In the Crease: Surging Preds visit Sharks

In the Crease: Surging Preds visit Sharks
April 5, 2014, 9:45 am
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With a goal on Saturday night, Joe Pavelski would reach 40 goals in a season for the first time in his career. (AP)

Programming note: Predators-Sharks coverage starts tonight at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live (Territory restrictions apply) Channel locations

Where they stand

Sharks: 49-20-9, 107 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 3rd Western Conference
Predators: 34-32-11, 79 points, 6th Central Division, 10th Western Conference

Playoff watch

The Sharks trail Anaheim by one point in the Pacific Division. The Ducks have one game in hand and have clinched the tiebreaker of more regulation/overtime wins. Anaheim lost to the Predators on Friday night, 5-2.

If the playoffs started today, the Sharks would host the Los Angeles Kings.

The latest

Sharks: Joe Pavelski (power play) and Logan Couture scored in the Sharks’ 2-1 win over Los Angeles on Thursday at home. Antti Niemi made 26 saves, while the Sharks set a new franchise record with 52 hits. The Sharks conclude a three-game homestand tonight, and are then off until Wednesday when they visit Anaheim.

Predators: Nashville did the Sharks a favor by beating the Ducks in Anaheim on Friday night, 5-2. The line of Patric Hornqvist, Matt Cullen and Mike Fisher has combined for 14 points (5g, 9a) over the last two games, both wins over the Ducks and Capitals. Despite falling out of playoff contention, the Preds have won three of their last four games and are 5-1-1 in their last seven.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Joe Pavelski. The top line winger is just one goal shy of his first career 40-goal season. He would become just the fourth Sharks player to reach the mark (Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau, Owen Nolan). Pavelski has five goals in his last five games, including on Thursday against Los Angeles, and nine points total over that span.

Predators: Matt Cullen. Friday was Cullen’s third three-assist performance of the season, and he has 11 points (3g, 8a) in his last seven games. Cullen is among one of the best faceoff men in the NHL (56.4 percent, 7th in the NHL), and in 45 career games vs. the Sharks, the 37-year-old has 11 goals and eight assists.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.94 (7th)
Goals-against per game: 2.33 (4th)
Power play: 17.6 percent (19th)
Penalty kill: 84.4 percent (7th)

Predators
Goals per game: 2.51 (22nd)
Goals-against per game: 2.90 (T – 23rd)
Power play: 18.9 percent (11th)
Penalty kill: 79.6 percent (25th)

Probable lines

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

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

Antti Niemi (confirmed starter)
Alex Stalock

Predators
Matt Cullen – Mike Fisher – Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque – Calle Jarnkrok – Craig Smith
Mark Van Gulder – Colin Wilson – Viktor Stalberg
Rich Clune – Colton Sissons – Eric Nystrom

Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Michael Del Zotto – Victor Bartley
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis

Carter Hutton (confirmed starter)
Pekka Rinne

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery), Raffi Torres (soreness/right knee surgery) and Adam Burish (left hand) are out.

Predators: Seth Jones (concussion) and Paul Gaustad (upper body) are questionable. Patrick Eaves (lower body) is doubtful.

Season/All-Time series

Nashville will be trying for a season sweep of the Sharks, winning both prior games at Bridgestone Arena by 3-2 finals. Shea Weber has three points, all assists, to lead Nashville. Patrick Marleau (2g, 1a) and Dan Boyle (1g, 2a) each have three points vs. the Preds.

The Sharks are 30-19-6 all-time vs. the Predators with two ties, but Nashville is 6-2-1 against the Sharks since the start of the 2011-12 season.

Quoteable

“It’s kind of easier to get into a game like that, when everybody is really ready for the game.” – Antti Niemi, on Thursday’s Sharks-Kings game

Burning question

Who will be the two wild card teams in the Western Conference? Leave your answer in the comments section below.

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