When last the San Jose Sharks met the Chicago Blackhawks, it was 10 days ago at HP Pavilion. Two teams that were expected to put up a hard-fought, low-scoring game instead defied the expectations, notching six goals between them in the first 12 minutes of play. However, after that goal festival, the offense cooled down slightly and the Blackhawks went on to win 5-3.
Now the Sharks are traveling to the home ice of the Blackhawks, still holding their distinction of not having lost in regulation so far this season. They’ve won 10 and lost three, all of those in overtime or the shootout. Meanwhile, San Jose has slumped since their strong start and haven’t won a single game this month. Basically, of two early-season superstars, one of them has faded while the other looks to just be shining brighter.
Of course, one game could change everything. If San Jose’s sputtering offense can find a way to connect, the team might just start showing flashes of its January brilliance again. Patrick Marleau, for example, could afford to put a few more pucks in the net or help someone else do the same. His stalled production isn’t the only reason the Sharks have stumbled, but it is one of them, and since he’s in a leadership role, he could set a good example.
Chicago’s starting goalie whose name has already been bandied about for a potential Vezina Trophy nomination, Corey Crawford, won’t be in net tonight. He’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Instead, Ray Emery will mind the pipes for the home team. Look for former Blackhawk Antti Niemi to be in goal for San Jose, not only because he knows most of the Blackhawks so well from when he played with them but also because he’s been hot lately despite, you know, the team in front of him not getting wins. He’s stopped all but one of the shots he faced in his past two starts and hasn’t been scored on in regulation three of his starts this month.
On San Jose’s side, look for James Sheppard to miss the game because coach Todd McLellan said he had a rough go of it at practice yesterday. Andrew Desjardins is also out with flu-like symptoms–that stuff’s going around, isn’t it?
Tune in to the game on CSN California and NHL Network tonight at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, 5:30 p.m. Pacific.