Preview: Sharks at Predators
The Nashville Predators will be challenged to continue their NHL-best 7-1-0 start without reigning Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne, but will still be in good hands when they host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Juuse Saros, Nashville’s No. 2 goaltender, is 4-0-0 with a 1.54 goals-against average and .945 save percentage this season and 25-14-10, 2.36, .925 in 52 career games as Rinne’s backup.
“You could call him the best backup goalie in the league or you could just call him one of the best goalies in the league,” Predators forward Filip Forsberg, who boasts team highs of five goals and eight points, told reporters. “He could definitely be a starter on many other teams if he wasn’t behind the Vezina Trophy winner.” Rinne (undisclosed injury), who left Friday’s 5-3 victory at Calgary after colliding with teammate Kevin Fiala, and Saros have backboned the NHL’s stingiest club as Nashville allows a league-low 1.88 goals per game. San Jose begins a three-game road trip after defeating Buffalo and the New York Islanders at home by a combined 9-2. “I liked how we played,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters. “I think we played some pretty good hockey all year. We didn’t get rewarded on the road to start the season, but I knew it was a matter of time if we kept playing that way. We got home here, we’re comfortable, we started to score, we feel a little bit confident. There’s two good home wins for us. We go back on the road again now.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
ABOUT THE SHARKS (4-3-1): Joe Thornton, who has 397 goals and 1,428 points in 1,495 games, made the trip but is questionable to play because of a knee infection that has forced him to miss the last six games. “He’s getting closer, but we’re not there yet,” DeBoer told reporters after Sunday’s practice. “I actually think this might be a blessing, because when they took another look at it when he got the infection and confirmed that structurally, it looks fantastic. So there’s nothing else we’ve got to do.” Logan Couture boasts team highs of five goals and eight points after scoring four times in the last two games and recording six points in his last three contests.
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (7-1-0): Viktor Arvidsson has four goals after scoring in Saturday’s 3-0 victory at Edmonton while Saros made 31 saves in recording his fifth career shutout and first this season. Defenseman Mattias Ekholm (two goals, seven points) is a club-best plus-8 as every full-time player is a plus except Fiala (minus-2). Top four defensemen Roman Josi (23 minutes, 57 seconds ice time per game), Ryan Ellis (23:38), P.K. Subban (23:14) and Ekholm (21:32) are playing the most for Nashville, which has allowed only 10 goals during even-strength situations.
1. San Jose has killed 15-of-16 penalties over the last four games after yielding five in 18 opportunities in its first four contests while Nashville is 3-for-27 on the power play.
2. Nashville will call up G Troy Grosenick, 29, to back up Saros. Grosenick has appeared in two NHL games – with San Jose in 2014-15.
3. The Predators have won four of the last five meetings overall and six straight encounters at home (playoffs included), and are 12-0-1 in their last 13 games versus the Sharks at Bridgestone Arena.