Joe Thornton has been the heart and soul of this Sharks team over the last decade and a half, leading them into the playoffs in 11 out of the 13 years he has been in San Jose. In fact, Thornton has only missed nine out of a possible 540 games over the last 10 years, which really just shows how valuable he is to this team.
“Well, he is such an inspirational guy. He has inspired a couple of those other guys to step up, and now they have a chance to follow his lead,” said GM Doug Wilson in an interview about the knee injury Jumbo suffered against the Jets on Tuesday.
So tonight is their first chance to step up in his absence. The Sharks enter tonight sitting second place in the Pacific Division with a record of 26-14-7, whereas the Rangers are currently sitting sixth place in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 24-20-5.
Though Winnipeg snapped a win streak Tuesday night, the Sharks have still won five out of their last seven games. Goaltender Aaron Dell has shined within that time while making up for the injured starter, Martin Jones.
Over the last seven games, the Sharks have scored 28 goals, averaging four per game, and a big part of that has to go to captain Joe Pavelski who has five points in his last five games. Thornton also had five points in his last five games prior to his injury.
The Rangers, on the other hand have been absolutely awful as of late, losing four out of their last six games and currently on a three-game losing streak. New York is coming off a tough 6-3 loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, thanks to the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who had five points combined between them.
The Rangers have allowed 31 goals on the current six game slide and have not looked like the Rangers team who made it to back to back Stanley Cup Finals just a few years ago.
More good news for Sharks fans is that the Rangers are currently in the bottom five when it comes to their away record, as they are sitting at 7-12-2 on the year. The Sharks are currently 14-6-3 at home and are within the top five.
How will the Sharks look without Joe Thornton?
The Sharks are not used to playing without Jumbo Joe and they will need to find their way without him for “several weeks.” San Jose is sitting high up in a playoff spot right now and will need players such as Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Brent Burns to step up, lead this team, and show Jumbo Joe that the Sharks will win it for him.
Can the Sharks stay hot and extend this little run they are on?
The Sharks have recorded a point in six out of their last seven games going 5-1-1 within that time. Big names such as Pavelski, Burns, and Thornton have stepped up on this current streak, but if the Sharks are going to make a run at the playoffs this year, they will need more contribution from the bottom lines, including a struggling Kevin Lababc and Mikkel Boedker.
Can the Sharks take advantage of a struggling Rangers team?
Fast starts are always important in any game, but fast starts, at home, and against a struggling team? Well, that has the recipe for victory. The Sharks are playing some of their best hockey of the year while the Rangers are playing their worst. San Jose will hope their top five overall home record and fifth overall power play can take advantage of a bottom five road team and 16th best penalty kill.
Bold prediction: The Sharks will come out flying for Jumbo Joe, win the game 6-2 and Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski will each have four point games.
Drop your own bold predictions below and check back later for lines and an open game discussion thread!