Sharks-Predators Preview


Coach Todd McLellan may not expect flawless play, but the San Jose Sharks haven't won back-to-back road games for nearly two months.

Facing the last-place Nashville Predators could provide an ideal chance to make that happen, though San Jose won't have center Logan Couture available to help.

The Sharks attempt to conclude this three-game trip with another victory while trying to avoid a fourth straight loss at Nashville on Tuesday night.

San Jose (27-10-6) is second in the Pacific Division, but it's dropped eight of 12 as the visitor since winning three straight from Nov. 12-15.

The Sharks are hoping Sunday's 3-2 shootout win over Chicago helps them end their recent road woes. That impressive performance came a night after they opened the trip by giving up the first four goals in a 4-3 loss to Colorado.

"It's hard to demand perfection, but you have to demand as close as you can get to that," McLellan said. "The players gave us that (Sunday). It still was a tough task. To score only two and win a game against Chicago, you've done something pretty well."

San Jose hasn't done much well at Nashville, losing three straight visits while being outscored 10-4. They lost the most recent matchup there 3-2 on Dec. 14 despite outshooting the Predators 38-23 and 20-7 in the third period.

Joe Thornton had an assist in that meeting, giving him 42 with 61 points in 50 career matchups, including the playoffs. That also includes 30 points in 26 visits to Nashville (18-19-6).

Thornton's 43 assists on the season lead the NHL, and he's accumulated 12 of them during an eight-game point streak.

Unlike Thornton, Brent Burns is rarely a factor against the Predators, getting six points in 23 career meetings and none for the last nine.

The winger, however, may be poised to end that drought since he has five goals and four assists over the past seven games after finding the net Sunday. Burns' 14 goals on the season are three shy of his career high, set with Minnesota in 2010-11.

Couture also has 14 goals along with 35 points, but he won't be adding to those totals due to an upper-body injury that will require surgery. General manager Doug Wilson said that Couture has been playing with the injury for several weeks and decided to have surgery when it did not respond as hoped.

Wilson said the team will have a better idea after the operation of how much time Couture will miss. The center had a four-game goal streak snapped Sunday, but he recorded an assist and the shootout winner against the Blackhawks.

The Predators are opening a five-game homestand after an 0-1-2 trip ended with a 2-1 road loss to Carolina on Sunday.

"We should have had five or six points out of this trip," coach Barry Trotz said. "We came away with two, and that's discouraging. We put ourselves in the position to get points, so we just need a save."

Goaltenders Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec continue to struggle to replace Pekka Rinne, who is out indefinitely with a hip infection.

Hutton is 0-4-1 with a 3.64 goals-against average in his last six games, getting pulled twice. He drew Trotz's ire Sunday when he gave up the decisive goal to Jeff Skinner with 3:31 left in the third period.

"I thought we really held them down to no chances," Trotz said. "We got zero saves. (Skinner's goal) wasn't much of a shot at all."

Mazanec, though, has given up seven goals while losing his last two games.

Shea Weber has one goal and four assists in his last three games. He has 15 points in 18 career meetings - including the postseason - with San Jose after getting an assist in last month's matchup.