The Nashville Predators go for a perfect home stand tonight as they close out a three-game set by hosting the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena. It's the third and final meeting between the two clubs this season, and the first time the Sharks have been in Nashville since Game Six of last spring's Second Round series. The Preds and Sharks last got together just two weeks ago in San Jose, a 3-1 Nashville victory, with goals from Ryan Johansen, James Neal and Viktor Arvidsson.
The Predators have won two straight on their current home stand, defeating Arizona and Calgary by identical 3-1 scores. The win over the Flames came on Thursday, with goals from Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons and Ryan Ellis. Pekka Rinne collected the win, and Captain Mike Fisher was absent with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Arvidsson remain one, two and three in scoring for the Preds with 55, 54 and 53 points, respectively. Forsberg leads the club with 29 goals, followed by Arvidsson with 27 and James Neal with 21. Defenseman Ryan Ellis has tallied 15 times from the back end, including three in his last two outings. Rinne is 29-16-8 overall and 4-0-0 in his last four starts; Juuse Saros, who beat San Jose two weeks ago, is 8-7-3.
San Jose (42-25-7) has lost five straight and skated to a 6-1 loss last night in Dallas against the Stars before jetting to Nashville. Defenseman Brent Burns leads the team in scoring with 70 points, including 27 goals. Joe Pavelski has potted 28 tallies and has 64 points, while Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau with 25 goals each. Aaron Dell started for the Sharks last night and took the loss, which means the Preds are likely to see Martin Jones tonight, who is 32-19-6 on the season.
Video: Brooks Bratten previews tonight's contest
Update: Mike Fisher (lower-body injury) was not on the ice for the Preds morning skate and may be out of the lineup again tonight. Here's a look at Nashville's projected lineup.
As Nashville looks for six out of six points at home this week, here are three things to watch for:
Defense Turns to Offense:
Ryan Ellis is quietly having not only one of the best seasons of any Preds player, but also among all NHL defensemen. Ellis has three goals in his last two games, adding to his career-high total of 15 tallies, and is on a three-game point streak. He leads all NHL defensemen in goals since Feb. 19 with seven, and along with Roman Josi, is often tasked with shutting down the opposition's top players night after night.
Video: Preds players talk about facing the Sharks tonight
With Mike Fisher unable to play on Thursday against Calgary due to a lower-body injury, Colton Sissons stepped in to skate between Craig Smith and Colin Wilson. All Sissons did was score what proved to be the game-winner and provide one of his most solid NHL outings to date. If Sissons remains in the same spot in the lineup, look to see if he can build off of Thursday's efforts.
"He's been fast, he's been physical, tonight it was good to see him chip in offense," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Sissons after Thursday's win. "For me, this is the best stretch he's been in, and he's very noticeable. Tonight, he moved up in the lineup, got a little bit of a different look and a different opportunity, and I thought he was really sharp."
Nashville has allowed just two goals over their last two games and have allowed only one goal in three of the last four outings. Laviolette has said better defensive play in front of the goaltender has been a point of emphasis as of late, and it seems to be working.
Each game is different of course, but San Jose has had trouble in recent memory getting pucks past Nashville netminders. The Preds have not allowed more than two goals to the Sharks in 15 of the last 16 regular-season meetings with San Jose averaging just 1.56 goals per game in those 16 contests.
When You Go:
Along with the NHL, the Predators will honor goaltender Pekka Rinne prior to this evening's game for reaching the 500-game milestone, the 67th netminder in League history to hit the mark. In addition, all fans in attendance will receive a special Pekka Rinne poster to commemorate the milestone.
Military Salute Week, presented by Ford, concludes tonight with in-game recognition of servicemen and women, with Major General Andrew P. Poppas set to be in attendance at tonight's game. Major General Poppas is the Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Arena doors for the 7 p.m. CT start open at 5:25 p.m.
Take It In:
Pregame festivities on Fox Sports Tennessee commence at 6:30 p.m. CT with coverage on 102.5 The Game and the Preds radio Network beginning at 6 p.m.