Predators-Sharks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 01, 2013
The San Jose Sharks have seen their play dip a bit recently, but they're somewhat OK with it as long as they maintain their perfect start. The Sharks try for their eighth straight win to start the season as they look to cap a perfect six-game homestand Saturday night when they meet the goal-shy Nashville Predators. San Jose (7-0-0) is the NHL's only unbeaten team and off to the best start in franchise history. The Sharks won their first five games in regulation before needing shootouts to prevail in their last two. "The more you can bank points, the better off you are," coach Todd McLellan said. "We'll have our share of times where we're frustrated and maybe not winning, but right now we've got to keep putting them in the bank as much as we possibly can." There is room for improvement after back-to-back 3-2 victories, including Thursday's over Edmonton in which the Sharks blew a two-goal lead. "Obviously, we've got to be better than the last two games," center Michal Handzus said. "We've got to work on it. The wins matter, for sure, but you cannot let it slide. You've got to still play well." Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton were held without points for the first time all season, leaving them still with 14 apiece. Marleau leads the NHL with nine goals while Thornton led San Jose with seven points in four games against Nashville last season. While San Jose is averaging 3.86 goals for one of the league's highest marks, Nashville (2-2-3) is last in that department at 1.57. The Predators are without Patric Hornqvist, who scored a team-high 27 goals a season ago and is out with a knee injury. The poor offense has made life difficult for Pekka Rinne. A Vezina Trophy finalist in 2011-12, Rinne finally earned his first win, 2-1 at Los Angeles in a shootout on Thursday. "I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself," said Rinne, who dropped his first three shootouts. "It's been a tough go so far, but hopefully this will change the course of how things have been going." Rinne went 2-1-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average against the Sharks last season while Antti Niemi had the same record and a 2.65 GAA for San Jose. One concern for Nashville is defenseman Shea Weber, who still has yet to register a point. Weber was fourth on the team with 49 points a season ago, including a team-best five against San Jose. The Predators are 0 for 12 on the power play over their last four games while the Sharks have not conceded a goal in their opponents' last 16 chances. McLellan likes the way his penalty-kill unit has complemented Niemi, who has a 1.95 GAA this season. "It starts with the goaltender, he (has) made some great saves when he had to," McLellan said. "Everybody else is doing their jobs and not getting caught out very long. We've been able to stay fresh on the penalty kill, which helps."
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