Predators-Sharks Preview

The San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators could be headed for
a meeting in the playoffs. Judging by their regular season
matchups, such a series would seem likely to be tightly
contested.

The Sharks and Predators conclude their season series Thursday
night at HP Pavilion after playing one-goal games in each of the
first three matchups.

All of those games finished 4-3, with the Sharks winning twice.
Eight of the last nine meetings were decided by one goal.

The Sharks (42-14-9) are battling Chicago for the top seed in
the Western Conference while the Predators (36-25-5) are in seventh
place, two points ahead of Calgary.

Nashville kept San Jose’s power play from being a factor as the
clubs split the first two meetings in November, killing off all
three chances. That wasn’t the case in the last matchup as Dany
Heatley scored two power-play goals in the Sharks’ road win Feb.
3.

“They’re a good team, that’s why they’re one of the top teams,
they respond well,” center Cal O’Reilly said about the Sharks.
“They’ve got a lot of big guns.”

Heatley was limited to one assist and four shots on goal in the
first two games.

Evgeni Nabokov sat out the first two games versus the Predators,
then made 35 saves last month to move to 6-1 with a 1.99
goals-against average in his last seven starts against them.

Nabokov and the Sharks have posted consecutive one-goal wins,
the most recent a 2-1 victory over Columbus on Saturday. Heatley
scored his conference-leading 16th power-play goal and Joe Pavelski
added the winner after San Jose trailed 1-0 through two
periods.

The Sharks had 44 shots on goal, two nights after recording 40
as they rallied from a third-period deficit for a 3-2 win over
Montreal.

“It’s not going to be an easy road by any means,” coach Todd
McLellan said Saturday. “We can end up outchancing a team by a lot
and still be in this type of game. The positive sign is two nights
in a row we’ve been able to come back in the third.”

With four days off, McLellan did not want to work his team too
hard as it begins a stretch of 11 games in 18 days.

“Trust me, those practices as the year goes on get shorter and
shorter,” he said. “So you get less time to battle and
compete.”

The Predators opened a four-game road trip with a 2-1 victory
over Atlanta on Wednesday. Ryan Suter scored on the power play and
rookie Colin Wilson added a second first-period goal off a
turnover.

“In the backstretch, it’s like playoff hockey,” Wilson
said.

Dan Ellis made the early two-goal lead stand up with 30 saves.
Ellis and Pekka Rinne have alternated the last four starts.

Ellis is 1-3-0 with a 3.25 GAA against San Jose and Rinne is
2-1-1 with a 2.70 GAA.