Rested Sharks ready to face rolling Predators in 2nd round
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Since the San Jose Sharks last played a game, the Nashville Predators fell behind Anaheim in their first-round series with a Game 5 loss and then responded with two straight wins to eliminate the Ducks.
While the Predators have played three grueling games and taken two long flights, the Sharks have been resting and practicing for six days and are eager to get back on the ice when their second-round series opens against Nashville on Friday night.
''I don't think we have to get ramped back up,'' coach Peter DeBoer said Thursday. ''I'm guessing that I'm probably going to have to calm them down a little bit. They're ready to go. They've got some pent up energy here after four or five days sitting around watching, and they want to play. I don't think our energy is going to be an issue. I think it's just going to be getting that composure and working smart.''
The Predators overcame a lull in their first-round series after winning the first two games in Anaheim. They lost three straight following that before rallying for two wins to take the series in seven games with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night.
They took a little time to celebrate in Anaheim before taking the short flight to the Bay Area on Thursday. They won't even have time for a full practice before Game 1 begins.
''It's going to turn around quick, so we've got to realize that we're moving on and we've still got a lot of work left to do,'' defenseman Shea Weber said. ''It's a step. We've got a lot of work left to do. Enjoy it for a couple of minutes and start to focus on San Jose.''
That extra time off hasn't always benefited the Sharks, who have lost their past four playoff series after having at least five days off between rounds.
Here are some other things to watch in the second-round series:
IN THE NETS: After Pekka Rinne allowed 11 goals in three straight losses to Anaheim that put Nashville in a 3-2 hole, there were some critics calling for a change in nets in Nashville. Good thing coach Peter Laviolette stuck with Rinne. He stopped 62 of 64 shots in the final two games, once again looking like a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist.
''He's a goalie that can steal games,'' Sharks forward Logan Couture said. ''He's proven that over his career.''
San Jose's Martin Jones has much less of a pedigree in his first year as a starter. But he outplayed his former stablemate Jonathan Quick in the first round, allowing 11 goals in five games to Los Angeles.
HIGH-SCORING D: Led by 61 points from Roman Josi and 51 more from Weber, the Predators got more offense from their defense than almost any team in the NHL, tying Calgary with a league-best 203 points from the blue line in the regular season. The Sharks were next on the list with 179 points from their defense led by All-Star Brent Burns, who led all defensemen with 27 goals to go along with 48 assists.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Sharks rely heavily on their power play, with an experienced five-man top unit anchored by Burns, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. San Jose ranked third in the NHL with a 22.5 percent success rate in the regular season and added five goals on 21 chances (23.8 percent) against the Kings.
''Their top players are some of the top players in the league, and really dangerous individuals,'' Rinne said. ''Their power play is really good.''
The Predators had less success in the first round with just one power-play goal on 26 chances against the Ducks for a league-worst 3.8 percent conversion rate in the first round.
ROAD-ICE ADVANTAGE: Opening the series at home is not exactly an advantage for the Sharks, who won a league-high 28 road games in the regular season and swept all three games in Los Angeles in the first round. The Predators also proved they can play well away from home, winning three of four in Anaheim, including the Game 7 clincher.
GOOD LUCK CHARM: Nashville forward Craig Smith played a key role in the opening round, getting a goal and an assist in the Game 2 win. Smith then got hurt early in Game 3 and also missed the two losses that followed. He returned to play the final two games and the Predators were 4-0 in the first round when he was healthy.
AP Hockey Writer Greg Beacham in Anaheim contributed to this report.