The Sharks lost for the first time in just under a month in their last outing, a a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Stars, a game in which San Jose struggled mightily on the power play without veteran defenseman Dan Boyle, who missed his fourth straight game and is once again questionable tonight when the Sharks take on the struggling Nashville Predators, a team who went 5-6-2 in the month of February, in comparison to the Sharks, who went 11-2-0 in the same time period.
There's an awful lot of momentum snapped on the part of San Jose, who had won a season-high eight games and also had a seven-game home winning streak snapped, a streak that went back all the way to January 13th. Sitting on a six-game homestand at 2-1 so far, the Sharks can afford a loss like that one, so long as it doesn't become a trend. Speaking of trends, Sharks fans may not be thrilled to see this quote from Jason Demers:
"I think we were a little scattered. I think we had a few lapses and gave the momentum back. But it was a playoff-type game. Both teams played really hard."
Some of the more superstitious Sharks fans will cringe at the usage of "playoff-type game" coupled with a Sharks loss, but let's not get fixated on such things.
Patrick Marleau and Kyle Wellwood put the puck to net for the Sharks and Antti Niemi made 25 saves in the loss to the Stars. Niemi will be looking for his 22nd straight start and his 26th victory on the season, which would tie his win total as a rookie with the Chicago Blackhawks a season ago.
While the Sharks can afford a loss here and there, the Predators have to get things back on track as soon as possible. They're two points back of a playoff spot in a closely contested conference. Losing six of their last eight games, including a loss in their last outing against the Calgary Flames can only exacerbate the situation. Martin Erat and Ryan Suter provided the lone two goals for Nashville, while Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in the 3-2 loss.
Rinne is 3-1-2 with a 2.42 GAA in his career against the Sharks, while Niemi (who should be starting again, despite Antero Niittymaki being reactivated from injury) is 2-2-0 with a 2.50 GAA against the Predators. The Sharks won their last outing against the Predators on February 15th, their first against them this year after dropping two earlier in the season.
While the Sharks could be without Dan Boyle for another game, the Predators could miss Patric Hornqvist, their leading goal-scorer after not practicing on Monday with an illness.