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Game Day: Preds vs. Sharks

by Nashville Predators / Nashville Predators

(42-19-7) Nashville Predators vs. San Jose Sharks (33-26-8)
  9:30 P.M. | SAP Center
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game

The Nashville Predators play the second matchup of their four-game road trip out west against the San Jose Sharks tonight.

Nashville will be looking for two-straight wins after James Neal’s overtime tally on Monday against the Arizona Coyotes ended a season-high, six-game skid for the team. The goal was Neal’s team-leading 22nd of the campaign and his fifth OT winner since the start of the 2013-14 season, moving him into first in the NHL in the category. Overall, Neal has six game-winning goals in the 2014-15 season, tying a career high.

“We played some good games in the six-game losing streak, but we played a lot of games that weren't us,” Neal said following Monday’s 2-1 win. “We were back on the positive and doing the good things in the offensive zone that makes us a great hockey team and it paid off.”

The victory over the Coyotes gave the Preds win No. 1 in their tour of four-consecutive Pacific Division foes. Nashville’s record against the Pacific improved to 11-3-2 following the one-goal win; the club will face the division's fifth-ranked team, the Sharks, tonight.

Nashville will be in search of their second win in their third of three games against the Sharks (the Preds’ games against Arizona, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim this road trip will all be the final regular-season matchups between the squads), with the first two meetings between the clubs featuring polarizing results. On Dec. 13, Sharks netminder Antti Niemi shut out the Preds in a contest where Nashville’s offense looked completely out of sync. Game No. 2 between the Western Conference clubs, however, saw the Predators deliver a dominating 5-1 victory for their sixth-straight win, just over three weeks ago.

“We picked things up in the second half of the first period and then carried it over into the second, we really took over the game,” Preds Captain Shea Weber said following Nashville’s victory over San Jose on Feb. 17.

For the home team tonight, the Sharks are led on offense by forward Joe Pavelski’s 32 goals and 61 points. Joe Thornton (13g-44a), Logan Couture (22g-33a), Brent Burns (16g-33a) and Patrick Marleau (15g-33a) round out the Top 5 in scoring for the Sharks.

Nashville is paced on offense by Mike Ribeiro’s 54 points and 41 assists; the veteran is five helpers from 500 career assists. Filip Forsberg (21g-32a), Roman Josi (11g-36a), Shea Weber (15g-28a) and Colin Wilson (20g-20a) make up the Top 5 point-getters for the Preds.

Pekka Rinne’s 36-13-3 record guides the Predators between the pipes, while Niemi’s 26 victories and .914 save-percentage are tops for the Sharks. The Preds’ Rinne is just one win from recording his 200th career NHL victory.

Nashville has picked up points in 13 of their last 16 games against San Jose, posting a 10-3-3 record in those contests. All-time, the Preds are 28-24-(2)-6 against the Sharks and a victory tonight would be the club’s 600th as a franchise.

Predators Game Day Video:

What to Watch for: Brent and Willy's Breakdown


Morning Skate Update:

The Preds took to the ice at 1:30 p.m. (CT) in San Jose at the SAP Center ahead of tonight's contest with the Sharks, with all skaters participating once again. There were no changes in this morning's lines compared to yesterday's practice in Arizona.

Nashville Morning Skate Lines:

Forwards:


Forsberg - Ribeiro - Neal

Wilson - Fisher - Smith

Stalberg - Cullen - Santorelli

Bourque - Gaustad - Beck (Jarnkrok rotated through)

Defensemen:

Josi - Weber

Jones - Franson

Ekholm - Ellis

Bartley - Volchenkov

Goaltenders:

Pekka Rinne*

Carter Hutton

*Probable Starter


San Jose Projected Lines:

Forwards:


Karlsson - Thornton - Pavelski

Marleau - Couture - Nieto

Hertl - Tierney - Wingels

Scott - Smith - Goodrow

Defensemen:

Vlasic - Braun

Hannan - Burns

Mueller - Dillon

Goaltenders:

Antti Niemi*

Alex Stalock

*Projected Starter

Quotables:

Craig Smith on what to focus on at the start of tonight's game:

"I'd say speed, just to come out and not get swallowed up in the crowd. Every time we play here, it's been a great first period. It's been fast and if we get it down in their end, limiting turnovers and just being very simple in the first period and making the easy play, I think we'll be fine."

Pekka Rinne on what to expect from the Sharks:

"They have big and skilled forwards with a lot of speed and they shoot the puck from everywhere, so you always have to be awake and ready for a shot. They're just a really good offensive team. I've obviously faced pretty much the same top guys for many years, not that I know their tendencies because they can always surprise you, but I expect an exciting game tonight."

Peter Laviolette on Nashville's 5-1 win over San Jose in February:

"They generated a lot of chances. I liked what we did offensively but they generated a lot of chances, so we probably gave up more than we would like in a 5-1 win and relied on our goaltender too much, but I think San Jose does that. They've got high-end talent in the offensive zone, they do a lot of things that are creative...and you really have to pay attention to what they're doing...they're a skilled hockey team."
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