The Sharks look to bounce back from Thursday’s home loss to Vancouver with a win against a Predators team they have recently struggled against.
With April upon us, the Stanley Cup playoffs are in the back of every contending team’s mind as they look to cap off the regular season playing with consistency, yet the playoff-bound San Jose Sharks have struggled to do so.
Coming off of a mind boggling home loss to a Vancouver Canucks squad, then on a nine-game losing streak, San Jose will try to earn a victory against a Nashville Predators bunch who also recently clinched a playoff berth.
San Jose (43-29-6) had been fortunate throughout most of the season in remaining healthy, but team teal has dealt with a few significant blows to their lineup. Marc-Edouard Vlasic remains a question mark, missing the last eight contests to a lower-body injury, Matt Nieto will almost certainly be out for game one of the playoffs and Matt Tennyson is still recovering from a concussion he suffered in February. Joel Ward and Joonas Donskoi have also missed time in the last week to injuries.
Still, the Sharks are nearly mathematically guaranteed to finish third in the Pacific Division as they wait to see who their first-round opponent will be between the Ducks and Kings. Despite losing four of their last six games, the Sharks have seen excellent production from their three-headed trio of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, all of whom have 70-plus points on the campaign.
More from Sharks News
- Norris Trophy odds show Erik Karlsson a step above the rest
- Red hot Couture provides a much needed boost
- Sharks return to SAP in sight
- Ryan Donato shines in his revenge game
- Tomas Hertl is off to a hot start
The Predators (39-26-13) are on a three-game losing skid of their own, however unlike the Sharks, still have goaltending issues that have lingered throughout the season. Pekka Rinne has had a down year for his standards, with a rough .908 save percentage (the lowest of his career min. 25 games) and a 2.48 GAA.
Nashville has been fortunate on the injury side of things, which has kept the ball rolling for them. Ryan Ellis is the only significant player out to injury right now, but he should return come playoff time. Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher are the only two skaters with more than 20 points to miss significant time this season.
Shea Weber has been a staple of Nashville’s defense for the past several years, but defenseman Roman Josi, who has tallied 57 points on the season, might be the most important reason as to why his team will make a second straight playoff appearance.
The Preds are on tap for a first-round matchup against the Pacific Division winner between L.A. and Anaheim, which figures to be a very difficult matchup, whoever the opponent may be.
Players to Watch
Sharks: Brent Burns. The Sharks are 16-7-1 when Burns scores, which he’s done 27 times this year. The defenseman has continued his career year with eight points in his last five games and two-plus points in each of his last three. Burns, however, has struggled in his two meetings with the Predators, not tallying a point in either game with a combined minus-four rating and just three total shots on goal.
Predators: Filip Forsberg. Forsberg has backed up his 63-point campaign last year by leading Nashville with 31 goals and 59 points this season. The 21-year-old center is a dynamic offensive weapon who can create instant offense. In two games against the Sharks, Forsberg has notched two goals and one assist with a plus-three rating.
Keys to the Game
1. Stay Healthy
It’s easier said than done, but with San Jose likely pegged for the third spot in the division, the Sharks don’t want to pick up any untimely injuries at this point in the season. Play a solid game and roll all four lines to ensure that everyone is fresh come playoff time.
2. Limit Turnovers
San Jose was undone by a trio of turnovers against Vancouver, which all led directly to goals. The Sharks need to take care of the puck and establish their play as tonight will provide team teal with another playoff-like atmosphere.
3. Play For Pride
Nashville has taken both contests this season, including a 6-2 drubbing of the Sharks the last time these two teams met. San Jose will want to feel confident heading into the postseason and a win against a very good Predators squad will go a long way.
TV: CSN-California (5:00 p.m. PDT)
Radio: 98.5 KFOX