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Sharks Set For Home Opener Against Phoenix: Game Preview

Courtesy: NHL.com

The reigning Pacific Division champion Phoenix Coyotes head to the Shark Tank for the Sharks’ home opener this evening.  Phoenix is coming off of a 5-1 victory at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets behind a hat trick from Steve Sullivan.  This was their first win of the season.  The Sharks are coming off of their Alberta sweep and are now 2-0-0 to start the season.

The big news coming yesterday afternoon was the signing of Scott Gomez to a 1 year, $700,000 pro-rated contract which ends up being around 400k with the shortened season.  He could have an immediate impact in the lineup with his playmaking ability and is projected to replace Michal Handzus as the team’s third-line center and in effect pushing Handzus down to the fourth line.

After a couple of down years (in his last two seasons he has played 118 games and only has 49 points) Gomez could thrive on the third line since he will not be facing top tier competition with the top two lines taking the top defenders.  He could also have a big impact on San Jose’s second power play unit centering Martin Havlat and Ryane Clowe, adding to a power play that has already been lethal this year.  It’s still unclear if he will play tonight but if he does I’d like to see how he looks on that third line.

Things to Watch For

If Scott Gomez plays this evening there will definitely be a few things to watch.  First how he works with his perceived linemates in Tommy Wingels and T.J. Galiardi.  Second, how he looks as far as game shape goes.  He won’t have to play too many minutes but I’m sure he will have times where his legs aren’t quite under him yet.  Third his abilitly to help out that second power play unit which still could use more firepower since a majority of the big guns are on the top unit and Handzus (not to knock him too much) is not really a guy you want centering a second power play unit.

Another key to watch for will be how Todd McClellan manages his team’s lines over this next stretch of games.  With 3 games in 4 nights, including back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, he is going to need to keep those top lines fresh.  With that in mind this will be a good test for the team early to see how well they are in ‘game shape’ because the with the compressed schedule this will no doubt be a common occurence throughout the season.

Topics: Martin Havlat, Michael Handzus, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks, Scott Gomez, T.J. Galiardi, Tommy Wingels

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