Sharks-Predators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 24, 2012
The San Jose Sharks have been playing from behind for much of their lengthy trip, but that wasn't the case their last time out. They might need another early edge the way the Nashville Predators have been piling up points at home. San Jose tries to win two straight on the road for the first time in more than a month on Saturday night when the Predators look to extend their point streak at Bridgestone Arena to 11 games. Tied with Phoenix for the Pacific Division lead, the Sharks (32-20-7) continue their nine-game stretch outside San Jose after snapping a season-high four-game skid with Thursday's 2-1 victory over Toronto. Patrick Marleau scored twice in the second period and reached 25 goals for the fourth straight season. The Sharks had been outscored 10-2 in the first period during the first six games of their trip. They trailed 4-0 at the first intermission of Tuesday's 6-2 loss to league-worst Columbus. "It's been stressed the last couple days, and just to get that first goal is huge,'' said captain Joe Thornton, who has a goal and seven points on the trip. "We kind of grabbed some confidence off that.'' The Sharks last won two in a row away from home Jan. 12 and 14. San Jose, though, has won two straight in Nashville. Led by two goals from Joe Pavelski and 19 saves from Antti Niemi, the club posted a 3-1 victory Oct. 25 in its prior visit to Bridgestone Arena. The Predators (35-19-7) enter this matchup on an 8-0-2 run in Nashville, their best stretch at home since a 9-0-3 surge from Oct. 14-Dec. 16, 2006. Nashville, though, lost 3-2 in a shootout to visiting St. Louis on Thursday, falling four points behind the fourth-place Blues in the Western Conference standings. "We feel we could have been better a little bit, especially in the first period," said coach Barry Trotz, whose team was outshot 13-6 in the opening 20 minutes. Pekka Rinne will likely be in net on Saturday when the Predators continue their four-game homestand. He has a 1.77 goals-against average while starting each time during Nashville's point streak at Bridgestone Arena. Rinne, one shy of setting a career high with 34 wins, is 0-2-1 with a 2.64 GAA in his last three home starts in this series after making 33 saves on Oct. 25. He turned aside 35 shots Nov. 5 when Nashville overcame a two-goal third-period deficit for a 4-3 overtime victory at San Jose. The Sharks had won three straight over the Predators. San Jose coach Todd McLellan is expected to give Niemi the nod Saturday following Thursday's 29-save effort. Niemi had surrendered 14 goals while going 0-2-1 during his first four starts of the trip. "It looks like we have Nemo back," McLellan told the Sharks' official Twitter account. Niemi has a 0.97 GAA in San Jose's last two games in Nashville. He stopped 19 of 20 shots in the Sharks' last visit. Thornton has set up two goals in each game against the Predators this season, while Pavelski leads the club with three goals and four points in those contests. Predators captain Shea Weber has a team-best three points - all assists - against San Jose in 2011-12.
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