By Amanda DiPaolo
San Jose Sharks 30-21-6
Nashville Predators 30-19-7
Tuesday night’s matchup is the last in a seven game road trip for the San Jose Sharks. The team won its first four games on the trip, but has since lost its last two starts against Eastern Conference opponents, the Devils on Friday followed by the Panthers Sunday.
If you want to get a sense of how important the game is for these teams, consider what Sharks rookie, and leading goal scorer, Logan Couture tweeted after the loss in Florida: “Can’t lose those games, we need pts badly right now. We need to be ready in Nash on Tuesday. Biggest game of the year.”
The game marks the second, and last, time San Jose visits Nashville during the regular season this year.
Nashville has won both contests against the Sharks, once in Nashville by a 3-2 score on December 15th and then again January 8th, with a 2-1 score in favor of Nashville. Fans should expect to see another close game. Of the last 12 games between the two clubs, 10 of them, including both this season, have been decided by one goal.
Pekka Rinne is 3-1-1 against the Sharks.
The Predators will be looking for more consistent offense now that the team has acquired Mike Fisher from Ottawa. Rinne has an 18-6-1 record when Nashville scores at least two goals, but that record improves to 14-2-1 when the Predators score at least three goals.
San Jose lost its last two games, but the Sharks are hot. They have a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 starts. Nashville is 5-4-1 in its last 10 efforts. Only one point separates the two team in the standings, so expect a playoff atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena. As a part of that high intensity-packed game, fans will likely see teams going all out for the man advantage and on the penalty kill.
San Jose has the League’s fourth best power play at 22.3 percent. That number drops to 21 percent on the road. In contrast, Nashville ranks 25th in the League at 15 percent but has scored a power play goal in five of the last six games with a 25 percent success rate in those six games.
On the penalty kill, the Predators are among the elite in the NHL. At 86.2 percent, Nashville has the third best penalty kill in the League. On home ice, the penalty kill improves to 89.4 percent. The Sharks are in the middle of the pack ranking 15th in the League on the PK at 82.1 percent.
As is usually the case in tight games, watch for the winner of this one to be the team that wins the battle of the special teams.
The San Jose Sharks are a healthy squad with only one member of the team even questionable for Tuesday night’s match with the Predators. Goaltender Antero Niittymaki is listed as having a lower body injury.
The Predators are fighting through their injuries and it looks like some players are ready or just about ready to make a return to action. According to Bryan Mullen of The Tennessean Marcel Goc will make his return Tuesday night and Marek Svatos is close to returning as well.
When Goc and Svatos are back in the lineup, the only forwards missing would be Cal O’Reilly out with a broken leg, and Matthew Lombardi who has been out since suffering a concussion on the second game of the season as well as Jordin Tootoo. On defense the Predators are missing Francis Bouillon on the blue line. Bouillon is also out with a concussion. Finally, Tootoo returned to Nashville and has been cleared to practice with the team but not travel or actually play.
Tuesday’s game starts at 7 pm. Tickets are still available for the game and it is a Dailys Super Tuesday which means you can purchase tickets at a significant discount. Visit www.nashvillepredators.com or call the Bridgestone Arena box office.
– Photo: Getty Images
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