NASHVILLE – For the first time in the second round, the Sharks will enjoy an extra day of rest between games.
For the first time in one month, the Predators will do the same.
Thursday’s deciding Game 7 will occur three days after Monday’s 4-3 Nashville win in overtime in Game 6, with the local start time yet to be announced. It’s impossible to predict which club will benefit more from having both Tuesday and Wednesday off, but considering the nature of the travel over the past fortnight, they’ll probably both welcome some down time.
For the Predators, Game 6 was their 13th game in the past 25 days after they went the full seven in getting past the Ducks in round one. They stayed in California after that one, and started their series with the Sharks in San Jose two days after eliminating Anaheim.
They talked about having an extra day between games before beating the Sharks on Monday.
“We kept saying let’s get through this game and we’ve got two days [off],” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said after Game 6. “It’s been nonstop with the travel, and the fact that we’re [playing] every other day since the playoffs started. It’s really good for our group. We need that break, and we feel like it will give us that push when we go out there for Game 7.”
Pekka Rinne said: “Another trip to Cali, but at least we have two days off between the games. It’s nice, we haven’t had that in a long time. I think by now we all know what we need to do to take care of the body, and then gear up for Game 7.”
Still, the Sharks believe they have an edge by returning home. All of a sudden, after just winning 18 of 41 home games in the regular season, having that deciding Game 7 in their own building looks like an advantage. After dropping Game 3 to the Kings in the first round, the Sharks have reeled off four in a row at The Tank.
The home team, of course, has won each of the first six games in the series. The last time that happened in San Jose’s history was the second round in 2013 when the Kings beat them in seven, including the final game at Staples Center.
In Game 5 against Nashville, a 5-1 Sharks win, the sold out building was rocking. Afterwards, captain Joe Pavelski said: "It was awesome. … It was definitely a fun place.”
Harnessing that energy from the crowd and replicating that performance would likely push the Sharks into the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2011.
“We have to go back home and play with that same energy, and find a way,” Pavelski said. “It’s a good team over there. We knew they weren’t going away, or anything like that. We’re going to go home and get a little rest, and get ready to go.”
Couture believes the team should be confident, despite its uneven performance in Game 6.
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“We should. We’ve got a really good hockey team in here when guys are playing to their potential,” he said. “For [some] stretches of this series, that hasn’t happened. Everyone needs to take a look at themselves and bring it in Game 7, because you never know what could happen.”
After appearing noticeably agitated following previous losses in the series, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer struck a much more upbeat tone after Game 6.
“This is a good hockey team we’re playing. I think we’re a good hockey team,” he said.
“We’re excited that [Game 7 is] in our building. [We] worked all year for home ice advantage in this situation, and we intend to take advantage of it.”