A shootout loss to Washington on Saturday night prevented the Sharks from clinching a playoff spot right then and there but they'll have another opportunity tonight in Calgary as the team begins a back-to-back in Alberta. Earning at least a point against the Flames would punch the Sharks' ticket to their tenth-straight Stanley Cup Playoffs, although a regulation loss by either Phoenix or Dallas tonight would do the trick as well.
While the Flames don't seem like a formidable opponent on paper, ranking 6th in the Pacific Division, they're coming off a 8-1 curbstomping of the Edmonton Oilers and defeated the Ducks, who the Sharks can move three points ahead of with a win tonight, by a 7-2 score earlier in the month. They also beat an injury-riddled San Jose team 4-1 the last time the Sharks traveled up north to Canada. In fact, over their past 25 games, the Flames have been a legitimately improved outfit, with a score-adjusted Fenwick percentage north of 50%. They've also scored more goals since the NHL trade deadline than any other team.
It starts with a terrific top defense pairing of Mark Giordano, whose 43 points in 53 games while driving play in tough minutes should earn him some Norris consideration despite the Flames finishing out of the playoffs, and young T.J. Brodie. They've been red-hot over this recent stretch as has Mike Cammalleri, with 6 points in his last 2 games. For San Jose, Brad Stuart returns to the lineup for the first time since the Olympic break and he'll be paired with Justin Braun on defense.This is a bigger test for the Sharks than some probably expect and they'll need their top line in particular to be better than they were against the Capitals to clinch a playoff berth tonight and gain some ground on the Ducks.
|46-18-8, 100 points
||29-35-7, 65 points|
|1st in Pacific
||6th in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
Marty Havlat - James Sheppard - Tommy Wingels
Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish - Tyler Kennedy
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers
Brad Stuart- Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Projected Flames Lineup
Curtis Glencross - Matt Stajan - Jiri Hudler
Paul Byron - Mikael Backlund - Mike Cammalleri
Joe Colborne - Sean Monahan - Kenny Agostino
Brian McGrattan - Lance Bouma - Kevin Westgarth
Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Kris Russell - Chris Butler
Ladislav Smid - Tyler Wotherspoon