The Nashville Predators will have three games in the next four days, all in the Golden State. Can they get off to a good start in San Jose?
Tonight the Nashville Predators face the San Jose Sharks in a venue where visitors have struggled over the years. The Predators are 13-28-1 all-time at the SAP Center, including an 0-8 record in postseason games. Fortunately for Nashville, we’re a long ways away from the postseason. The Predators did score a victory in San Jose in March, so they’ll be hoping that starts a trend of success.
The Sharks had a five-game East Coast road trip of their own. They won three out of five games and returned home on Monday night to score a victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Their twelve points put them at fifth place in the Pacific Division. That’s tied with Nashville, but San Jose’s six wins would put them ahead in a playoff scenario.
Meet the Sharks
Logan Couture powered the Sharks’ offense through the first half of the season. His eight goals & twelve points lead the squad by a wide margin. Thirty-eight year old Joe Thornton is still centering the first line. He’s off to a good start with two goals and six assists. Joe Pavelski & Kevin Labanc are right next to him on the first line. Both have three goals & three assists.
Brent Burns has gotten off to a rough start for San Jose. He does have seven assists, but has yet to score a goal. He’s taken fifty-one shots so eventually one will find the back of the net. His plus-minus rating of -8 is the worst on the team. His Corsi & Fenwick percentages are in the mid-fifties, so one expects him to turn things around eventually.
Nashville has some talented Swedes on their team, and San Jose has a young rookie of their own making waves. Tim Heed signed with the Sharks in 2016 and made the team in training camp. An injury to Paul Martin gave him a shot, and he’s made the most of it so far. Six points in nine games has made people take notice. He scored the game-winner on Monday night & could prove important in tonight’s game as well.
Martin Jones will likely be in goal for the Sharks tonight. He’s 5-3 on the season with a 2.27 GAA that ranks eighth in the NHL. His regular season record against Nashville is less than stellar. In seven career games against the Predators, he has a 1-4-2 record with a 3.51 GAA.
New month, new Predators?
The Nashville Predators are hoping that a new month & new surroundings will get the offense going. Having dropped three of their last four games, the Predators face a tough situation. They need to get better while heading far away from Bridgestone Arena.
Filip Forsberg was the top star in October with eight goals & thirteen points. There weren’t many other offensive stars though. P.K. Subban led the Predators with eight assists and Craig Smith seems to be finding his shot. Hopefully some other Predators find theirs, as their 27 goals scored is second-worst in the Western Conference.
With a back to back coming up on Friday & Saturday night, I expect to see Pekka Rinne in goal. Juuse Saros‘ time will come one of those evenings. Rinne had a great October with a 5-1-2 record & a 1.86 GAA. His regular season career numbers against the Sharks have been solid. Rinne has a 11-6-4 record with a 1.87 GAA in 22 regular season games against San Jose.
Steve’s Keys To The Game
Offense Needs To Step Up – Pekka Rinne traditionally has good regular season games against the Sharks. Though he often ends up on the losing end due to lack of offensive support. This also happened a couple of times in the month of October. Rinne has shown he can be trusted. It’s on the likes of Ryan Johansen, Kevin Fiala and others that haven’t found the net to help Nashville’s goaltender out.
Jet Lag? – Last season, the Nashville Predators went 1-5 in regular season games in California. They especially struggled in their October West Coast trip last season, where they dropped three straight to the Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks. Nashville hopes to flip the script this season.
Penalty Killing – The Sharks’ penalty-killing unit has done great work so far this season. Their 88.4 PK% is the third best in the NHL. Nashville’s was doing well until last Saturday’s outing against the Islanders. Three power play goals allowed dropped their PK% to 83.0. The Sharks’ 20.4 PP% is 11th best in the NHL. If the officials blow a lot of whistles tonight, Nashville will have to regain their penalty killing form.
The roster contains the same players as the Islanders game, but the line combinations are different. So far the roster looks like:
The biggest change is that Aberg and Arvidsson will play with Sissons. Gaudreau will also headline the fourth line rather than the third like last game. Nick Bonino has been skating recently, but he’s still on the IR as of today. Pekka Rinne will get the start in net.
What to Expect
The Nashville Predators are coming off a bitter loss to the New York Islanders and should be ready to tear somebody up. They hope to build team unity on these trips, and getting two points in the Shark Tank would definitely help. Unfortunately, they’re going to one of the toughest venues to play in against a dangerous team. It’s going to be a tough, physical game. I hate to say it, but the Sharks are the smart pick tonight.
Follow The Game
Tonight’s game will not be carried on Fox Sports Tennessee. It will be part of NBC Sports Network’s Wednesday Night Rivalry double-header. Coverage will begin after the conclusion of the game pitting the Philadelphia Flyers against the Chicago Blackhawks. Puck drop will be around 10:30 p.m. ET/9:30 p.m. CT. You can still listen to 102.5 The Game for the radio coverage.