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Sharks Gameday: Buffalo Wings

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4:30 PST
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37-7-8, 82 points 28-21-6, 62 points
1st in Pacific Division 3rd in Northeast Division
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98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
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Die By The Blade

When you only play a team once a year, it's best to go straight to the source. Enter Die By The Blade, your premier place for all information concerning one my favorite Sharks of all-time, Craig Rivet.

D.O. was nice enough to send us the opposing view from one of the best named blogs on the internet. Let's see what he has to say:

The Buffalo Sabres have been playing their best hockey of the season since the turn of the new year but they hit a bump in the road over the past week.  Sabres leading scorer Thomas Vanek was hit with a puck on Saturday in Ottawa and broke his jaw, forcing him out of the lineup for three to four weeks.  The Sabres proceeded to lose that game 3-2 in a shootout and had their most pathetic performance of the season on Wednesday night at home against Ottawa in a 3-1 loss.
 
Without Vanek in the lineup the Sabres are looking for players to step up offensively.  Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford are the first two players that come to mind.  Stafford has scored seven goals in his last nine games and Tim Connolly has been the Sabres best player over the past three weeks.  Connolly has scored eight goals in his last 11 games and is currently riding a four game point streak.  Defensively the Sabres have battled through plenty of injuries as well.  They get a little bit more healthy tonight with the return of Andrej Sekera, leaving only Henrik Tallinder out of the lineup.
 
Buffalo is currently tied in seventh place with the Florida Panthers only three points ahead of the ninth place Carolina Hurricanes.  They are in a situation where every point matters, even against the best team in the Western Conference. 

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

The entirety of my end of the correspondence follows, but hitting the links today is a necessity. Head on over to the aforementioned Die By The Blade and bask in the joy of being a good neighbor. It's about time we got out of the house right?

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Much like the Sabres, the Sharks have been struggling in the past week, dropping four out of five with a late game comeback against Boston on Tuesday providing the only comfort for a fanbase whose nerves seem to crumble the closer we get to playoff time. Now it's usually considered faux pas to enlighten our opponents on just what needs to be done to secure a victory, but Die By The Blade seems to be filled with nice enough people (along with being a part of the same blog network- am I not contractually inclined to treat you with the same respect that my drunk uncle receives during the holidays?). Throw in the fact that the Sabres organization was generous enough to give us the rights to Brian Campbell at the deadline last year, and I think we can find it in our hearts to give you some secrets. After all you did lead us to Dan Boyle, which in turn caused us to send Craig Rivet your way- hey! We could even consider this a nice little long distance loving relationship! Oh yeah. Almost forgot....

Regardless, the Sharks are in the hunt to lock down the top seed in the West and the current effort just isn't cutting it. If we're going to take advantage of the seven million dollar machine's current affinity for pureed foods, two keys need to be fulfilled. It's not a Letterman top ten list, but it will have to do. That's all you ask? Hey now we're from the West Coast, all we do is play the guitar at the beach all day. Oh, and we probably made the computer you're reading this article on but to-may-to, to-maw-to eh?

1) Breakout Like A Teenager: The Sharks have had some mighty big trouble getting out of their own end lately (Nabokov is a good looking guy yes, but that's no excuse). What we have been seeing is the forwards getting a little too hungry to get to the other end of the ice, breaking early from the zone, and subsequently forcing our D-men to float passes towards the middle of the ice instead of clearing the puck up the boards. When you add in some bad line changes that have resulted in odd-man opportunities and pucks in the net, why it's just about enough to make you consider not even waiting for the second round for things to implode.

2) Determination: The Sharks haven't had to worry about standings points for awhile now, and it's funny that the last sentence in your preview mentions how the Sabres are fighting for their lives. That's what has been missing in San Jose's game- fight. The lead we've built over this season is a double edged sword- the Sharks may have the liberty to not rush our injured back to action (Jeremy Roenick, Torrey Mitchell, and Brad Lukowich are notables), but there's no desperation in the way the game is played. For the Sharks to build some momentum, they need to take a page from Buffalo's book and start battling each and every shift.

Thanks for having me guys. Looking forward to an exciting game tonight.

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Every team hits a skid. Whether you're telling yourself it's better now than in April, or that once we have a healthy roster we'll be fine, the fact remains the Sharks need to salvage the tail end of this trip and start gearing up for the end of the year.

[Update 6:11 AM]: Zach from The Blade also offers some perspective on tonight's match up. If it wasn't so early all this cross-country love might make me sick.

 

Go Sharks.