It all comes down to this. If the Sharks can't beat the Ducks tonight, who are playing their third game in four and are likely to have a 20-year-old goaltender in net, Anaheim will clinch the Pacific Division title on home ice, locking the Sharks into a first-round collision with Los Angeles.
If San Jose can pull off the win, they live to fight another day and would still have the chance to win the division if they pick up two more points than the Ducks do over each teams' respective final two games. Both clubs play Colorado at home but the Ducks' other game is against the Kings, a far superior club to the Sharks' other opponent, Phoenix. The wrinkle is that the Coyotes will be fighting for their playoff lives in Saturday's contest while L.A., long locked into the 3-seed, might even rest some stars in their meeting with Anaheim.
But none of that matters if the Sharks can't take care of business at the Honda Center tonight. This game could have been even more significant had San Jose managed to defeat the Predators last Saturday but it still ranks among the biggest regular season games in franchise history, and certainly one of the most important in the team's past decade of making the playoffs. A win inches them closer to drawing Minnesota in the first round, a loss seals their fate and forces them to get their feet wet in postseason hockey by taking on the powerhouse Kings in round one. This game really doesn't need much more setup than the standings themselves provide. Go Sharks.
|49-21-9, 107 points
||51-20-8, 110 points|
|2nd in Pacific
||1st in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
Bracken Kearns - James Sheppard - Tommy Wingels
Tyler Kennedy - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers
Brad Stuart - Justin Braun
Scott Hannan - Dan Boyle
Projected Ducks Lineup
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Jakob Silfverberg
Patrick Maroon - Mathieu Perreault - Teemu Selanne
Daniel Winnik - Nick Bonino - Kyle Palmieri
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Luca Sbisa - Stephane Robidas
Bryan Allen - Ben Lovejoy