The playoff race in the Western Conference is tightening and the hottest team in the NHL visits the Nashville Predators tonight.
Excitement is building around the NHL. The playoffs are two weeks away from beginning. But, much is to be decided between now and then. Only three teams in the Western Conference has established themselves to be playoff teams. The Nashville Predators lead the way in the west and have clinched home ice for the first round. Tonight, there will be sharks in the water as San Jose visit Bridgestone.
The Sharks are the hottest team in the NHL. With a record of 8-1-1 in their last ten game, San Jose is making their case as a true contender. They sit second in the Pacific Division, seven points clear of the Los Angeles Kings and both wild-card spots. A win tonight would nearly clinch their position in the playoffs.
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No doubting the game tonight will be a challenge. Even so, the Predators have plenty to be excited about. It is the 100th consecutive home sellout for Nashville. Twenty years of growth and performance built an amazing fan base that shows up and shows out during all home games. Additionally, elite prospect Eeli Tolvanen was on the ice during the morning skate.
What to watch
The Predators returned to the winner’s circle on Tuesday night, beating a surging Minnesota Wild team. It took a shootout, but Nashville earned two crucial points. Captain Roman Josi scored the Predators’ only goal in regulation with a blast off a faceoff. The team as a whole suppressed the Wild’s offensive, limiting them to 22 shots on goal and no more than 9 in any period including overtime. Pekka Rinne continues is Vezina-worthy play, allowing one goal in the entire game.
But, the Sharks have turned into Great Whites, devouring their opposition. The team has earned four or more goals in seven of their last ten games, winning eight in a row. Their opposition has not been elite, however. With win streak included victories over the Red Wings, Oilers, Flames twice, Canucks and Blackhawks. Still, they are taking advantage of their opportunities.
Evander Kane has found a home in San Jose. In fourteen games, Kane has earned a point a game, with 9 goals and 5 assists. Defensemen Brent Burns leads the team with 62 points, but 51 are helpers. Three Sharks have 20 or more goals on the season, with Timo Meier sitting at 19.
As for the Predators, the team has relied on the play of their entire roster. Rinne has kept the goal clear versus the Sharks, with 1.92 goals against in his career. But, after playing on Tuesday, look for Juuse Saros to start tonight. Viktor Arvidsson is approaching his second consecutive 60 point season, while the team has seven players with 40 or more points.
Even though Tolvanen was on the ice, don’t expect him to play until Saturday at the earliest. Austin Watson‘s return could come tonight as he participated in the optional skate yesterday, but will likely get another day to recover from an injury.
Roman Josi – Ryan Ellis
Where to watch
Tonight’s game from Bridgestone will start at 7:00 p.m. and broadcast on Fox Sports Tennessee. Pregame begins at 5:30 p.m. You can also view the game on the Fox Sport Go app or listen to Pete Weber call the game in 102.5 The Game in Nashville.