In game number one of a four-game East Coast road trip, the San Jose Sharks will be facing the Philadelphia Flyers for the second and final time this season. The last time these two teams met, Kevin Labanc was hungry for a hatty, but the honor went to Wayne Simmonds, helping the Flyers beat San Jose in their home opener.
That rare feeling of hope for the Flyers has since fleeted — they are currently on an eight game losing streak. Their home ice advantage gets effectively wiped out by the fact that they played last night (a 5-4 overtime loss to their rival Pittsburgh Penguins) while the Sharks are well-rested, having last played in their shut out win against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
With Martin Jones’ health in question, Aaron Dell will see some ice time tonight, with recent call-up Antoine Bibeau backing him up. The schedule on this road trip is tight, as the final three games are over just four days, so a win tonight could be important in keeping Dell’s confidence up through the rest of the trip and against tougher competition (Tampa Bay...hello).
Both teams are struggling to produce offense, but there’s still a significant gap in scoring between the points leaders of these two teams. Philadelphia has Jakub Voracek (29), Claude Giroux (27), and Sean Couturier (26) leading the pack. Meanwhile, no one on the Sharks’ roster has hit 20 points yet, the closest being Logan Couture at 19.
Special teams may be the story tonight. The Sharks’ penalty kill is second in the league at 88 percent, while the Flyers are 28th in the league at 75 percent. Even with the Sharks’ weak power play (16.9%, 24th overall), there should be opportunities to capitalize on a weak kill from the Flyers. Alternatively, the Flyers’ 16th overall (19.2%) power play could test a strong Sharks penalty kill.
I chatted with Steph Driver from Broad Street Hockey to preview tonight’s match up. Check out that video below.
Puck drop is early out in the Bay, with a 7 pm Eastern/4 pm Pacific start.