31-18-7, 69 points
40-17-2, 82 points
3rd in Western Conference
1st in Western Conference
NHLN-US, CSN-CA (HD)
Well, there's no better opportunity than this to find out.
Losers of five of their last seven games, the mercurial Sharks are having one of their worst stretches of the year. Not surprising, this slump coincides with their season-long nine game road trip and their frantic schedule of lat. Still, for a fanbase that asks for the stars and is disappointed with anything but, excuses aren't going to cut it.
The last two games, which should have been a simple and painless jaunt through the softest part of the Southeast division saw San Jose earn just a point. Doug WIlson made a trade, acquiring Dominic Moore from Tampa Bay, but the new face didn't bring any luck with him.
Instead, the team has played an extremely sloppy brand of hockey lately, with turnovers and poor defensive zone coverage leading to unfortunate goals against. Neither netminder has been helping matters much, with Niemi allowing six goals in Tampa and Thomas Greiss giving up two quckies to Carolina and a clinching goal in the third.
Tough sledding right now.
In honesty, there would be no better way to get back on track than with an early morning win against the rival Red Wings. While the dislike these two teams have built for each other over the past 20 years doesn't carry as much weight as the Montreal-Boston rivalry, it is in my opinion one of the best in all of hockey. It's starting to gain national traction too, as their two seven-game playoff series in the past two years almost led to the Sharks being the first West Coast team in the Winter Classic.
The Sharks always get up to play the Wings, and they will need that kind of game this morning, as the Red Wings have recently made history, winning 22 consecutive games on home ice. Wouldn't it be great if the Sharks could be slump-busters and streak-busters at once? Before many of us even get up?
Regardless of if the Sharks win or lose, I think it's a lock that Doug Wilson makes another trade before the deadline strikes on the 27th. There are some holes on this team, evidenced with the injury to Martin Havlat, that have to be addressed before the home stretch. Dominic Moore is a nice depth piece, but Doug WIlson sees that his team needs more than that.
I don't think the Sharks have the ammunition to pull off a trade for Rick Nash without getting worse in the process. That is to say that I think they could acquire him if they didn't have an issue with the return, but for now, losing players like Vlasic or Pavelski would hinder the team more than it would help.
Players like Mikhail Grabovski or Ales Hemsky are likely better fits for this team, but with contract talks muddying their status, it's tough to think a deal goes down this weekend.
I'm all for surprises, though.
Prediction: Sharks win 4-2. Goals by McGinn, Burns, Desjardins and Marleau. Niemi has 2 assists.