SAN JOSE SHARKS
at NASHVILLE PREDATORS
February 12th, 2013
San Jose, California
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Game available in Atlanta market
The last time the Nashville Predators played the San Jose Sharks they dominated the game but only walked away with the win after going to a shootout. Both teams are on losing streaks at the moment. Who will break theirs tonight?
(5-3-4, 3rd in Central)
After winning four games in a row the Preds fell back down over the weekend with back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Chicago, scoring just once in the two games. They looked particularly bad in the last part of the Chicago game and will be looking to rebound tonight.
The Preds have always relied on Pekka Rinne (4-3-3, 1.92 GAA, .929 SV%) to win games for them. This season they’ve been leaning on him extra hard as the offense often struggles to score even a single goal 25 percent of the time. That the team is at all competitive right now is almost solely down to his brilliance in net.
Colin Wilson (3G-4A) is tied for the team lead in points thanks to two breakout games during Nashville’s now-departed winning streak. The last time he faced San Jose he set up Sergei Kostitsyn’s third-period goal. He also took a bad too-many-men penalty late in the game, giving the Sharks the power play that led to Martin Havlat’s game-tying goal. As goes Wilson, it seems, so go the Preds; how will he go tonight?
Others to watch
Coach Barry Trotz shifts David Legwand (2G-2A) more than any other player on the team besides Mike Fisher, yet Leggy has only taken four minor penalties this season. He has a team-leading +3 rating and after a bit of a slow start has begun chipping in some points as well. He’s looked particularly sharp on the offensive end on the occasions when Trotz has had him centering Gabriel Bourque and Colin Wilson. Young, fast players seem to bring out the best in Legwand.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
(7-3-2, 2nd in Pacific)
You know you got off to a good start when you lose five games in a row and you’re still in second place. Still, the Sharks are in imminent danger of slipping further back in a suddenly competitive Pacific Division after losing 6-2 last night to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
For all the problems the Sharks have had lately, Antti Niemi (6-1-2, 1.82, .933) isn’t one of them. He’s only lost once in regulation, and his last outing saw him shut out the Phoenix Coyotes in regulation only to lose in a shootout. Last time out against Nashville he stopped 23 of 24 shots. The Preds will have a hard time winning if they don’t generate at least that many shots against Niemi.
At the heart of the San Jose offense is big Joe Thornton (3G-12A). He’s a playmaking machine, wins faceoffs at a nearly Gaustadian clip, and leads the team with a +4 rating. Nashville held him to a single shot on goal in their first meeting. Applying similar pressure tonight would go a long way toward a Preds victory.
Others to watch
Joe Pavelski (6G-4A) was one of the Sharks’ hottest players during their seven-game winning streak to open the season, picking up 12 points and a +4 rating. During their five losses he has two goals and a −2 rating. One of those goals came during last night’s thumping at the hands of the Blue Jackets. The question is whether it was a sign of a return to form or a solitary statistical blip.
Even if they’re on a low run at the moment, the Sharks have a ton of weapons. They also have starting goalie Antti Niemi, who had the night off in Columbus. And they have a coach in ill humor. When asked why they they lost after the Blue Jackets game, Todd McLellan replied, “Outworked? How about that? It’s pretty simple. The team that works the hardest wins. (We were) outworked, outexecuted, outdetailed, outgoaltended — out-a lot of things.” If the Sharks respond to being called out on their work ethic, they could be very dangerous.