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Sharks vs. Canucks: Let the games begin

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After four months of waiting, the Sharks finally take the ice again for a hockey game that counts. San Jose and Vancouver go at it in the regular season opener tonight at 7PM.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Vancouver Canucks

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San Jose Sharks
0-0-0, 0 points
0-0-0, 0 points
Tied-1st in Pacific
Tied-1st in Pacific

7PM PST | SAP Center | San Jose, California
TV: CSNCA-HD, TSN | Radio: SJSharks.com, 98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: Canucks Army, Nucks Misconduct, Pass It To Bulis

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

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

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

Roberto Luongo
Eddie Lack