The San Jose Sharks want to use the momentum gained from late rallies in two weekend games to finish the road trip strong. According to CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz, they will be without Logan Couture when they take the ice against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, January 7.
That increases the pictured list of injured Sharks to seven. Couture has an injury to his right hand that he has apparently been dealing with for some time and for which he has been seen with a brace.
The surgery will sideline him three or four weeks. It might help to explain the 11-game goal drought, but how then the five-game points streak with four goals?
Those numbers indicate he was able to play through it and it has gotten better, but that is not apparently the case. Given San Jose is so thin at forward, the timing of this surgery is unfortunate. However, it does give Couture time to be ready for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and his recent play may have gotten him selected before news of the injury broke.
Right now, the Sharks have not announced any other moves. That could mean Kennedy is ready to return or that they are planning on dressing seven on the blue line. If it is the latter, they will have to call someone up or risk being short of 20 active players should anyone get hurt in warm-ups.
The way things are going for the San Jose's forwards, merely stepping onto the ice is risky. Eriah Hayes was never drafted and signed last spring, playing seven games with the AHL Worcester Sharks for his entire professional career, but he will get his second NHL game Tuesday.
The Sharks are in second place in the Pacific Division and playing well. Even with the game-killing second period in Colorado, they have won six of eight. Four of the wins were shootouts, but even without the skills competition they have scored 25 goals in that run (3.13 per game)—all the more impressive with mounting injuries.
Meanwhile, Nashville is just 2-5-3 since the home-ice win over San Jose December 14. (A personnel comparison of the teams can be found in the preview of that game, with some injuries reported below.) Only one of those losses was in a shootout, and six games featured fewer than three goals scored. They are also without starting goalie Pekka Rinne, and his backups have given up more than three goals six times in those 10 games.
The Predators are in the first of five consecutive home games, and they need to get well on the ice soon or they will may miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for a second consecutive season. The best they can realistically hope for is a wild-card berth, which projects to need over 95 points in the Western Conference.
Only three teams in the NHL are earning points at the clip it would take for Nashville to slide in. Players know the urgency. Meanwhile, the Sharks are fighting to hold onto home-ice advantage in at least one round of the Stanley Cup playoffs now that the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings have Jonathan Quick back in net, helping end his team's slide.
The key for San Jose will be getting out to an early lead. Nashville is not going to give up, but could lose confidence. Aside from that, playing smart hockey (the simple and save play, like dumping the puck in to turn defenders around) diminishes the transition opportunities the opposition relies on and playing with urgency at all times is essential against a Barry Trotz team.
The Predators are more accustomed to winning low-scoring battles with scant forward talent, but the Sharks cannot let a chance get away from them to beat a slumping team that is third-worst in the Western Conference.