The San Jose Sharks face off tonight against the Dallas Stars, looking to snap a losing streak on the first night of a difficult back-to-back in the Central Division.
If you feel as if you’ve seen this movie before, it’s because you have. On Monday, the Stars shut out the Sharks on the first night of San Jose’s other back-to-back in the Central Division this week.
Since Monday, the plot has thickened, and the Sharks enter the American Airlines Center under more difficult circumstances. Their losing streak stands at four, not two, games as it did on Monday, and their lead in the Pacific Division stands at two, not four, points.
San Jose needn’t worry too much just yet, as they have four more regulation and overtime wins (ROW) than second place Anaheim. But a win would allow the Sharks to, at worst, keep pace with the Ducks, who host Winnipeg tonight.
A trio of players returning from illness and injury would certainly help matters. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (flu), Jannik Hansen (upper body), and Melker Karlsson (lower body) all skated yesterday, according to reporters on the scene.
Head coach Peter DeBoer was not yet ready to clear the latter two for a return, But, he indicated that Vlasic (as well as the rest of the team) did not show any flu symptoms, and should be ready for a return to the lineup tonight.
If Hansen and Karlsson cannot play, don’t expect too many changes from Tuesday night’s loss in Minnesota. The lines remained the same at practice yesterday, albeit with Danny O’Regan working in with the fourth line. But since Sorensen and Haley remained where they started on Tuesday night, it’s a safe bet they will remain in, barring Hansen and/or Karlsson’s return.
I’d also expect Aaron Dell to get the nod in net, and for Martin Jones to start tomorrow night against a stronger Nashville squad. Dell was not tested much on Monday, but put up another solid performance and maintained his hold on the lead in even strength save percentage among goalies that have played a minimum of 500 minutes.
With Dell (potentially) in net again, the Sharks may feel as if they’ve seen this movie before. This time, though, they’ll hope for a better ending.