Sharks and Avalanche kick off a home and home desperate for two points

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5:00 PST
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15-10-2, 32 points 13-16-1, 27 points
8th in Western Conference 13th in Western Conference

Television
Versus, TSN 2
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
Mile High Hockey
All Things Avs

Dark days.

The Sharks, 2-5-1 in their last eight games, head into Colorado tonight for a dipsy doodle with the similarly struggling Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche have been in a tailspin since roaring out of the gate to start the season, and currently have dropped three divisional games in a row to the Canucks, Flames, and Oilers respectively. Coupled with the Sharks struggles as of late, you can be certain that the narrative will be as follows-- two teams, desperate for points, will put in a sixty minute effort that will make every sixty minute effort before it pale in comparison.

We've been looking for a moment that encapsulates the stoic resolve of the human spirit ever since The Shawshank Redemption was released in 1994. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, that spirit will be born anew. As these two teams do battle on the hallowed ground that is the Pepsi Center, we will remember what it means to be alive, what it means to be vindicated, what it means to grab ahold of life, what it means escape from the steel bars of a cold and callous prison cell.

And at the end of the night, as one team triumphantly raises their arms in celebration while the dirty sewage cascades down past their eyelids, that team will be reborn. If you look closely you will be able to see tiny turds of a forsaken losing streak float on by, useless as the stoic arm of victory confidently brushes them aside. Rise my brothers! Rise! Rise! A new season awaits tonight!

Well, maybe not. Tonight is just about two points, and not much more. But it feels good to bring out the theatrics every once in awhile, especially when San Jose has been more Shakespeare tragedy than Shawshank Redemption as of late.

As we outlined on Thursday their current run hasn't been as bad as the record may indicate, but a heartbreaking weekend in the midwest has changed that tune a bit-- it isn't full fledged panic-at-the-sight-of-a-goal-against just yet, but it is getting into the territory of we-might-want-to-put-together-back-to-back-wins-at-some-point because San Jose is quickly slipping down the standings into a place they found themselves in last December-- outside of a playoff spot, in a rut, with inconsistency creeping around in their game.

Even with all their struggles the Sharks are still, almost miraculously, one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference when it comes to points percentage. They sit in sixth right now with a .593%, meaning that the games played cushion is still managing to work in their favor. That only helps if you manage to win games going forward of course, but it's quite remarkable how much help they gave themselves early in the season when they were essentially unbeatable from mid-October through late November.

What is mildly concerning however, is the type of road San Jose faces when December comes to a close. This might be too early to really talk about in a meaningful way, but I think it illustrates an important point-- tonight's game against the Avalanche, and their upcoming six game homestand that starts on Thursday, are going to be extremely important games strictly from a potential points standpoint.

Once the New Year bells ring in 2012, San Jose hits the road for what will be their toughest stretch of the season.


San Jose Sharks Schedule (December 13th to February 28th)

Month Home GP
Away GP
Back to Backs
Longest Trip
December
6
1
0
N/A
January
5
9
2
4 games
February
5
9
3
9 games

With nearly a 2:1 ratio on the road, including a massive swing through the East Coast and the midwest for the majority of February, San Jose's schedule takes a pretty rapid turn for the worse after this month. Now we all remember what they did in October, going 5-1-0 on a six game roadie after dropping three games in a row, so there's no telling what kind of performance they're capable of in this scenario. It could turn out to be a lot of hand-wringing over nothing.

But if I'm looking at where the Sharks are right now, still treading water and in position to stay near the top of the standings on account of games played, I'm looking at this next seven game stretch as one that could effectively determine what this Sharks roster looks like in the New Year.

Antero Niittymaki was activated off the IR yesterday and was assigned to Worcester for a conditioning assignment that will last a maximum of 14 days. Once that is complete, he will either a) be returned to San Jose and begin to count against their cap and roster limit or b) be placed on waivers in order to remain with Worcester.

As both Kevin Kurz, David Pollak, and us at Fear The Fin have mentioned, it's likely either Niittymaki or Greiss is moved in a deal to clear the roster. With teams across the League looking for goaltending help, and the Sharks currently struggling, you have to figure General Manager Doug Wilson is considering a package deal that could bring in another piece to help this club.

Again, looking ahead to January-February might be a little too bold (even by our notoriously dramatic standards). But that upcoming road heavy schedule, along with the Sharks current struggles, would probably be enough to cause Wilson to put together a deal involving a goaltender + to set his team up for 2012.

In our opinion, the Sharks have 14 days to try and change his mind.

Prediction: Sharks win 4-1. Every single goal is scored by Martin Havlat, who enters tonights game with one goal despite putting 60 shots on net. He must have done something horrible to the hockey gods this offseason, because shooting 1.7% from the field is just plain unfair.

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