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Game 70: Nashville @ San Jose – “Frenzied” Pace


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Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Judging by the score on February 25th, the last time Nashville and San Jose met, it looked like a thorough dismantling of the Sharks. But for those in attendance, it was a nerve racking affair that saw San Jose push the Predators the entire last period and make it a nail-biting effort. An empty net goal and an afterthought goal from Spaling would assure the lopsided score.

On the Ides of March, the Predators stand solidly at 5th in the Western Conference, trailing Detroit by 2 points for 4th. The Sharks, however, are starting to fall little by little, now two points out of the 8th spot. Since the February 25th tilt, the San Jose Sharks have only won 2 games and have a record of 2-4-3. While the overtime losses do still give the Sharks at least one point, that is not sufficient to distance themselves from other playoff contenders who are actually winning their games.

Puck drop is 9:30 P.M. so be sure to save some caffeine or energy drinks handy for extended viewing.

This Year’s Series: 2-1-0 Home: 1-1-0 Away: 1-0-0

Looking at the Sharks: One look at the San Jose Sharks and the first thought is depth. The Sharks have consistently had one of the deepest rosters of talent available going into the playoffs. Being led by Joe Thornton with 66 points and youngster Logan Couture with 30 goals, the Sharks have offense in mass and are not afraid to use it to overpower their opponent.

The problem may be defense and goaltending this year. Aside from Burns, Boyle and Vlasic the rest of the defensive squad is patchwork at best. Compounding this is the play of Antti Niemi who hasn’t been as lights out as he was for Chicago in their Stanley Cup winning run. Over the last five games, Niemi’s record has been 1-1-3 allowing 15 goals.

Looking at the Predators: The game against the Phoenix Coyotes was a bit looser than the two teams are used to playing. A high scoring affair that saw Rinne stone Yandle on a breakaway but Mike Smith got hoodwinked by Craig Smith on a beauty of a backhand on his breakaway.

The Predators, however, did let off the gas in the third period (yet again) and allowed the Coyotes to tie the game after Nashville had built a two-goal cushion. The Predators won in the shootout with a nice five-hole drive from Andrei Kostitsyn and Rinne stopping every Coyotes chance.

For the Sharks to win: Use the ample amount of offensive talent to overwhelm the Predators. Many have stated that Rinne has been sub-par the last few games letting in goals that normally he would stop. Snipers like Couture and Marleau could easily make Rinne’s night a living hell.

Along with a higher offensive presence, the Sharks defense needs to clamp down. Nashville has been scoring both on the PP and 5-on-5 quite well and it’ll be up to Boyle and Burns to match up to the top lines of Nashville. Niemi has a way of getting hot down the stretch and he needs to turn on the boosters right about now or the Sharks chances of making the playoffs might be dwindling.

For the Predators to win: Amidst all the speculation of the possible return of Radulov, the return Nashville should be more clued into is Kevin Klein. Klein has missed considerable time with an upper-body injury and the D-core is suffering because of his absence. Klein has been skating and practicing with the team on this trip. Look for him to be in the lineup soon, maybe not tonight but against L.A. and Anaheim on Saturday and Sunday.

After his play Monday night, it’ll be interesting to see if Trotz stays with Craig Smith or substitutes him with Yip to add some size and grit against a big, fast team like San Jose. Hopefully Josi will be back in the lineup tonight and Ryan Ellis would be the odd man out.

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