Sharks Gameday: My Achy Breaky Sharks

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5:30 PST
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19-12-5, 43 points 16-13-5, 37 points
6th in Western Conference
13th in Western Conference

Television
CSN-CA (HD)
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
Hockey Wilderness
Russo's Rants

It would be interesting to do a qualitative study on what players perceive to be more harmful to their psyche-- injuries to teammates, or embarrassing losses to division rivals. Not necessarily in a standings points sense, because I think injuries will have a much larger impact on a game than what may have happened the night before, but from a "comraderie" sense. What the mood of the locker room is like leading up to the game, whether or not they feel stronger rallying around an injured teammate or a loss, and/or how that effects their thoughts going into the next game.

For the Sharks, they'll be dealing with both tonight in Minnesota. Following a brutal loss to the Los Angeles Kings at home following the Christmas break, news broke yesterday that center Joe Pavelski won't be making the trip due to an undisclosed lower body injury. His last shift of the game came with three minutes to go in the third period, so it remains to be seen what exactly caused him to be left out of the lineup. Pavelski joins Torrey Mitchell (lower body) and John McCarthy (who was placed on the injured reserve this morning) on the Sharks injured list. Brandon Mashinter and Tommy Wingels have been recalled from Worcester to fill the void.

With Pavelski out, I'd like to see Patrick Marleau center the third line tonight-- HTML hasn't earned their ice time as a whole lately, and there's no reason to put them together if they're not producing offensively. They've always been rather middling in their own zone, and when you lose a player such as Pavelski, trying to spread out the offensive punch on all three lines is a good route to take considering it limits the opposing team's ability to key in on a specific line and shut down the Sharks offensive attack.

[Update]: Marleau will center the third line tonight, in between Tommy Wingels and Jamie McGinn.

Another note from yesterday-- James Wisniewski was traded from the New York Islanders to the Montreal Canadiens for a second round pick and conditional fifth. Wisniewski was bandied about by many as a good solution to the Sharks defensive issues, but his play this season has been mercurial to say the least. He's a good offensive defenseman but struggles in his own end at times-- I'd project him to fit nicely into the fourth spot in San Jose, and be a stretch three defenseman. He may be a guy San Jose could use, but he's not necessarily the guy they so desperately need to play grueling minutes and help ease the load off of Dan Boyle.

I'm sure Doug Wilson was interested in both the player and the price-- a second round draft pick is an easy asset to give up when you're acquiring a player like Wisniewski who could come in and immediately help the team. But with the Sharks salary structure the way it is right now, Wisniewksi's $3.25MM contract would push the Sharks over the upper limit if they did not give up salary in return (assuming a roster of 12 forwards and 7 defenseman were carried). The Islanders were in sell mode, attempting to get money off the books in order to help out financially, which makes an expiring UFA like Kent Huskins a non-factor in negotiations. That leaves Devin Setoguchi as the lone asset (young goal-scorer who will be an RFA) that I could see the Sharks and Islanders both considered in this hypothetical deal.

The fact that Setoguchi wasn't moved along with my assertion that Wilson was probably interested in acquiring Wisniewski on some level tells me two things. One, Wilson sees Setoguchi as more valuable to the Sharks organization that Wisniewski. Valuable in both the sense that he has a high offensive upside that could manifest itself and help out the team this season, as well as in the sense that including Setoguchi in a package deal along with other parts (picks, prospects, salary dumps to clear cap space) could net a higher return. If you move Setoguchi now, it essentially locks up any future transactions for a defenseman. That's your move and you're forced to stick with it for the remainder of the year. Secondly, not making a move for Wisniewski now indicates to me that bigger things could be on the horizon for the Sharks in the New Year. Wisniewski is a stretch three defenseman who would fit in nicely as a four guy and definitely help the team, but the hope here is that Wilson is biding his time in an attempt to land a much bigger fish.

In other words, if the Sharks have $5.0MM sitting around in cap space, I'm a lot more critical of Wilson for not jumping in on Wisniewski now by only giving up an odd assortment of mere draft picks. But considering salary has to be going the other way, the best route to take is a patient one. Something that hasn't changed much since the last time we discussed these matters.

Prediction: Sharks win 4-1. Goals by McGinn, Snuggles, Mashinter?I barely know her!, and Boyle.

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