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GAMEDAY: Game 1 vs. Sharks, 7PM

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

TONIGHT'S MATCH-UP

WHO:
Western Conference Quarterfinal Series, Game 1: Nashville Predators vs. San Jose Sharks

TICKETS: A limited number of single seats remain! Order online, call 615-770-PUCK or visit any Ticketmaster outlet.

PROMOTIONS: All fans receive a Predators Clapper courtesy of First Tennessee; activities on the plaza (weather permitting), including the high-flying entertainment act Flippenout Productions, starting at 5:00 p.m.

WHEN: 7:00 p.m. CT

WHERE: Nashville Arena, Nashville, TN

TONIGHT THE PREDS WEAR: Blue

TONIGHT'S ANTHEM PERFORMER: John Hiatt

TELEVISION: FSN South (Comcast cable Ch. 28 in Davidson and Williamson counties, DISH Network Ch. 452, DirecTV Ch. 664)

RADIO: WGFX 104.5-FM

PRED EXTRAS (require Flash Player):
Game Notes: Stats
Game Notes: Predators Info
Game Notes: Sharks Info
Game Notes: Game by Game
One-Sheet Game Preview

Tonight the Nashville Predators open the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs with Game 1 of their best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the San Jose Sharks. Game time is 7:00 p.m. CT at Nashville Arena. The Predators, who enter this post-season as the fourth seed in the West, possess home-ice advantage in the series and will face the Sharks--seeded fifth--again on Friday night before the series shifts to San Jose for games 3 and 4.

The series is a near replay of last year's first-round meeting between these clubs, which entered the 2006 post-season with the exact same seedings. Yet there are a lot of factors about this matchup that differ from last year's series, which San Jose won four games to one. In addition to a healthy Tomas Vokoun (who missed last year's playoffs with a blood clot condition), Predators GM David Poile has added significant depth and talent since the team's loss to the Sharks a year ago. Peter Forsberg, J.P. Dumont, Jason Arnott along with defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski have added 298 games of Stanley Cup playoff experience and three Stanley Cup rings to the lineup.

Some of those additions were a direct response to the Nashville-San Jose series, when Poile and his staff saw their team suffer from a lack of size against the Sharks forwards--particularly centers Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The Predators also made a point this season to improve team discipline, an area that burned them against the Sharks' potent power play. Predators head coach Barry Trotz said that the issues addressed by the organization were intended to better prepare them for any team, but the fact that they will be able to test those adjustments against the team that prompted the changes makes things interesting.

"By playing San Jose [last post-season], it did bring that to a clarity, if you will, that [size] was an area that we wanted to be better at," Trotz said. "To be a top team for a long time, that was an area that we felt was fundamental...so we went and addressed those. It doesn't necessary have to be San Jose, but the fact that it is is sort of ironic that some of the things that we felt we needed to improve upon in the offseason because of that playoff series, we did."

On April 21, 2006, the Predators made the most of their power-play opportunities in Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Sharks. Paul Kariya assisted on each of Nashville's four power-play goals to lead the Predators to a 4-3 win over the Sharks at a sold-out Nashville Arena. With his assists, Kariya established a franchise record for points/assists in a playoff game.

In four 2006-07 regular-season meetings, Nashville went 3-1-0 vs. San Jose. The Predators have not lost to the Sharks at Nashville Arena in seven straight regular-season contests. Nashville is 15-13-4 against the Sharks all-time in regular season play.

Predators Notes

DEPTH BETWEEN THE PIPES: Nashville's Barry Trotz and San Jose's Ron Wilson will have the rare benefit of depth in goal. Of the 271 playoff series over the past 20 years, only four have featured match-ups in which each team had two goaltenders who played in at least 45% of the team's regular-season games. This series will mark the fifth.

Tomas Vokoun appeared in 44 games with Nashville this season while Chris Mason was between the pipes for 40 contests. Evgeni  Nabokov played in 50 games for the Sharks this season and Vesa Toskala minded San Jose's net in 38 contests.

The only other such series: In 1995-96, the Pittsburgh Penguins  (Tom Barrasso/Ken Wregget) played the New York Rangers (Glenn Healy/Mike Richter); in 1995-96 the Colorado Avalanche (Stephane Fiset/Patrick Roy)  played the Vancouver Canucks (Corey Hirsch/Kirk McLean); in 1988-89 the  Boston Bruins (Reggie Lemelin/Andy Moog) faced the Buffalo Sabres (Jacques  Cloutier/Daren Puppa) and, also in 1988-89, Boston (Lemelin/Moog) faced  the Montreal Canadiens (Brian Hayward/Patrick Roy).

In addition to at least 40 games each, the Predators' netminders are also the only two goaltenders on the same team to record at least five shutouts in a season since Tony Esposito (9) and Gary Smith (5) did it with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1971-72.

 

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