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Sharks Gameday: Three Keys To A Three Game Road Trip

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I came to this screen expecting to write a lot about the upcoming game but my fingers do not seem to be cooperating; this will be relatively short and to the point. Instead of exposing you to paragraphs chock full of fleshed-out ideas, here are three "Keys To The Week". Feel free to add your own in the comments, while slyly taking jabs at my lack of motivation before the first game of a road trip that will be an excellent test of where the Sharks stand in regards to the rest of the Western Conference.

[Editor's Note]: Remember your SPG Picks for a chance to win a Sharks Banner courtesy of Carrol's Cove.

1) Improve their five on five play. I've sort of beat this to death over the last couple weeks, but it's the one area where the Sharks need to improve. Special teams have been acceptable, goaltending has been very good, but without a solid presence at even strength, the Sharks current trend of squeaking out wins will lean towards the loss column against playoff-bound teams. Improvement in this category is essential to their success.

2) Can Evgeni Nabokov have a solid streak of games on the road? Current year totals have him at a .889 SV% with a 3.13 GAA, something that needs to be addressed in Calgary tonight. Nabby has been reverted to last season's form as of late, but a set of big games will test his ability away from The Tank. If Nabby is his usual self, there is no stopping the Sharks.

3) Third line's "promise" in terms of scoring production. The swing through Canada will most likely feature Mike Grier Synthesizer Overdrive (h/t to Senor K), Goc With A Glock, and The Cheechoo Train. On paper this is just about as deadly a third line as they come. The defensive responsibility is there- Cheech and Grier are able to grind in the corners, and the line as a whole is very good at supporting down low in the defensive zone.

The offense is starting to come along as well- Cheech has been getting on the board lately, Grier had a nice pair of goals against the Isles, and Goc has looked like the player we originally drafted him to be- a quick skater that has good vision with the puck on his stick. The Sharks success, while not completely contingent upon this line's offensive production, will benefit immensely with scoring chances being generated.

If Goc and Cheech can develop some chemistry, watch out world.

[Update 1:45 PM]: A fourth key can be found here, courtesy of SJStoneS via the Fanpost function that is sure to put me out of work soon.

*******

Those are my three big keys to winning tonight, as well as this week. Some other notables would have to include Brad Staubitz's performance (the Flames will be rough; we need someone to "gently" remind them that the liberties of last postseason will not be tolerated) and Joe Thornton's willingness to shoot the darned puck more (currently third on the team in shooting percentage, and fairly predictable when driving the net in the low slot- he's going to dish it, and the pass will probably get broken up). Also, dealing with the brutal Canadian cold may be a factor, but half our guys are from the country anyways. That's a convenient talking point more than anything else.

We'll revisit these throughout this week.

Prediction: Sharks saddle up, and ride the horses out of Pengrowth with a 4-2 win. Goals by Marleau, Thornton, Goc and Blake. All come at even strength and I lose weeks worth of future material to write about. Damn mid-season writing difficulties.

 

Go Sharks.