A somewhat bizarre quirk in the Sharks' 2013-14 regular season schedule is that they haven't faced a Western Conference opponent since February 5th and won't do so again until March 20th. Granted, they didn't face an opponent of any kind over three of those weeks thanks to the Olympic break but, overall, it's 12 consecutive games of exclusively playing the East, with this afternoon's tilt against the Devils representing Game #4 of that run. After today, they'll return home to host the Hurricanes, Penguins, Canadiens and Maple Leafs, go back on the road to play the Blue Jackets, Islanders and Devils, then return home for their second-to-last out-of-conference game of the season against the Panthers.
Given that the Penguins and Rangers are the only teams on that list who deserve to be considered among the upper echelon of the East, this is a prime opportunity for the Sharks to make their next game against a Western foe, March 20th against Anaheim, one that could allow them to crawl back into first place in the Pacific, necessary to avoid a first-round matchup with the Kings. Speaking of the Kings, today's opponent is essentially their Eastern Conference doppelganger. By that I mean the Devils are an elite puck possession team who can't score to save their lives and are therefore forced to win with a stifling defensive system predicated on controlling play.
New Jersey is dead last in the league in shots on goal per game (the Sharks are first) but allow fewer shots against per game than any other club. Yes, it's as boring as it sounds. Or would be if it weren't for the presence of one Jaromir Jagr, fresh off scoring his 700th career goal against the Islanders yesterday, on their roster. Unfortunately for the Sharks, another living legend in Martin Brodeur will not take the ice for the Devils in this game, having minded the net for them on Saturday. It's unfortunate because Brodeur has been dreadful this season with the fourth-worst save percentage in the league while today's starter Cory Schneider, acquired from Vancouver at the draft last summer, has been marvelous with the sixth-best save percentage in the NHL. Hopefully Schneider is still shell-shocked from what happened the last time he faced the Sharks:
|38-17-6, 82 points
||26-22-13, 65 points|
|2nd in Pacific
||6th in Metropolitan