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Predators-Sharks Preview

The Nashville Predators aren't getting too excited about their strong start, considering a similar beginning last season didn't amount to much.

After they were finally slowed offensively their last time out, they'll look to get back on track Wednesday night at San Jose, where they didn't score in two games last season.

Nashville (6-1-1) also leaped out of the gate last season, opening 5-0-2, but the Predators went on to get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

"We've just been talking about getting better every game and we've done that so far," defenseman Shea Weber told the team's official website. "We just continue to improve and as long as we keep getting better throughout the year here, we're going to be successful."

The Predators' stop-and-start four-game trip against Western Conference opponents is spread over nine days, with two between the first two games and three between the final two. Nashville plays the middle two games, against Los Angeles and Minnesota, on back-to-back nights.

James Neal forced overtime with a third-period goal Saturday, but Nashville fell 2-1 in OT to Pittsburgh. The Predators had totaled 14 goals in the previous three games.

"We are starting to play well, and we will just try to keep building on it," forward Austin Watson said. "We would've liked two points (against the Penguins), but at the end of the day it was nice to get the one before we hit the road."

Nashville, 2-0-1 in its first three away games, lost twice by a 2-0 score at the SAP Center last season. The Predators have never been blanked by the same opponent in three straight road contests, but they won't be thinking about that Wednesday.

"We feel comfortable and confident going away and playing some road games," said Pekka Rinne, 5-1-1 with a 1.84 goals-against average.

Despite losing three straight and four of his last five starts at San Jose, Rinne has a 1.17 GAA in those contests.

The Sharks (5-3-0), who have never shut out the same opponent in three consecutive home games, snapped a three-game skid with Saturday's 5-2 home win over Carolina. Ex-Predator Joel Ward recorded his second career hat trick as San Jose scored one more goal than it did in the previous three contests.

Ward, who signed a three-year deal with San Jose after spending the previous four seasons with Washington, leads his new club with five goals and eight points.

"I've always believed in myself," he told the NHL's official website. "I know I'm not the prettiest hockey player, but I've always believed in my abilities.

"It's just once you gain that trust and earn that respect from the guys, I think that confidence keeps building."

Teammate Tommy Wingels, who scored his first of the season Saturday, is glad to have Ward in the mix.

''He's a guy that goes to the net,'' Wingels said. ''Guys in this locker room can learn from him."

Though Ward's presence is paying off, he hasn't helped a power play that's scored three times on 25 chances and is 0 for 11 in the last five games. Wingels had one of the Sharks' two power-play goals in a March 12 home win Nashville.

The Predators have killed off 21 of 24 penalties this season.

Neal does not have a point in his last three at San Jose, but has recorded six goals and three assists in the past five games.

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