The Predators have been on a slide lately going 2-5-1 in their last eight games but have gotten points in their last three games including their most complete recent effort in a 5-3 win over Colorado on Thursday night.
San Jose has been solid all season and do not appear to have any weaknesses on their squad. The Sharks are 9-1-2 in their last twelve games including a 4-2 win in St. Louis on Thursday night.
Tonights game is the third of four meetings between the Sharks and Preds and the last one in Nashville during the regular season. On November 17 the Preds won at home 4-3 and were led by three-point games from David Legwand and Joel Ward. On November 10, San Jose won at home 4-3 in a heart-breaker when Dan Boyle slipped the puck past Dan Ellis with a minute left in the game.
Indications are that Wade Belak will return to the Preds lineup for the first time in five games. Ex-Shark Marcel Goc is not expected to play.
Pekka Rinne (20-10-3, 2.73, .904) will start for the Predators while Evgeni Nabokov (31-8-9, 2.24, .927) will be in net for the Sharks.
Predator's Keys to the Game
Predators Need to Be Aggressive but Play with Discipline...
The Predators will need to play a near perfect game to win against the leading team in the Western Conference. They should have the confidence to compete as they beat them in the Sharks last visit to Nashville and should have gotten a point in their first meeting in San Jose.
The Predators need to play with discipline and not put the Sharks on the power play unnecessarily. The Sharks are ranked third in the league on the man advantage and have two complete units that turn the game around in a second given the opportunity.
Pekka Rinne Needs To Be Sharp...
This will be Pekka Rinne's fourth start in a row which has not happened since November. He has been given the net as his to lose so it appears. He has played well the last three games but has been victimized by team mates putting him in bad situations on odd man advantages and back door plays.
The entire Predator team needs to close ranks and pull together and support Rinne as they try to regain their early season form against a solid San Jose team.
Fan Support Needed...
Tonight's game marks the last time the home crowd will see their team until March 2. The Predators will finish up their pre-Olympic schedule with four games on the road in the northeast before taking off two weeks for the Games.
The Preds need good support tonight and a good send off from the sold-out Sommet Center (soon to be Bridgestone Center???) crowd to go on the upcoming road trip on a positive note.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass