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.