After finally ending their long-winded losing streak, the San Jose Sharks (8-4-3) head to Chicago (13-0-3) for the second time this season to face the Blackhawks.
Chicago has already defeated the Sharks twice this season so San Jose will be looking to get a win in the last game of the season-series. The last time the two teams played the captains went toe-to-toe in a fight at the beginning of the game, so this should be another entertaining game for everyone.
Chicago comes into the game still without a regulation loss on the season and if they can earn a point tonight will set the record for most games to start a season earning at least a point. They are currently tied with the ’06-’07 Ducks for that record. The Sharks are hoping that record is not set against them.
Now, after breaking their seven-game winless streak, the Sharks will be looking to get back on the winning track as they have some catching up to do. While San Jose has been struggling Anaheim has quietly won nine of their last ten games and are six points ahead of the Sharks. The good news is that there is still plenty of hockey to be played, including three more games against each other, so that gap can be made up easily.
Chicago is, and has been, led by winger Patrick Kane all season and is fourth in the league with 22 total points. He leads the team both in goals with nine and assists with 13. Captain Jonathan Toews is second with 15 points including seven goals and eight assists. He also leads the team with a +10 rating.
The duel between the pipes will feature Ray Emery from the Blackhawks and Antti Niemi for the Sharks. Emery has been playing for an injured Corey Crawford and filling in nicely. So far this season he has won all six games he has started and has a 2.27 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
His counterpart, Antti Niemi, has been San Jose’s best player all season and was a key factor in that 2-1 victory that ended the seven-game slide. So far this season he has a 1.86 goals against average and posts a .933 save percentage. Both are good for eighth-best in the league.
What to Watch
I would really like to see the Sharks once again continue their recent dedication to physicality because tonight they face the least-physcial team in the league in Chicago. San Jose does not have a reputation for being physical either, but in their last few games they have out-hit their opponents by a decent margin. If San Jose can get those big bodies hitting early and often, and creating turnovers, especially on the forecheck, the Sharks might be able to pull in their first win of the season against Chicago.