San Jose plays host to the Philadelphia Flyers tonight to start a home and away back to back that will conclude in Los Angeles tomorrow night. The Sharks have won their last three games to take hold of the top of the Pacific and can win four in a row for the second time this season.
Martin Jones will get the nod against the Kings on Friday which means Aaron Dell at least gets an opportunity to start against the Flyers, but given Jones’ heavy workload this season it’s no guarantee. We’ll have to wait for today’s morning skate to find out who starts against Philadelphia.
That goes for how the lines shape up for tonight as well. Tommy Wingels, Matt Nieto and David Schlemko were all scratched in Tuesday’s win over Anaheim but given how poorly the Sharks played I wouldn’t rule out changes in San Jose’s lineup. The most likely change is slotting in Schlemko for Dylan DeMelo.
Philly sits five points clear of the Lightning in the second wild card spot and have played reasonably well after sneaking into the playoffs a season ago. The Flyers managed to extend their first round series against the Capitals thanks to some great goaltending from Michal Neuvirth but this year have received little help from starter Steve Mason who has an even strength save percentage of .911.
This is certainly the more winnable of the two games for the Sharks, but don’t expect Philadelphia to be a slouch, either. The Flyers are a better team than they were a season ago in terms of possession and Mason is capable of putting together a fine performance in goal regardless of his overall season numbers. It hasn’t been a last 25 games to remember for Philadelphia, as evidenced by the below chart from corsica.hockey, but the Sharks are in no mood to be slump busters either.
For comparison’s sake, here are the Sharks’ numbers over the same period:
Hopefully Tuesday’s poor performance shook off any malaise the Sharks carried over from the holiday break. Go Sharks!