Mercifully, a pointless lockout didn't delay the start of the NHL season an additional three months this time but it's still been far too long since we watched the Sharks play a meaningful hockey game. That changes tonight as San Jose hosts the team it swept out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring, the Vancouver Canucks, at the re-named SAP Center.
Much like their opponents, the Sharks enter this season as a team at a crossroads. Franchise heroes Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle are all entering the final year of their current contracts and while it's a good bet that at least some of them will be extended before hitting free agency, they aren't getting any younger and time is running out for San Jose to win its first Stanley Cup with Jumbo and Patty at the helm.
While championship talk has very much become an "I'll believe it when I see it" proposition in this city, this could be finally be the team to get over the hump. The 2013 Sharks are deeper down the middle than any other club in the league, have one of the NHL's best power plays and boast a top-flight goaltender. As with every Cup winner, they'll need a dose of good fortune along the way, but a healthy version of this year's Sharks squad might finally be the right mix of youth and experience to get the job done. It all begins tonight against a familiar foe.
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|Tied-1st in Pacific
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Projected Sharks Lineup
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Matthew Nieto - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Matt Pelech
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Scott Hannan - Jason Demers
Projected Canucks Lineup
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Jannik Hansen
David Booth - Brad Richardson - Mike Santorelli
Tom Sestito - Zac Dalpe - Dale Weise
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler - Jason Garrison
Ryan Stanton - Chris Tanev