Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preds look to catch Detroit in San Jose

The Nashville Predators will take on the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night at HP Pavilion for the final time in the 2011-2012 regular season. Nashville is two points behind the Detroit Red Wings with two games in hand coming into this game, and will tie their point total with a win tonight.

Nashville is coming off of a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night. The Predators held a 4-2 lead in that game, but allowed the Coyotes to come back and force the game to go to an overtime period and a shootout. Andrei Kostitsyn scored the lone goal of the shootout to give the Predators a victory.

San Jose, who are usually a perennial powerhouse in the Western Conference, currently sit in ninth place in the conference standings. They have battled through injuries this year, and will have to make their push now if they hope to get back into playoff position. Martin Havlat will make his return to the lineup tonight for the Sharks.

In the last meeting between these two teams, the Predators annihilated the Sharks by a 6-2 score. Expect the game to be a lot close this time around. San Jose still has a lot of offensive talent, and they are going to be playing like a desperate hockey team.

My player to watch for the Sharks is Havlat. He has been a consistent threat against Nashville throughout his career, accumulating 37 points in 30 career games against the Predators. It will be his first game back since December 17th against the Edmonton Oilers.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Paul Gaustad. He will be called upon to take several key faceoffs tonight. For the most part, he's come up big in the faceoff circle for the Predators since being acquired at the trade deadline. Expect him to get the critical draws tonight.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

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