After a disheartening 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks and an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Panthers, the Sharks' road trip doesn't get any easier tonight. They're in Tampa to face the Lightning who currently own the Eastern Conference's best record, boast the league's second-most potent offense and are the fifth-best puck possession team in the NHL. The Lightning have emerged as one of the bona fide Cup contenders through the first month and a half of the season, a shortlist the Sharks would presumably like to get themselves back on. Proving they can hang with the Bolts is the first step towards that.
Tale Of The Tape
|8-7-2, 18 points
||Record||11-3-2, 24 points|
|5th in Pacific||Rank||1st in Atlantic
Projected Sharks Lineup
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
Barclay Goodrow - James Sheppard - Tommy Wingels
Tye McGinn - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Mirco Mueller - Brent Burns
Scott Hannan - Jason Demers
Projected Lightning Lineup
Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Jonathan Drouin - Vladislav Namestnikov - Cedric Paquette
Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - J.T. Brown
Matt Carle - Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison - Radko Gudas
Eric Brewer - Andrej Sustr
Martin St. Louis, months before he was traded to the Rangers, did his best Tomas Hertl impression with a four-goal game against the visiting Sharks in January. Joe Pavelski responded with the first hat trick of his NHL career as the Sharks ended up downing Tampa 5-4. Top Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman left the game with an ankle injury and won't be in the lineup tonight either.
- Previously thought to be unscratchable, Adam Burish mercifully comes out of the lineup for the first time all season tonight. So does John Scott as the coaching staff has restructured their bottom six, bumping Barclay Goodrow up to the third line and relegating Tyler Kennedy to the fourth.
- Longtime Sharks starter and owner of pretty much every franchise goaltending record Evgeni Nabokov is set to back up Ben Bishop tonight. Sharks will unsurprisingly go with Antti Niemi as Alex Stalock is on injured reserve.
- Tampa's second-line center Tyler Johnson (who actually leads the Lightning in scoring with 18 points) is considered probable for tonight's game after sustaining an upper-body injury in a hit from Chicago's Brent Seabrook on Tuesday.
- With Johnson and frequent linemate Nikita Kucherov on the ice together at even-strength this season, the Bolts have controlled a ludicrous 62.5% of shot attempts and scored 70.6% of goals.