The battle between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks on Saturday was not limited to the ice.
Good thing for the Sharks too. The Predators scored twice in the opening four minutes, chased the San Jose goalie before the end of the first period, answered twice when the lead was cut to one and ultimately pulled away to a 6-2 victory before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
“We know Phoenix won [Saturday] afternoon, so San Jose went from first [in the Pacific Division] to seventh [in the conference standings],” coach Barry Trotz said. “They’re looking to try and catch us, so it was a really big … game.”
However, in their respective offices and on their cell phones general managers David Poile of Nashville and Doug Wilson of San Jose remained engaged in a contest of their own, albeit one not limited to the two of them, for the biggest prize on the trade market, which closes Monday afternoon.
It has been widely reported that the Sharks, along with the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs, are one of the leading contenders to acquire Columbus forward Rick Nash, who is available.
The Predators have made an offer of their own for the 27-year-old power forward, multiple sources have confirmed. While it seems unlikely the Blue Jackets would want to deal their best player to a division opponent that regularly whips up on them, the attempt to get Nash speaks to Poile’s attempts to satisfy his top players’ desire for more elite talent and to strengthen the team’s chances to make a significant playoff run.
Reports on Saturday indicated that Columbus’ asking price for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft who is signed through the 2017-18 season is understandably high as Monday afternoon’s trade deadline approaches.
The most Nashville has given up at one time was two young first-round draft picks, Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent, as well as a future first and a third-round pick for Peter Forsberg, a rental player late in 2006-07. Using that deal as a template, Nashville’s offer for Nash could include the likes of Colin Wilson (Nash would take his spot in the lineup), Ryan Ellis or Jonathon Blum and multiple other picks and/or prospects.
As of the end of play Saturday, though, Nash remained a Blue Jacket and the Predators remained a force in the Western Conference without him.
Wilson got Nashville’s first goal 2:03 into the contest and added an assist when Nick Spaling capped the scoring with 42 seconds to go. That gave the 2008 first-round choice four points (three goals, one assist) in the last four games and 33 points for the season, one short of his career-high.
Shea Weber added two goals, his first multi-goal game since mid-December, and Martin Erat, Roman Josi and Jordin Tootoo all had multiple points as well, as the Predators posted their largest margin of victory this season. The last time they won by at least four goals was a 4-0 victory over Minnesota on March 10, 2011.
“That’s just something that happened there at the end,” David Legwand said. “You get the empty-netter [by Erat] and then get the next one on top of that. But, obviously, it’s good to score.
“… So far, I think we’ve done a good job against good teams and we have to continue that.”
Even if they can’t work a deal for a difference-maker like Nash.
• In their first game without Jerred Smithson, who was traded Friday to the Florida Panthers, the Predators won just 26 of 62 faceoffs (42 percent).
‘[San Jose] is a pretty strong faceoff team,” Trotz said. “That’s one of the areas we’re looking to correct, perhaps internally or maybe by going outside the orgnization.”
Smithson was Nashville’s top faceoff performer this season and one of their best in recent seasons.
• Rookie center Craig Smith played just 16 seconds in the first period and was limited to just 5:39 of ice time for the game because he got hit near the eye with a puck.
Trotz said swelling in Smith’s eye was the reason for the limited use but that he did not expect it to be an issue in coming games.
• Weber’s two goals gave him 14 for the season and tied him with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the most among NHL defensemen.