The San Jose Sharks (24-13-7) are at home tonight and face the Columbus Blue Jackets (21-17-7) for the final time this season. Columbus has outscored the Sharks 10-2 so far in the series and will be looking for the sweep at HP Pavilion this evening.
The Blue Jackets currently hold the final spot in the conference and have been on fire of late. They were on a five-game winning streak before the Kings ended that last Thursday. Right now they sit one point ahead of ninth place Detroit and two behind the seventh place Wild.
The Sharks are still tied with the Kings in points but after tie-breakers are slotted into fifth. With all the major players in the playoff race playing today we could have a shake-up in the standings by the end of the night.
In the last meeting between the teams two weeks ago it was the Blue Jackets who shut the Sharks out 4-0. Vezina candidate Sergei Bobrovsky was great between the pipes and I expect a similar performance tonight. He will be facing another Vezina candidate in Antti Niemi who is tied for the league lead in wins. With both of these goaltenders facing off tonight we should have a low-scoring game on our hands. I would be surprised if it isn’t, although the two previous games have not really been lowing scoring, or even close, for that matter.
Niemi will be facing a somewhat weak offense in the Blue Jackets, but as we learned don’t count them out. They have put up ten on the board against San Jose in two games and can no doubt do it again.
Leading the way for Columbus in points is winger Vinny Prospal who has 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points. His 11 goals is tied for the team lead with centerman Artem Ansimov. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin leads the team in assists with 17 to go along with his four goals.
On San Jose’s side the Marleau-Couture-Havlat line was great in their last game against the Wild totalling a combined nine points, two of which (Couture goal and Marleau assist) were on the power play. Overall Logan Couture has a team-leading 19 goals to go with 15 assists so far this season. His 35 points is second on the team to the captain.
Also, Raffi Torres scored his first goal as a Sharks and added an assist. His play continues to be good and is slowly but surely gaining the support of those who thought his addition was not a good one. Hopefully he stays consistent again tonight against a Blue Jackets team who is top ten in the league in hitting.