Sharks Gameday: Early Christmas Gift? Dwayne Roloson Probably Won't Start Tonight. If He Does, I'm Hitting The Eggnog Early.

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7:30 PST
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14-16-2, 30 points 17-10-3, 37 points
13th in Eastern Conference 8th in Western Conference

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Down a top six forward in Martin Havlat, the San Jose Sharks will attempt to do what they haven't been able to in quite awhile-- string together their third win a row. It's been nearly a month (November 23rd) since San Jose last accomplished that feat, meaning that tonight provides an opportunity for the Sharks to build on their last two victories and continue what has been a strong beginning to their six game homestand.

Initially I was going to take some time today to talk about the penalty kill, tying together Tampa Bay's 1-3 offense with San Jose's experiment with the 1-3 on the PK, but I think ElvisVF101 did an excellent job of analyzing the unit's weaknesses here. While I disagree with his assertion that San Jose is in danger of missing the playoffs if they don't get their shorthanded act together, his goal by goal breakdown of their efforts thus far is frighteningly dead-on.

By and large the team has been dreadful in this category for the entire year, and it's either going to take some extremely hard work and/or an upgrade via trade to make things workable going forward. At this point I'm leaning towards a trade being the only legitimate way to improve the PK, but as has been the case this season, that move doesn't need to come until all the chips are in place. It has been exactly ten days since Antero Niittymaki was sent down to Worcester on a conditioning assignment, and while there's no telling when Doug Wilson will make his eventual move, I'm thinking a move closely following the roster freeze (which ends at midnight on December 27th) is a significant possibility.

We've been wrong (oh lord have we been wrong) before of course, so don't take that as gospel. But the likelihood of San Jose carrying three goaltenders on their NHL roster for a significant amount of time seems unlikely.

Tampa Bay enters tonight in a very similar situation as San Jose. Both were teams that entered the season with high expectations, and both have struggled immensely during the month of December. The Lightning have gone 3-5-0 this month, with a two-game winning streak heading into tonight slightly dulling the pain.

What has been different is that Tampa Bay has been absolutely brutalized when it comes to the performance from their goaltenders. The Lightning have received sub-standard goaltender from both current starter Mathieu Garon (.905 SV%) and former starter Dwayne Roloson (.882 SV%) this season, which has led to a lot of their issues.

Having said that (and fully acknowledging that Roloson is unlikely to start tonight), a part of me still thinks back to all of the times Roloson has come into HP Pavilion and thrown the Sharks for a loop. Ever since his magnificent series with Edmonton in 2006 he's seemed to have the Sharks number every time he starts between the pipes for the opposing team. If I'm Guy Boucher I'd give Roloson the keys to the car no question, but that decision probably proves more than any other why I'm sitting at home in my underwear and he's coming off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

At any rate, another big one for the Sharks tonight. I liked their effort against Edmonton as a whole on Saturday night-- it's just a matter of cleaning up the small mistakes (which have seemed to consistently end up in the back of the net all season) as the Sharks try to climb the standings and get back to being the team they believe they can be.

Prediction: Sharks win 5-1 if Garon starts, lose 2-1 if Roloson starts. No matter which goaltender is in net they put up 47 shots and McGinn scores all the goals.

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