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Sharks vs. Jets Preview: Stalock gets the start in home opener

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It's the first NHL game of consequence in San Jose since, uh, let's maybe not mention the last one.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Stalock will be in net tonight as the Sharks host the Winnipeg Jets in their 2014-15 regular season home opener looking to build off what was a terrific start to their campaign Wednesday night in Los Angeles. There was speculation that Antti Niemi might get the nod tonight after a brilliant 34-save shutout against the Kings but the Sharks organization established early on in the offseason that there would be an open competition for the starting job in net and, so far, Todd McLellan has held up his end of that bargain. One of Stalock's finer performances of last season was a 20-save shutout of tonight's opponent that came in the midst of a record-breaking 179-minute shutout streak for the American netminder.

The Jets are an intriguing team, one of the tallest, heaviest and youngest in the NHL based on their opening-night roster. They also project to be one of the worst but that's due more to the division they play in and their goaltender than it does their overall talent level, because there are some pretty good players on this club. One of the best, Evander Kane, won't be in the lineup tonight after a brutal knee-on-knee collision sustained in the Jets' season-opening 6-2 rout of Arizona. But the Jets boast other weapons up front capable of picking up the slack from 70-point scorer and American Olympian Blake Wheeler to perennially underrated two-way centers Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault to captain Andrew Ladd to guy-who-should-be-a-defenseman-but-is-still-pretty-frightening-up-front Dustin Byfuglien.

Top it off with a solid blueline headlined by Tobias Enstrom and sophomore Jacob Trouba and you could talk yourself into picking the Jets to make the playoffs if you ignored that they're backstopped by the worst starting goaltender in the NHL and play in the cutthroat Central Division. The good news for Winnipeg is that if things go south this season, as most expect they will, that would not only land them a great pick in one of the best drafts in years but it might be enough to convince GM Kevin Cheveldayoff (or, more likely, his replacement) to dump Ondrej Pavelec. As it stands, the Sharks should have a pretty nice night offensively as long as they don't pass up opportunities to shoot the puck. Apart from Stalock replacing Niemi, expect the same San Jose lineup that beat L.A. on Wednesday.

Winnipeg Jets

@

San Jose Sharks
1-0-0, 2 points
1-0-0, 2 points
Tied-1st in Central
Tied-1st in Pacific

7PM PST | SAP Center | San Jose, California
TV: CSNCA-HD, TSN | Radio: SJSharks.com, 98.5 KFOX
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Projected Sharks Lineup

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
Tye McGinn - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels
Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Mirco Mueller - Brent Burns
Scott Hannan - Jason Demers

Alex Stalock
Antti Niemi

Projected Jets Lineup

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik
Dustin Byfuglien - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Adam Lowry - Mathieu Perreault - Matt Halischuk
T.J. Galiardi - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Tobias Enstrom - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy - Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec
Michael Hutchinson