out the front of the net and win the battles along the wall, especially in the defensive zone. Scott Nichol said it best when he said the Sharks are most effective when they hang onto the puck. Time and space are everything.
- Offensive patience. The Sharks aren’t just going to open up and allow shots, the Preds have to earn their chances. Look for them to have to wear down the defense with repeated cycling on shifts to generate some chances. The upside is that they’ve done a good job with that for the most part in recent wins against LA and Atlanta.