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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, October 5th (All times eastern)

San Jose Sharks (0-0-0) at Nashville Predators (0-0-0), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Nashville Predators begin their quest to get back to the postseason tonight when they host the San Jose Sharks in the 2005-06 season opener at Gaylord Entertainment Center.

The Preds, who entered the league in 1998, advanced to the postseason for the first time in 2003-04, losing in the first round to the Detroit Red Wings.

During the offseason, the club's big splash was the signing of Paul Kariya, who hopes to return to a superstar level after a down year with the Colorado Avalanche. The team also bolstered its defense with the acquisition of Danny Markov from Philadelphia, and re-signed many of its key cogs.

Kariya and Teemu Selanne went to Colorado as a package deal before the last NHL season, and the whole thing was a bust. Kariya battled injury during the campaign, tallying only 11 goals and 25 assists in 51 games. The seven-time All-Star posted 25 goals and 56 assists in a full season for Anaheim in 02-03, eventually leading the Ducks to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Kariya is a terrific lead horse for a stable of young forwards who have really been without a leader. David Legwand is a prime talent who had been an enigma for his first few seasons. In 03-04, he tallied 18 goals and 28 assists, including five game-winning goals.

In net, Tomas Vokoun has emerged as a viable workhorse goaltender for the Preds, as he started 73 games in 03-04. The Czech went 34-29-10 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Vokoun played well in the first-round series against Detroit too, holding the Red Wings to 12 goals in six games.

Nashville went 4-3-0 during the preseason.

The Sharks, meanwhile, didn't do much during the NHL's abbreviated offseason, at least from the standpoint of player additions. Instead, general manager Doug Wilson focused his efforts on re-signing key components like Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau and Kyle McLaren. At the same time, the club said goodbye to veterans like Mike Ricci, Vincent Damphousse, Mike Rathje, Todd Harvey and Curtis Brown.

Marleau, 26, is one of the NHL's rising stars, coming off back-to-back 57- point seasons. The Sharks' captain also stepped it up in the spring, tallying eight goals and four assists during the club's playoff run to the West finals. Marleau has the combination of blazing speed and a 220-pound frame that makes him extremely difficult to defend.

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov enters his fifth season as San Jose's starter after coming out of obscurity early in the 2000-01 season. He bounced back from an off year in 03-04, going 31-19-8 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 59 appearances (58 starts).

San Jose finished exhibition play as the NHL's lone unbeaten team at 7-0-0.

The Sharks and Predators split four games in 03-04, but San Jose has lost three straight games in Nashville.

10/05 10:28:44 ET


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