It's no secret the Sharks haven't been playing very impressive hockey this season. Even when they opened the year 4-0-1 they were getting routinely outplayed by their opponents and that aspect of their game has continued while the winning has stopped. San Jose has dropped three straight games in regulation—to put that in perspective, the Sharks didn't suffer their third regulation loss of the 2013-14 season until November 17th last year. More concerning are their brutal underlying numbers which find them currently 24th in the league in score-adjusted shot differential, the single best predictor we have of future results.
That's the bad news. The good news is that they couldn't have hand-picked a better opponent in order to try and end this slump. The Buffalo Sabres are openly tanking for Connor McDavid and have won just one of their first eight games, that too in a shootout against the Carolina Hurricanes (which could honestly come back to bite them in the ass when the McDavid sweepstakes roll around). As awful as the Sharks have been in puck possession thus far, the Sabres have been twelve percentage points worse as GM Tim Murray has ingeniously integrated over-the-hill veterans like Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros into the lineup to get their teeth kicked in. Of course the Sabres were a cakewalk on paper last season too when a much better Sharks team than the one that will take the ice this afternoon lost both of their games against Buffalo.
In order to try and stop the bleeding, Todd McLellan rearranged his lines at practice yesterday and it looks like Joe Pavelski will start his first game at third-line center since the playoffs. It shouldn't have taken a dismal start to the season for the coaching staff to realize Pavelski is best utilized there but it's progress at any rate. Tyler Kennedy is also likely to make his season debut on the fourth line and, should he play well enough, he'll hopefully be able to spell someone like Chris Tierney and James Sheppard from the top nine to further balance out the Sharks' combinations up front. Alex Stalock gets the start in net as the Sharks will try not to allow four or more goals this time.
|1-7-0, 2 points
||4-3-1, 9 points|
|8th in Atlantic
||4th in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Matt Nieto
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - James Sheppard
Chris Tierney - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish - Tyler Kennedy
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Brent Burns
Scott Hannan - Jason Demers
Projected Sabres Lineup
Matt Moulson - Tyler Ennis - Brian Gionta
Marcus Foligno - Cody Hodgson - Chris Stewart
Torrey Mitchell - Zemgus Girgensons - Drew Stafford
Nicolas Deslauriers - Sam Reinhart - Cody McCormick
Josh Gorges - Tyler Myers
Mike Weber - Andrej Meszaros
Andre Benoit - Rasmus Ristolainen