Sharks vs. Lightning: Saturday morning hockey

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

In the final stop of their three-game road trip, the Sharks take on one of the East's best teams.

There aren't many teams who can relate to the degree of significant forward injuries the Sharks have suffered through this season but the Tampa Bay Lightning, despite having avoided the quantity of infirmary-occupiers San Jose currently sports, has certainly had comparable injury woes in terms of quality. Steven Stamkos, a top-ten forward in the NHL by anyone's estimation, will miss his 32nd consecutive game with a broken tibia when the Sharks and Bolts face off in Tampa today for a rare Saturday morning puck-drop. Stamkos is skating again (as is the Sharks' Couture) but it's a testament to the organizational depth of these teams that they've managed to remain near the top of their respective divisions even in the absence of key personnel.

Tampa Bay is one of the better puck possession teams in the East and they've received tremendous goaltending from a guy who some felt was a notable omission on the Team USA roster in Ben Bishop. An unquestionable Olympic snub was Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, who's in the midst of a Norris-worthy campaign for the Bolts. And, of course, there's ageless wonder Martin St. Louis (who also probably deserves to be Sochi-bound - playing for a team in Florida has its disadvantages) leading the charge up front in Stamkos' stead.

For the Sharks, this game closes out their three-game Eastern Conference road trip, after which they'll finish the month playing five of six games against Calgary (twice!), Edmonton, Winnipeg and Minnesota. That's not exactly a murderer's row and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the Ducks' pace to slow a bit going forward. Many have written off the Sharks' division title chances but with a fairly easy schedule (save games against L.A. and Chicago) prior to the Olympic break and injured forwards slowly healing (Marty Havlat was taken off injured reserve on Thursday), they could make a run at first place yet. It starts with two points against a good Lightning team this morning.

San Jose Sharks

@

Tampa Bay Lightning
30-12-6, 66 points
28-15-5, 61 points
2nd in Pacific
2nd in Atlantic

11AM PST | Tampa Bay Times Forum | Tampa, Florida
TV: CSNCA-HD | Radio: SJSharks.com, 98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: Raw Charge, Bolt Statistics

Projected Sharks Lineup

Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Tommy Wingels
Bracken Kearns - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy
James Sheppard - John McCarthy - Eriah Hayes

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers
Brad Stuart - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Projected Lightning Lineup

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Martin St. Louis
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Richard Panik - Nikita Kucherov
Jean-Philippe Cote - Nate Thompson - J.T. Brown

Victor Hedman - Sami Salo
Matt Carle - Radko Gudas
Mark Barberio - Eric Brewer

Ben Bishop
Anders Lindback

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