A win tonight would be a season sweep of the Sharks for Nashville. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Gameday: Nashville Predators at San Jose Sharks, 3/2/13

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

at SAN JOSE SHARKS

March 2nd, 2013
HP Pavilion
San Jose, California
9:30 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Nashville leads season series 2-0-0

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(9-6-5, 2nd in Central)

The Nashville Predators can’t figure out what sort of team they are. They have been, at various points in this season, the best defensive team in the NHL; a porous team with the ability to pour on goals; and the most inept offense in the league. At their very worst they’ve combined the last two, resulting in five shutouts. There’s no telling which Nashville team will show up on any given night, but lately their performances have been bad: they’ve lost five of their last seven, giving up an average of 3.57 goals in that span.

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka RinneKey players

Pekka Rinne (8-6-4, 2.10 GAA, .919 SV%) was Superman in net during early February, but he must have stumbled across some kryptonite somewhere along the way. In highly uncharacteristic fashion, he’s given up at least four goals in each of his last three starts. Not all of them have been his fault; regardless, he hasn’t been himself lately. Given that the team’s entire game plan revolves around him possessing superhuman abilities, they need him to turn around in a hurry.

Others to watch

The team has just six goals in its last four games, five of them in a single game. With that in mind, the following is not an endorsement but a statement of fact: the top offensive option for the Preds lately has been a fourth line consisting of Craig Smith (3G-2A), Rich Clune (1G-2A), and Sergei Kostitsyn (2G-7A). If these guys continue to be the team’s best option, there could be trouble unless Pekka can break out of his slump.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

(9-6-4, 3rd in Pacific)

San Jose has played their opponents very tight lately, going to shootouts in both of their last two games and losing two of the previous three by 2-1 scores.

Joe Thornton faces the Nashville Predators tonight

Joe Thornton has points in each his last five games. (PHOTO: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

Key players

Joe Thornton (4G-16A) is the Sharks’ top scorer. His initial scoring dropoff was one of the keys to San Jose’s terrible slump through early and mid-February. Right now he’s on a five-game point streak, which has helped the team win two of those games.

Antti Niemi (8-4-4, 1.88, .933) has been a lot like Pekka Rinne this season, without the sudden exposure to Kryptonite. Without him this Sharks team probably wouldn’t have a prayer on most nights.

Others to watch

Patrick Marleau (12G-6A) had nine goals in his first five games this season, but he’s only scored three in the 14 games since.

Bottom line

The San Jose Sharks have played some very tight, defensive games lately, and the Nashville Predators haven’t. Nashville has already wrapped up the season series against them with one win in overtime and one in the shootout, so the Sharks will be playing for a measure of team pride tonight. If the Preds can’t also find a way to muster some pride in themselves, it could another very long night for Nashville fans.

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Tags: Nashville Predators San Jose Sharks

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