26-16-6, 58 points
26-12-5, 57 points
5th in Eastern Conference
3rd in Western Conference
Wooooo doggy, this is going to be a big one. Canadian media in town, Senators fans up in arms, Dany Heatl...oh. Right.
Well, the crazy betrayal angle isn't working anymore, now that Dany Heatley has been shipped out to Minnesota (where he's slowly becoming terrible, according to Michael Russo of the Minnesota Star Tribune). Instead, the better storyline tonight is a surprising Ottawa Senators team who finds themselves at fifth in the Eastern Conference.
It's a great turnaround story; the Ottawa Senators had just 74 points all of last season, and are just seven wins away from meeting that number this year. A big reason for the reversal of fortunes? Milan Michalek, the former Shark who was traded for Heatley, has to be mentioned.
In just 43 games, Michalek is just three goals from his career high of 26 that he set with the Sharks in 2006-2007. He's had a little bit of trouble staying healthy (his MO), but he's been a huge boon for Ottawa and a true reason that they find themselves in the thick of a playoff hunt.
Recent addition Kyle Turris has also been good for the Sens, with 11 points in 15 games since he whined his way out of Phoenix. Turris and Michalek, along with familiar Senators Jason Spezza (48 points) and Daniel Alfredsson (35 points) are leading the way offensively.
It's not all about the forwards though. Perhaps most surprising of all individual performances this year NHL wide is that of Erik Karlsson. At just 21 years old, he's making an impressive run at the Norris Trophy with 44 points in 47 games. As a 21 year old. Incredible.
Ottawa does have their fair share of problems, though. Despite scoring 149 goals on the year (3rd in the East), they've allowed 150 (13th in the East, 27th in the NHL). Their penalty kill, while admittedly better than San Jose's by percentage, is in the bottom third of the league as well. Defensively, they need a bit of work, and Craig Anderson isn't helping with his pedestrian .910 save percentage.
They'll catch a break against San Jose, though, who will still be without former Senator Martin Havlat as well as top-six winger Ryane Clowe. Clowe spoke about his injury to David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury, and it looks like he'll be out until after the All-Star break to ensure that he heals properly. Good news, Andrew Desjardins is back and that likely means that Frazier McLaren is out.
It should be an entertaining game, and if San Jose gets into penalty trouble, it may be a long night. Still, the Sharks have been known to shoot themselves back into a game as well.
Prediction: Sharks win 5-4, goals by McGinn, Wingels, Demers, Couture x 2.