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Sharks vs. Blackhawks preview: Afternoon delight

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Andrew Desjardins makes his triumphant return to the Tank in a Saturday matinee.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently there are other things going on with the Sharks right now than The Great Joe Thornton-Doug Wilson Feud Of 2015. Namely, they have a pretty damn important game to play this afternoon against recently traded Andrew Desjardins and the Chicago Blackhawks, their final home game prior to a seven-game road trip that will largely decide the fate of their season.

Tale Of The Tape
Chicago Blackhawks

@

San Jose Sharks
40-21-6, 86 points
Record 34-26-8, 76 points
3rd in Central Rank 5th in Pacific
53.7%
Score-Adj. Fenwick 50.4%
100.1
PDO 99.5
17.9
PP% 21.9
86.2
PK% 80.1

1PM PDT | SAP Center | San Jose, California
TV: CSNCA-HD, Sportsnet | Radio: SJSharks.com, 98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: Second City Hockey, The Committed Indian, Cheer The Anthem, Hockeenight

Projected Sharks Lineup

Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Melker Karlsson
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
Tomas Hertl - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels
John Scott - Ben Smith - Barclay Goodrow

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Brent Burns
Mirco Mueller - Brenden Dillon

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Projected Blackhawks Lineup

Kris Versteeg - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad - Antoine Vermette - Teuvo Teravainen
Bryan Bickell - Brad Richards - Patrick Sharp
Andrew Desjardins - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Shaw

Kimmo Timonen - Brent Seabrook
Duncan Keith - Michal Rozsival
Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Corey Crawford
Antti Raanta

Last Meeting

Antti Niemi stopped all 31 shots he faced, included a flurry of shorthanded chances by Jonathan Toews in the second period, as the Sharks defeated the Blackhawks 2-0 on the final day of January to cap their third straight victory against Western Conference powerhouses. This afternoon they'll try for their first three-game winning streak since that day.

Storylines

  • Former Shark Andrew Desjardins, dealt for Ben Smith prior to last week's trade deadline, has only played one game so far for the Blackhawks but it's a safe bet he'll draw into the Hawks lineup this afternoon with fourth-line winger Joakim Nordstrom suspended two games for a hit on Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
  • Fresh off two of his best games of the season, Antti Niemi is a career .916 against the team he won a Stanley Cup with and was most recently brilliant against the Blackhawks in these teams' January 31st meeting.
  • Compared to the Sharks, the Blackhawks don't really have a ton to play for at this point as they're essentially locked into the Central Division's third playoff seed, five points behind St. Louis and Nashville and five points clear of the Minnesota Wild.