The San Jose Sharks head to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets in what will be the first game of their four-game road trip. The Sharks are coming off of a very successful seven game homestand in which they went 6-0-1.
Meanwhile the Blue Jackets, who were red-hot during the month of March, have finally cooled off. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and sit in 12th place with a slim chance to make the playoffs.
This is the second meeting of the season in Columbus between these two teams. The Blue Jackets won the first one by the final of 6-2 while San Jose was in the midst of a seven-game winless streak back in February.
Back in March Columbus made a great run to give themselves a shot at making the playoffs although they have faltered as of late and at the moment find themselves four points behind the Red Wings for eighth place in the Western Conference.
The Sharks meanwhile find themselves battling a little higher up in the standings and over the last few games have been going back and forth with the L.A. Kings between fourth and fifth place. However, they still need to keep a watchful eye on those below them as the gap between fourth and eighth is only five points.
Tonight the Sharks will face one of the hottest goaltenders in the league in Sergei Bobrovsky. He has been the key to the Blue Jackets’ success this season and getting the puck by him will be no easy task. He boasts a .927 save percentage which is fourth best in the league to go along with a 2.12 goal against average, good for seventh in the league.
His 13-10-6 record could be a bit better if it weren’t for the fact that the Blue Jackets are the absolute worst scoring team in the league averaging only 2.23 goals per game.
That not so potent offense for Columbus is led by winger Vinny Prospal who has 10 goals (tied for the team lead with Artem Anisimov) and 12 assists for 22 points this season. Centerman Mark Letestu is second on the team in points with 20 points which includes nine goals and 11 assists. Also, defenseman Fedor Tyutin leads the team in assists with 15 to go along with two goals this season.
I expect a low scoring game if Antti Niemi and his 19 wins gets the call with him going against Bobrovsky. While low scoring is contrary to the first meeting between the two teams, Niemi is still considered a Vezina contending goalie so expect a full-fledged duel between the two. I still see the Sharks as the stronger team but Columbus can be patient on offense and will not take many chances, instead waiting for the opposition to make a mistake and pouncing on it. With the Sharks being a turnover-prone team this year, anything can happen.