Sharks-Predators Preview

While the Nashville Predators managed to hide their offensive
deficiencies during their season-best winning streak, they haven’t
been able to overcome them lately.

Nashville, however, may be catching the San Jose Sharks at the
right time.

The Predators hope to jump-start their offense on Tuesday night
and send the visiting Sharks to a sixth straight loss.

After scoring 10 goals during a 1-2-3 start, Nashville (5-3-4)
responded with four straight victories and appeared to break out of
its scoring funk with nine goals in the final two games of that
run.

The Predators, though, have taken a step back offensively
lately, totaling one goal during back-to-back losses, including
Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Chicago.

Nashville has already been shut out three times in 12 games
after getting blanked only three times all last season.

It hasn’t helped that the team ranks last in the league with 253
shots after finishing with 17 on Sunday.

“We didn’t really challenge them very well,” forward Mike
Fisher said. “It wasn’t our A-game no question.”

Martin Erat, who had a team-best 58 points last season, and
Colin Wilson lead the Predators with just three goals apiece.

Erat missed Nashville’s 2-1 shootout win at San Jose on Feb. 2
with a foot injury, but looks to extend a four-game point streak in
the series.

Sergei Kostitsyn scored the team’s lone goal against the Sharks,
while Pekka Rinne had 26 saves to help the Predators win for the
third time in the last four meetings (3-0-1).

Nashville, which ranks near the bottom of the NHL with 1.83
goals per game, may have a difficult time turning things around in
this meeting.

Antti Niemi is expected to start the second stop on San Jose’s
six-game road trip after backup Thomas Greiss struggled in a 6-2
loss at last-place Columbus on Monday. The Sharks (7-3-2) had
allowed an NHL-low 1.82 goals per game heading into the
contest.

Niemi is 6-1-2 with a 1.82 goals-against average in nine starts.
He’s also 4-2-2 with a 1.98 GAA in his last eight against the
Predators, and stopped 23 of 24 shots in the first meeting this
season.

Monday’s loss was the fifth straight for San Jose following a
franchise-best 7-0-0 start.

“It’s pretty simple,” coach Todd McLellan said. “The team that
works the hardest wins.”

San Jose averaged 3.86 goals per game in its first seven, but
has scored just seven times in its last five contests.

Patrick Marleau, however, may have gotten back on track after
breaking his six-game goalless drought with his 10th of the season
Monday.

Marleau has done some damage in Nashville with 11 goals and 30
points in 26 career regular-season games.

Joe Pavelski also scored against the Blue Jackets, giving him
six goals in his last eight games. He’s also scored three in his
last two trips to Nashville.

Pavelski’s goal was only San Jose’s second in its last 28
power-play opportunities over the last seven games. The Sharks were
12 for 32 in their first five contests.

Rinne had won four straight starts with a 0.72 GAA before losing
to Chicago. He’s won three of his last four games against the
Sharks with a 1.66 GAA.