Predators-Sharks Preview

The Nashville Predators finally snapped their longest losing streak of the season, but they're still not exactly firing on all cylinders.

After winning in overtime against one of the league's worst teams that played a goaltender making his second career start, the Predators will likely face a much tougher test Thursday night when they visit the San Jose Sharks.

Nashville (42-19-7) opened a four-game trip with Monday's 2-1 win over Arizona that ended a six-game skid. James Neal beat Louis Domingue 2:45 into OT for his team-leading 22nd goal as the Predators handed the Coyotes a 12th loss in 13 games.

"You can't pull out of it overnight, but you've got to start with a win and build off that," Neal told the Predators' official website.

Nashville had been outscored 22-11 during the slide - all of the losses coming in regulation - and saw its Central Division lead over St. Louis trimmed from nine points to two.

''You never want to go through this thing, but hopefully it makes us better,'' goaltender Pekka Rinne said. ''I don't know if we got comfortable or what, but it's a good learning experience for us. I'm just grateful that we're still battling for the top spot.''

Rinne was sharp against San Jose on Feb. 17, making a season-high 41 saves in a 5-1 win. Nashville has won four of five against the Sharks and Rinne allowed two goals on 76 shots in this season's two meetings, though the Predators lost 2-0 in San Jose on Dec. 13.

Antti Niemi made 29 saves in that one before sitting out the rematch. He's gone 4-2-2 with a 1.70 goals-against average in eight starts against the Predators in San Jose and is coming off what coach Todd McLellan said was one of his best games of the season.

Niemi made 39 saves and stopped seven of eight shootout attempts in Monday's 2-1 win over Pittsburgh, the Sharks' third victory in four games.

''Maybe a win like that injects some life and emotion into a team because of how excited everyone was,'' said forward Tommy Wingels, who scored the shootout winner. ''Just keep going and keep the gas pedal down.''

The Sharks (33-26-8), four points back of Winnipeg for the Western Conference's second wild-card spot, won for just the third time in their last 10 games that have gone past regulation.

''That point could make a heck of a difference,'' McLellan said. ''We all know where we are, we all know how important they are. We can't afford to give any away. We've done that too often and too much.''

Although top goal scorers Joe Pavelski (32) and Logan Couture (22) have one goal apiece in the last nine games, San Jose killed all three penalties Monday after allowing a power-play goal in each of the previous four contests in which they've been short-handed. The Sharks' 72.5 penalty killing percentage over 14 games since Feb. 7 is one of the worst marks in the league.

The Predators have been having their own problems on special teams. They're 0 for 14 on the power play in the past five games and 2 for 34 in their last 11.

Rookie star Filip Forsberg, second on the team with 21 goals, has gone seven straight without scoring and Neal's winner Monday ended a nine-game goal drought.

Craig Smith, who has one of his 21 goals in the last six games, scored twice against San Jose last month.

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