For the first time since April 19th, the San Jose Sharks will return to the friendly confines of HP Pavilion to play hockey (That's the one with the sticks, right?).
I love the experience of a game: the lights going out before introductions, 'Seek and Destroy' blasting as the skaters burst out of the shark head, Sharkie beating his drum, Brodie Brazil wandering around ice-side, Danny Miller, the powerplay chomp. Hell, I almost miss the inevitable wave that will randomly start up and ruin people's view. Welcome back.
Tonight's game against the Coyotes may also be the first chance for Sharks fans to see San Jose's newest center. Gomez Watch goes into overtime. After finally signing with the Sharks yesterday for one-year $700k, we'll see if Scott Gomez takes his place in the line-up, or if he sits out another game. The home opener would seem like a good time to get him going, but alas, David Pollak believes otherwise.
The big news here is that Mike Smith appeared to be injured last night when he left just eleven minutes in to the game. Chad Johnson could be called up from Portland to be the back-up. Normally, this would be a relief to Sharks fans. But in the small sample sized season, Smith has been playing more like the Tampa Bay version of himself rather than the frustratingly phenomenal Phoenix version. Martin Hanzal and Rotislav Klesla have also been a bit banged up, so don't be surprised if one, or both, of them is out of the lineup as well.
The Coyotes gave the Sharks fits last year, save for the opener, taking the season series 4-1-1. They'll be playing on the second night of back-to-backs after winning their first game of the season last night against the Blue Jackets in Phoenix. Steve Sullivan had a hat trick in the 5-1 victory.
Not only will tonight be the home opener, and an outside shot as the first game for Scott Gomez in teal, but it will also be a chance for Sharks fans to see what could have been. Before Gomez Watch, there was the Shane Doan Derby. San Jose was one of seemingly thirty teams during the off-season flirting with signing Shane Doan. The Coyotes' captain eventually did return to Phoenix with a four year deal, depriving San Jose fans of an older, more expensive Ryane Clowe. But hey, it was a more entertaining way to waste time than what we were stuck with during the lockout (I'm looking at you, NHL Podium).
Prediction: Sharks win 3-1. Goals by Marleau (x2), and Sheppard. Meanwhile, during the broadcast, Randy Hahn uses the words 'Desert Dogs' twenty-three times.
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