It seems hard to believe, but tonight is the penultimate regular season meeting between the Sharks and the Ducks. An Anaheim win, or overtime defeat, guarantees the Ducks at least a split of the regular season points. That only matters for bragging rights, but the Sharks have played three close games against Anaheim and only come out on top once — and that was in overtime.
San Jose has the score-adjusted corsi edge at even strength, according to corsica.hockey, in two of the three games but Anaheim has found a way to win a pair of one-goal contests. That doesn’t mean much of anything in the grand scheme of things, but as the Pacific remains tight every division game has impact for every team still in the hunt (read: everyone but Vancouver and Arizona).
The Sharks have had plenty of time to sit around and think about their winning streak, but they’ve aldo had time to stew over the benching of David Schlemko in consecutive games. What head coach Pete DeBoer decides to do with the veteran defender on Tuesday will speak volumes to the fan base and to the dressing room. That goes for Joel Ward, who has been benched in two of the past four contests but played in the win over Edmonton.
Meanwhile the Barracuda keep sending players to bang on the Sharks’ dressing room door. Danny O’Regan, Nikolay Goldobin and Tim Heed are all working their way towards extended looks while goaltender Troy Grosenick wants the look that Aaron Dell was supposed to get this season. Martin Jones will almost certainly start tonight after getting several days to relax. He’s already started in 30 games this season after starting in 65 regular season contests last season.
The Ducks continue to crater in terms of possession, but their talent up front have helped them win games. That, plus an amazing power play and a terrible division, will keep Anaheim in the playoff hunt. If the Kings wake up sometime soon, Anaheim is in trouble; but we’ve seen Los Angeles do this before — and the Ducks are hoping the Kings continue to do this all the way into April.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. A win for the Sharks keeps them in first place. A loss allows Edmonton to get right back to the head of the class.