This evening the San Jose Sharks (7-1-1) are back at home and take on the Chicago Blackhawks (7-0-2).
The Sharks lost to Anaheim last night 2-1 while the Blackhawks picked up a 3-2 win on February 2nd against the Calgary Flames.
This evening is a battle between the top two teams not only in the Western Conference, but the NHL. Chicago has amassed 16 points this season while San Jose, right on their heels, has earned 15 points.
While this has been a pretty anticipated matchup because of the hot starts by both teams, they have started to cool off a bit after 2 straight losses for San Jose and Chicago losing 2 of their last 3.
The Chicago Blackhawks are led by Patrick Kane who has 4 goals and a team leading 9 assists for a total of 13 points. Marian Hossa has 4 assists to go with his team-leading 6 goals, good enough for 10 points and second-most on the team. Also of note are Patrick Sharp who has 2 goals and 6 assists while Jonathan Toews has 4 goals and 3 assits so far this season.
While the top line for San Jose has been great all season, somewhat lost in the thick of things has been Logan Couture and his 6 goals and 11 total points in his first 9 games of the season.
The Sharks penalty kill has been perfect in its last 6 games and as a result has jumped from one of the worst in the league to 6th, killing penalties at a rate of 87.8% on the season. Chicago brings the best penalty kill in the league (killing 94.4% of all penalties) to the game and that could spell trouble once again for a San Jose power play that has only scored 1 goal in the last 4 games. San Jose hopes they can break the trend.
Couple this with the fact that the Sharks’ lead the league in giveaways this season and you have a very tough matchup for the Sharks. Their inability to take care of the puck won’t bode well against the Blackhawks who are top 10 in the league in takeaways. This game will be a great test for both teams, but especially the Sharks who are looking to get back on the winning end of things.
Part of their struggles on offense, and especially on the power play, can be attributed to the absence of Dan Boyle who has been in and out of the lineup over the last few games due to suffering from a long bout of flu-like symptoms. San Jose is hoping he can come back tonight and give the offense, and the power play, the boost it needs to take the win against the Blackhawks.