While the Sharks' injury situation up front improved a bit last week with the return of Marty Havlat (before resuming its muddled state thanks to a Tyler Kennedy lower-body ailment), their blueline is now missing a key piece. Jason Demers, in the midst of a career year, remains out with an unspecified lower-body injury as the Sharks host the Flyers tonight in the second game of their pre-Olympic break homestand. Pleasanton native Matt Tennyson, who notched two assists in four games with the big club last season and served as the team's 7th defenseman while Demers was hurt during the first round of the playoffs, was recalled yesterday and could draw into the lineup against Philadelphia.
The Flyers have a well-earned reputation for being perennially competitive, despite that not always translating into the highest levels of playoff success over the past few decades (remind you of anyone?), so it feels strange to label them as the Sharks' weakest opponent during this four-game homestand. But that's what they are. They have a lower points percentage than the other three teams the Sharks are hosting this week in the Blackhawks, Stars and Blue Jackets. They're also one of the very worst possession teams in the NHL; only the Flames, Oilers, Maple Leafs and Sabres have had a lower proportion of even-strength shot attempts for in score-close situations than the Flyers this season.
What Philadelphia does boast is a deep forward corps with three lines of weapons who should be able to drive play and generate offense but are largely saddled by the immobile blueline behind them. An effective Sharks forecheck ought to be able to force panicky turnovers from puck-averse defensemen like Nicklas Grossman, Luke Schenn and Braydon Coburn. The gap between the Sharks and Ducks for first place in the division has been closed to single digits, and the Sharks have a great chance to move closer tonight seeing as a home game against a bad Eastern Conference team is as close to a gimme as it gets. Then again...
|27-23-6, 60 points
||35-15-6, 76 points|
|4th in Metropolitan
||2nd in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Matt Nieto - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard - Bracken Kearns - Marty Havlat
Eriah Hayes - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Scott Hannan - Brad Stuart
Projected Flyers Lineup
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Vincent Lecavalier - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Steve Downie
Michael Raffl - Adam Hall - Zac Rinaldo
Mark Streit - Andrej Meszaros
Nicklas Grossman - Braydon Coburn
Erik Gustafsson - Luke Schenn