Nashville has played one less game than San Jose, but unlike the Sharks, the Predators have tasted victory in the young season.
They can owe much of that to newcomer Matt Duchene.
The forward made an immediate impact in his debut, dishing out three assists as the Predators used a four-goal third period to earn a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild last Thursday in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators signed Duchene, 28, to a seven-year, $56 million contract when free agency opened on July 1, and the relationship between him and the Central Division side has been a strong one.
Duchene has been centering the second line, playing between left wing Filip Forsberg and right wing Mikael Granlund.
Duchene assisted on Granlund’s game-tying goal 27 seconds into the third, then added another assist as the Predators notched their first victory. Nashville then lost to visiting Detroit 5-3 on Saturday.
The Predators host the Sharks in a prime-time matchup on Tuesday in the first of three meetings.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette said the fit between the Duchene, a Canadian native from Ontario, and the Music City appears to be a perfect one.
“This is where he wanted to be, we wanted to have him, and it finally happened,” Laviolette said. “He’s stepped right in. I mean, this is, I think if you ask him, this is his home, like Nashville is his home. He wants to be here.”
Added Duchene of the opening-night atmosphere: “The fans are — I mean, it’s just tough to compare any other fan base in the league. It’s amazing.”
The San Jose Sharks are reeling from three straight losses to open the season, and heading to Nashville might be a tough place to break into the win column.
Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Anaheim to the Ducks marked the first time San Jose had opened the season with three straight losses since 1994, when they started 0-8-1.
The Sharks have been outscored 12-3 in their three losses against Pacific Division foes — two to the Vegas Golden Knights, one to the Ducks.
Worse yet, their performance with the man advantage is off to as slow a start. The Sharks excelled on the power play last season, ranking sixth with a 23.6 percent success rate — better than every Western Conference team except the Winnipeg Jets.
“You’ve got to work. It’s not easy to score goals or win hockey games in the NHL unless you work,” San Jose captain Logan Couture said. “Usually the team that works harder win games, and in all three so far, the other team has outworked us.”
The Sharks hope to get a boost with the return of Evander Kane. The left wing was suspended three games for abuse of officials in a preseason game and is eligible to return against the Predators.
The Sharks recalled defenseman Trevor Carrick from AHL affiliate San Jose and placed defenseman Jacob Middleton on injured reserve.
–Field Level Media