Predators hope to stay hot on road vs. Sharks

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 9:13 PM

The Nashville Predators, who are just percentage points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, take a three-game winning streak — all on the road — into Saturday night’s game at San Jose.

Nashville and St. Louis enter Saturday’s action with 62 points apiece, but the Blues are above the Predators in the standings because they’ve played one fewer game.

Nashville’s playoff chances looked pretty bleak after the club was crushed at home, 9-2, by the Dallas Stars on Feb. 15. The Predators were set to embark on a five-game road trip that included a matchup against the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas after opening the trip in St. Louis on Feb. 17.

With a scheduled day off Sunday, Predators players and staff were hoping to head to Las Vegas on Saturday night so they could attend the much-acclaimed U2 concert on Sunday night at The Sphere. But those plans were squashed by coach Andrew Brunette and general manager Barry Trotz after the ugly loss at home to the Stars.

Nashville hasn’t lost since. The Predators opened the trip with a 5-2 win at St. Louis, followed that with a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Tuesday and then knocked off the Los Angeles Kings, who occupy the top wild-card spot in the West, 4-1 on Thursday.

“Obviously, we had a couple of meetings after (the Dallas) game,” goaltender Juuse Saros said after stopping 27 shots against the Kings. “Just kind of keep our focus here and do all the little things right. Last three games have been pretty similar. We’ve just got to keep going and do the same thing the next game.”

The Predators finish the road trip with a back-to-back against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, who have the second- and third-fewest points, respectively, in the NHL. So a sweep of the make-it-or-break-it road trip is definitely possible.

“It’s been the perfect response ever since,” Saros said, referring to the Dallas loss and subsequent change of concert plans in Las Vegas. “We’ve just got to keep it going here and keep that momentum and focus.”

San Jose, which began the season with an 11-game losing streak (0-10-1), is 5-4-1 over its last 10 games but comes in off back-to-back home losses to Columbus (4-3) and Vegas (4-0).

Logan Thompson made 29 saves for his first shutout of the season for Vegas, which jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead behind goals by Michael Amadio, William Karlsson and Mason Morelli. The Sharks swarmed Thompson in the opening 2 1/2 minutes of the contest with Luke Kunin and Calen Addison both hitting the post with shots before Amadio put Vegas ahead with a breakaway goal.

“It’s just inexcusable. It can’t happen,” San Jose coach David Quinn said. “We started out great. We’re ready to play. First two-and-a-half minutes we were buzzing. Crossbars. Chances. Then we gave up, like, our 38th breakaway in three games.”

The Sharks lost to the Blue Jackets two days earlier on Boone Jenner’s breakaway goal with just 12.9 seconds remaining in regulation.

This is the second of three meetings between the two teams. The Predators, behind two goals by Tommy Novak and 31 saves by Saros, won the first one, 5-1, on Oct. 21 in Nashville.

–Field Level Media