The two league leading teams are matched up tonight in San Jose as the Blackhawks take to the ice against the Sharks in the fourth contest of their six-game road trip.
Chicago (7 – 0 – 2) has yet to lose in regulation, nudging them one point above San Jose (7 – 1 – 1), who fell to Anaheim last night 1-2.
The Sharks have now taken their second loss in a row, facing off against the Blackhawks who are climbing out of a road losing streak with their shootout win over CGY.
Speaking of shootouts, both of these teams have seen plenty of them early this season. Chicago’s last three games have been decided in the SO and San Jose’s first loss outside of regulation was handed to them by Nashville in the SO. The Sharks are 2 and 1 for games decided by a shootout, and the Blackhawks have also notched in two OT wins thus far.
The Blackhawks’ last seven games have been decided by 1 point, as have the Sharks’ past four, though the Sharks have more consistently tallied higher point games (scoring 3+ goals).
This is the first of three meetings between CHI and SJS, last season they split their winnings over four games:
|February 10, 2012||CHI @ SJS||SJS, 5 – 3|
|January 15, 2012||SJS @ CHI||CHI, 4 – 3|
|December 11, 2011||CHI @ SJS||CHI, 3 – 2|
|November 23, 2011||SJS @ CHI||SJS, 1 – 0|
Getting to the net is going to be crucial for both these teams tonight, especially Chicago, who has developed a habit of missing opportunities and spending a lot more time in their own zone on the defense. Not that this hasn’t been working for them, Chicago’s PK% is strong at 94.4%, which only gets more impressive when taking into account that the Blackhawks have spent 40 minutes on the penalty kill in their last four games.
Key players tonight will be the high scoring forwards. San Jose is looking to Patrick Marleau (9 – 5 – 14) and Joe Thornton (3 – 11 – 14) to turn up the heat tonight, though neither of them have scored in their past four games. Center Logan Couture (6 – 5 – 11) who scored his sixth goal of the season last night is also in the spotlight. The Blackhawks will continue to depend on their widespread offensive talent through the lines, but Patrick Kane (4 – 9 – 13) and Marian Hossa (6 – 4 – 10) who tied the game against Calgary with 2.3 seconds left on Saturday night, are expected to deliver.
With two very evenly matched goalies between the pipes (Crawford and Niemi are both expected to start) and two points to pull away in the lead on the line, tonight should be a charged matchup where scoring early and driving to the net are a must.
|Corey Crawford (CHI)||1.66||0.934||5|
|Antti Niemi (SJS)||1.80||0.936||6|
Injury Report: Dave Bolland is “very likely” for tonights game according to Coach Q. Bolland left Friday night’s game against Vancouver with a lower body injury. Dan Carcillo is on schedule for a return late this month.
Time: 9:30pm CST
Blackhawks record: 7 – 0 – 1
Sharks record: 7 – 1 – 1
Location: HP Pavilion
Where to watch: CHI: NHLN-CA, CSN-CH SJS: NHLN-CA, CSN-CA
Where to listen: CHI: WGN 720 SJS: KFOX
Next 2 games: 2/7 @ PHX, 2/10 @ NSH
(This post appeared previously on thecheckingline.com)