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The Daily Chum: Sharks show teeth in playoff-like atmosphere against Chicago

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San Jose is one Joonas Donskoi away from being completely healthy.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

It took time for the offense to click, but San Jose eventually got the goals it coveted on Tuesday night against Chicago in a 3-1 home win that felt like a playoff game from start to finish. Tomas Hertl scored late, his first goal since returning from injury on Thursday, and Patrick Marleau scored his 499th career goal on a special night in San Jose.

Joonas Donskoi is the only significant player missing from the lineup and it appears he’s close to returning, perhaps as soon as Thursday. The Sharks are in business once he gets back. San Jose controlled even-strength possession on Tuesday, dominating the score-adjusted fenwick battle (unblocked shot attempts) 37-24.

Corey Crawford kept the Blackhawks in the game, as did a bit of bad luck, poor finishing and Mikkel Boedker going offside. Crawford made 26 saves on 28 shots on goal in a goalie duel as Martin Jones stopped 24 of the 25 shots he saw. The fans at SAP Center witnessed what the Sharks can be in a tight contest against a good, not great, Chicago team.

San Jose won foot-races to pucks, out-possessed the Blackhawks, scored a power-play goal, got great goaltending and looked to be the better team for all but the start of the third period. If this is the way the Sharks play for the rest of the season and into the playoffs, they’re in business. There’s still room to improve, though.

The third line of Joel Ward - Chris Tierney - Kevin Labanc played quite poorly at worst and treaded water at best when on the ice. That’s not a reflection on the players as individuals so much as it is on the way they blend together (they don’t). This becomes moot if Donskoi returns for the next game, but I’d like to see Labanc return to the second line with Couture, which allows Ward to drop down with Tierney to the fourth line if Hertl becomes the third line center again.

Heck, even if Ryan Carpenter sticks as the fourth line center I wouldn’t mind a fourth line of Ward - Carpenter - Melker Karlsson to give Timo Meier a longer look on the third line with Tierney. The Sharks have the right players on the roster, at least for now, but the perfect lines haven’t come together yet. Marleau has proven he can play anywhere in the top nine and be successful and Hertl can play on the top line or as the third line center. Those two moves reshape the entirety of the lineup.

This offers Pete DeBoer some tough decisions without any wrong answers; they offer varying degrees of rightness. With more than 20 games to go, San Jose has plenty of time to get everything clicking before the playoffs start. Now it’s time to start building a cushion; the Sharks haven’t won a Pacific title since 2011. This seems like a fine year to change that.