Sharks Gameday: My Morning Jackets

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7:30 PM PST
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25-28-11, 61 points 41-14-9, 91 points
14th in Eastern Conference
2nd in Western Conference
Television
CSN-CA
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
The Cannon

[Update]: Ryan Vesce has been recalled on loan from Worcester and will play today.

It's funny how things can change so quickly-- just a year ago today Columbus was in the midst of making a run to the playoffs, one that eventually resulted in their first postseason appearance in franchise history. The team was young, exciting, coached by one of the best minds in the game, and seemingly on the up and up.

Flash forward a year and not much has gone right for the Jackets. Columbus had a brutal nine game losing streak in December of this season and eventually fired Ken Hitchcock in February; he was replaced by then assistant coach Claude Noel who has led the team to a 3-1-2 record under his command, including a 3-0 shutout of the San Jose Sharks just before the Olympic break.

Columbus always seems to play San Jose well, with a strong forecheck that doesn't give the Sharks a whole lot of time to execute on the breakout. Since Columbus is out of the playoff picture (and therefore not the best team to look at in terms of litmus tests and the like), executing good first passes out of the zone should be the main focal point tonight. San Jose always seems to struggle against teams who can consistently apply pressure to their defenseman by physically wearing them down over sixty minutes. Columbus may not be a good team this year, or at least one who hasn't had their record reflect their talent level, but they definitely pose a good test for the Sharks in this category.

On that note, I've always been a big fan of Derek Dorsett. He's scrappy as hell and reminds me of Scott Nichol, except with slightly better hands and a bigger frame. Solid defensively and has a real knack for getting under opposing player's skin. Watch for him to make an impact tonight, especially with Raffi Torres gone.

By now most of you have heard the news that Maxim Lapierre has been suspended four games for his hit on Scott Nichol. It was a dirty play, blatant as hell, and four games is an amount that is definitely ballpark for this type of boarding call-- well, make that non-call, as referee Chris Lee was oblivious to the situation.

Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy broke down the proceedings in a post early Friday morning:

It's a shame that just as this Dale Hunter-esque check into the end boards occurred, Lee's whistle malfunctioned and his arms were suddenly paralyzed; those can be the only logical explanations for why Lapierre wasn't penalized on what is, without question, one of the most unsportsmanlike plays we've seen in the calendar year.

- "Lapierre's blatant, injurious, non-penalized hit on Nichol"-- Puck Daddy

Dale Hunter is obviously one of the most notorious goons to ever play the game, a goon who amassed 3,565 penalty minutes during his career. The reference alludes to his hit on Pierre Turgeon in the 1993 Playoffs, which is up there as one of the most blatant and egregious hits in NHL history.

Of course this is hyperbole, and used to provide a frame of reference for the reader before seeing the video. All effective writers use it, and Mr. Wyshynski is obviously an effective writer as he runs the most widely read hockey blog in the United States.

Which makes it surprising that he drops this after word of Lapierre's suspension:

As you saw Friday morning, Montreal Canadiens winger Maxime Lapierre's "garbage" hit from behind on Scott Nichol(notes) of the San Jose Sharks last night was obvious and injurious. But enough for a four-game suspension?

For what, grinning after he wasn't penalized?

- "Maxim Lapierre gets excessive 4-game suspension on Nichol hit"-- Puck Daddy

Wyshynski has banged the drum quite heavily on the Wheel of Justice over the years, and has done a good job of holding Colin Campbell accountable for his random and illogical suspension practices. However, if dirty hits are to be cleansed from the game, I'm not sure that splitting hairs over whether a two or four game suspension is most applicable, especially when it is, "without question, one of the most unsportsmanlike plays we've seen in the calendar year."

The hit was a crosscheck from behind, near the boards, against a vulnerable player. Campbell got this one right.

Star-divide

The question now is who gets called up in Nichol's place for the estimated 7-10 days that the organization expects him to be out for. His injury history is a bit concerning, but on the same token those have been mostly concussions and groins-- in fact, I believe this is the first shoulder injury he has sustained in his career, so there should be no worry of re-aggravating a previous ailment.

McLellan has done a very good managing injuries this season, and with the playoffs approaching, one has to think that Nichol won't be rushed back. Much like Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

I advocated for Logan Couture on Wednesday, and TCY ran a piece on Friday reiterating some of the same things-- we both feel that he would be a good addition to the lineup, in both the offensive and defensive department.

That’s the diamond in the rough, really. Although Nichol is an essential part to the revamped bottom two lines ability to make an impact on games, another young player will be given the opportunity to increase the depth of the roster down the stretch run. One that has had great success this season at the AHL level to boot.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-2. Goals by McGinn, Malhotra, and Pavelski. Jan Hejda shuts down the top line and I make a trade for him in NHL 2010.

 

Go Sharks.

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