If the Sharks have designs on catching Anaheim, who currently have an eleven-point cushion atop the Pacific Division, in the standings, the stretch of 8 of 10 games on home ice prior to the Olympic break that begins tonight is crucial. They'll face tonight's opponent, the Calgary Flames, twice over that span in addition to the Oilers, Jets, Wild, Blue Jackets and Flyers, none of whom are particularly good hockey teams. And they're gradually getting healthier to boot, with Logan Couture skating once again and well on schedule to returning from his hand injury around three weeks after going under the knife while Marty Havlat was taken off injured reserve late last week.
San Jose has defeated the Flames twice already this season, the most recent coming in one of the Sharks' more lopsided efforts of the season possession-wise but requiring overtime to polish off. Calgary is in a bit of a tail spin right now, having won just 3 of their past 18 games. It's the kind of woeful streak that might make a head coach try something like this...
That was the Flames' last game, a shootout loss to Vancouver on Saturday night. No suspensions were issued to Flames players which is just as well since the team is currently nursing some key forward injuries in Curtis Glencross and Mike Cammalleri, arguably their two best wingers. A return date for Cammalleri from concussion issues is uncertain but, should he skate for the Flames prior to the Olympic break, he wouldn't be a terrible deadline pickup for the Sharks if they're looking for a scoring winger to replace Hertl in the short term. He's driving play in difficult minutes for the Flames but has been done in by some nasty on-ice shooting and save percentages, which in addition to his injury concerns could drive down his trade value. Regardless, he won't be playing tonight, one of the many reasons the Sharks should have a good chance to get their four-game homestand off on the right foot.
|16-26-7, 39 points
||31-12-6, 68 points|
|6th in Pacific
||2nd in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Tommy Wingels
Bracken Kearns - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy
James Sheppard - John McCarthy - Mike Brown
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers
Brad Stuart - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Projected Flames Lineup
Jiri Hudler - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
T.J. Galiardi - Matt Stajan - Lance Bouma
Paul Byron - Sean Monahan - Kevin Westgarth
Ben Street - Joe Colborne - Brian McGrattan
Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Shane O'Brien - Dennis Wideman
Ladislav Smid - Chris Butler