Predators-Sharks Preview

The Associated Press

Scoreboard operators got a bit of a break during the first two meetings between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks, and it doesn't appear things will change this time around at the rate they've put pucks in the net recently.

Two of the NHL's lowest-scoring teams meet as visiting Nashville seeks a third straight win over San Jose on Saturday night.

The Predators and Sharks have combined for only three non-shootout goals in their first two matchups this season, which may not be much of a surprise given Nashville (43) and San Jose (42) rank near the bottom of the league in goals scored before the shootout.

The Predators beat the Sharks 2-1 in a shootout Feb. 2 before a 1-0 home win Feb. 12, which marked the third straight meeting neither team scored more than one goal after San Jose's 2-1 shootout win March 15.

Their scoring woes extend beyond meetings with each other, too.

Nashville (9-7-5) was shut out in back-to-back games before Monday's 5-4 win over Dallas, then lost it's scoring touch again in Wednesday's 5-1 defeat at Anaheim.

The latest loss marked the first stop on a three-game California trip for a Predators team that has dropped four straight on the road while scoring one goal or less in three.

"That was our worst performance of the year,'' coach Barry Trotz said. "We were down 2-0 right off the bat, and after that we had no bite and no fight. That's not like us. I was a little surprised at that. This is an important trip.''

San Jose is 6-1-3 at home with six of the last seven there going into a shootout, including Thursday's 2-1 loss to Detroit. The Sharks (9-6-4) have been outscored 28-15 while losing 10 of 12 - beginning with the loss to Nashville on Feb. 2 - since they won their first seven games of the season.

Logan Couture scored Thursday for San Jose, which has netted two or fewer non-shootout goals 11 times in its last 12 games.

''It's the same story every game,'' Couture said. ''We have to find a way to score more goals. Personally and as a team we have to find a way to put it into the back of the net. You're not going to win many games scoring one goal, and we've found that out lately.''

The Sharks also realize they're wasting solid performances from Antti Niemi, who ranks among the league leaders with a 1.88 goals-against average. He's allowed one goal in each of his last three starts versus the Predators but has lost two.

"Nemo's been great, (but) we're having problems right now," captain Joe Thornton said. "We're right there. You keep telling yourself and your teammates to keep shooting the puck and it will eventually go in."

Nashville's scoring problems have been magnified by the fact it's also not playing well defensively lately. Trotz's team has given up at least three goals in five of its last six games while opponents have converted 40 percent of power-play opportunities.

Pekka Rinne, a finalist for last season's Vezina Trophy who is 4-0-1 with a 1.33 GAA in his last five starts versus the Sharks, has a 4.87 GAA over his last three outings.

The Predators have earned at least a point in nine of the last 10 meetings and are 3-0-2 in their last five trips to San Jose.

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