In the Crease: Sharks begin road trip in Nashville

In the Crease: Sharks begin road trip in Nashville
December 14, 2013, 8:30 am
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Nashville had lost five straight (0-4-1) before wins over the Stars and Rangers this week. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Predators coverage gets underway at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet California

Where they stand
Sharks: 20-6-6, 46 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 3rd Western Conference
Predators: 15-14-3, 33 points, 6th Central Division, 11th Western Conference

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 3.22 (3rd)
Goals-against per game: 2.31 (7th)
Power play: 19.1 percent (12th)
Penalty kill: 83.0 percent (14th)

Predators
Goals per game: 2.31 (23rd)
Goals-against per game: 2.72 (T – 17th)
Power play: 19.4 percent (11th)
Penalty kill: 84.8 percent (9th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Tyler Kennedy
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Matt Nieto – Joe Pavelski – Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard – Andrew Desjardins – Marty Havlat

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brad Stuart – Dan Boyle
Matt Irwin – Jason Demers

Antti Niemi (confirmed starter)
Alex Stalock

Predators
Eric Nystrom – Mike Fisher – Viktor Stalberg
Colin Wilson – Matt Cullen – Gabriel Bourque
Nick Spaling – David Legwand – Patric Hornqvist
Rich Clune – Paul Gaustad – Matt Hendricks

Shea Weber – Roman Josi
Victor Bartley – Kevin Klein
Seth Jones – Ryan Ellis

Carter Hutton (confirmed starter)
Marek Mazanec

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks scored three power play goals, including two from Joe Pavelski, in a 3-1 win over Minnesota at home on Thursday. Tomas Hertl had his team-leading 15th goal, Joe Thornton added a pair of assists, and Antti Niemi made 29 saves as San Jose ended a four-game losing streak. The Sharks kick off a three-game road trip tonight that also takes them to St. Louis on Tuesday and Los Angeles on Thursday. The Sharks are 9-5-3 on the road, with losses in four of their last five (1-4-0).

Predators: The Predators fell behind early, but scored three unanswered goals in a 3-1 win over Dallas at home on Thursday. David Legwand had a goal and as assist and Shea Weber added to helpers to lead the Nashville attack, and Carter Hutton made 33 saves for his second straight win. Nashville had lost five straight (0-4-1) before wins over the Stars and Rangers this week.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Dan Boyle. It’s been a longer road than Boyle probably would have liked in his return to form from a head injury in mid-October. But, lately, Boyle has helped jumpstart the Sharks’ offense with three primary assists in his last two games. He is also getting shots through, with 12 in the last three games. Prior to that, Boyle had just five shots in his previous five games combined.

Predators: Seth Jones. The fourth overall pick in last June’s draft has played in all 32 of the Preds’ games, with three goals and seven assists. Perhaps the biggest threat to Tomas Hertl’s Calder Trophy chances, Jones averages nearly 23 minutes a night including power play time, but has a -10 rating.

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Raffi Torres (right ACL surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery) and Scott Hannan (upper body) are out. Mike Brown (lower body) is questionable.

Predators: Pekka Rinne (hip) and Filip Forsberg (upper body) are out.

Season/All-Time series

The Sharks return to Bridgestone Arena on Jan. 7, while the Predators make their only visit to SAP Center on April 5.

San Jose is 28-19-2-6 all-time against Nashville.

Quoteable

"Even 3-0 is not safe to think that you are going to win. You still have to play and battle." – Antti Niemi

Burning question

Would you rather the Sharks compete for their respective countries in the Olympics, or would you rather they rest up for the end of the regular season and playoffs?

Leave your answer in the comments section below.