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Sharks vs. Panthers preview: Defense pairs switched up as trip continues in South Florida

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Vlasic and Burns will skate together in the third game of the Sharks' seven-game trip.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

For really the first time this season, the Sharks' coaching staff has significantly reconfigured their top four on defense. The legendary Picklesnake pairing will reunite this evening in South Florida as Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns look to take the ice together in the third game of San Jose's seven-game road trip. That leaves Mirco Mueller to skate with Justin Braun on the team's second pairing. With Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto switching spots on the first and third lines and Alex Stalock getting a rare non-back-to-back start in net, expect a different-looking Sharks team tonight against the Panthers.

Tale Of The Tape
San Jose Sharks

@

Florida Panthers
8-6-2, 18 points
Record 4-4-4, 12 points
5th in Pacific Rank 7th in Atlantic
50.3%
Score-Adj. Fenwick 51.7%
100.2
PDO 98.9
26.4
PP% 14.3
81.2
PK% 76.9

4:30PM PST | BB&T Center | Sunrise, Florida
TV: CSNCA-HD | Radio: SJSharks.com, 98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: Litter Box Cats

Projected Sharks Lineup

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Matt Nieto - James Sheppard - Tyler Kennedy
Barclay Goodrow - Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Mirco Mueller - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Jason Demers

Alex Stalock
Antti Niemi

Projected Panthers Lineup

Tomas Kopecky - Aleksander Barkov - Scottie Upshall
Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Brad Boyes
Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Jimmy Hayes
Tomas Fleischmann - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Colby Robak
Willie Mitchell - Aaron Ekblad
Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo
Al Montoya

Last Meeting

Despite launching 54 shots on Roberto Luongo, the Sharks lost 3-2 at home to the Panthers late last season in a game that saw Brandon Pirri score a goal and an assist. This was one of those losses to an Eastern Conference bottom feeder that seemed to pile up for San Jose last year and ended up being a big reason they faced the Kings instead of the Stars in the first round.

Storylines
  • Alex Stalock will get his second start in three games for the first time since October 19th against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
  • This will be Vlasic and Burns' first game as a defense pairing since the 2011-12 season. When they were on the ice together at even-strength that year, the Sharks controlled 56.4% of all shot attempts.
  • Tomas Hertl isn't the only super sophomore who's started this season slowly. Former 2nd overall pick Aleksander Barkov has just one goal and 13 shots in his first 10 games for the Panthers.
  • With an obscene .947 even-strength save percentage, old friend Roberto Luongo is having a tremendous start to his first full season back in Florida.