Winning feels pretty good. A win against the team who beat you out for the Stanley Cup for the first time since that Cup Final? Even better.
Though Colorado snapped a win streak, the Sharks have won four of their last five games since returning from their bye week. Goaltender Aaron Dell has shined in that time, winning three of those games.
Some familiar names seem to have found their groove, even if they may be doing so a little quieter than usual. Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns have been racking up assists over these last five games. Burns, who is second in scoring in the NHL among defenseman with 37 points so far (he’s behind Dallas’ John Klingberg, who has an impressive 46 points), has earned seven assists in the last five games. Pavelski has five points of his own in those games. With seven and nine goals on the year respectively, it’s not the type of offensive output that we may be used to from these guys, but they’re still very clearly driving the offense.
There’s hardly room to complain about them not scoring goals when they’re often finding the sticks of Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl. Meier has scored in both of the last two games, and has more than twice as many points as last year with 15. Hertl has a point in each of the last three games, including the game winning goal against Pittsburgh last night.
With a tough schedule on the second half of the season, the Sharks may be finding themselves just in time.
The Ducks, on the other hand, can’t seem to find themselves. An injury-riddled season has left them without many of their go-to guys.
Coming into the New Year, the team finally seems healthy. Mike Liambas and Patrick Eaves are on Injured Reserve, but the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and Cam Fowler have all made their return to the ice.
They’ll be coming into tonight hot and rested. They beat both Pittsburgh and the L.A. Kings this week, though they also lost to the Colorado Avalanche. They were off yesterday and are in the middle of a five-game home stand. They’ve got an upper hand in a lot of ways going into tonight’s Pacific Division match up.
The good news is that the Ducks are on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff positions. The Sharks are second in the Pacific, with 56 points. The Ducks are three points back, and three spots out from a wild card thanks to a strong Central Division showing. This head-to-head will be crucial in keeping a playoff run out of reach for Anaheim.
Can they maintain on the second half of a back-to-back?
Traveling on the back end of consecutive nights on the ice has been difficult for this team at times this season. Age and injury get compounded by exhaustion and this schedule is, in a word, exhausting. The Sharks had one of their most complete and well played games last night, but keeping that momentum is a beast of its own. Playing against a rested team makes it all the more difficult.
Will Aaron Dell prove himself on a back-to-back?
This is the first time this season Aaron Dell with start in net two nights in a row. He proved last night that he can handle the bigger and badder teams, but that’s not the only battle that starting goalies face. As the only person on the team playing a full sixty minutes, it’s not as easy to come in fresh for every single game. He’s riding a pretty good high right now, let’s see how he keeps it up.
Can the Sharks win in regulation?
The last time these teams met was twice in November. Both games went into overtime, with the Sharks taking one and the Ducks taking one and everyone walking out with three points from the entire affair. It’s no secret that the Sharks haven’t been too great about not leaving loser points on the table, and that becomes a real issue in a tight divisional race for playoffs. If the Sharks want to widen the Pacific Division gap, the only way to do that is to get the win in three periods.
Bold prediction: Two goals get disallowed. We haven’t had any review drama lately, why not amp it up in a divisional game?
Check back later for lines and an open game discussion thread!