When this lockout-shortened season started, no team was hotter than the San Jose Sharks. The boys in teal rattled off seven straight wins, which made them the last undefeated team to finally fall. And fall they did. The Sharks went through the entire month of February without posting consecutive wins; a feat made easier considering the team only won two that month. They did post back-to-back wins to start March, but you can hardly call that a streak.
Now, the Sharks find themselves winners of three straight games, and it's with a very different looking team than the one that took them through the first two months. Brent Burns is a dominant forward, Burish and Handzus are benched, and Douglas Murray is gone to Pittsburgh. Possibly the biggest difference though, is that this team is having fun.
What could possibly drag down a Sharks team that's having a good time and on a winning streak? How about the Phoenix Wet Blankets? Maybe I'm putting too much weight into the last time these two played (the double shutout shootout loss), but that does seem to be the norm when playing a Dave Tippett team.
Surprisingly, the Coyotes are actually coming off an entertaining game: a crazy 7-4 win where they made Pekka Rinne look foolish. However, they were 0-5-2 before that game, which had sent them plummeting down the standings. They'll surely be determined to try to climb back into the playoff picture tonight in San Jose.
|14-15-5, 33 points||16-11-6, 38 points|
|13th in Western Conference
||7th in Western Conference|
Projected Sharks Lineup
Martin Havlat - Joe Thornton - Adam Burish
Logan Couture - Patrick Marleau - Tommy Wingels
Ryane Clowe - Joe Pavelski - T.J. Galiardi
James Sheppard - Scott Gomez - Andrew Desjardins
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Brad Stuart - Brent Burns
Projected Coyotes Lineup
Shane Doan - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Matthew Lombardi - Steve Sullivan
David Moss - Boyd Gordon - Rob Klinkhammer
Raffi Torres - Antoine Vermette - Paul Bissonnette
Rostislav Klesla - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michael Stone
Keith Yandle - David Schlemko
You have to expect that the Sharks decide to keep rolling the same lines that have given them this streak. In other words, I hope the press box has comfortable seats, Michal Handzus and Adam Burish, because I hope you're there for a while. Over on the Phoenix side, Zbynek Michalek will be a game day decision for the Coyotes. He's been out since March 9th with a lower body injury. Lauri Korpikoski and Mike Smith are also out for the Desert Dogs (drink!).
The injury of Smith would initially seem to be a good thing. I can't tell you how many times Mike Smith has been the pooper at the Sharks' party. Then again, San Jose doesn't exactly have the best track record against backup netminders. And a Tippett team can make just about any goaltender look like like Hasek for a while. Regardless of who's in net, the Coyotes are always a tough test for the Sharks offense.
Prediction: Sharks win 3-1. In celebration of the season premiere, I'm calling for the hat-trick by Doctor Who The Fuck is James Sheppard!?. Meanwhile, Mike Chen and I fight over who gets to use Doctor Who references in posts.