The San Jose Sharks will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight for the second time in 10 days, with the good guys winning the last contest 2-1. Aaron Dell was the story of the game, stopping 31 of 32 shots for the Sharks while Tomas Hertl recorded the game-winning goal with an early third period power-play snipe.
The Sharks enter tonight sitting second place in the Pacific Division with a record of 26-15-7, whereas the Penguins are currently sitting third place in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 27-21-3.
San Jose is coming off a tough 5-4 loss against the New York Rangers Thursday night, which was the result of terrible defensive performances and offensive outbursts for both teams. J.T. Miller was the hero, recording a three point contest and scoring the game winner with only 1:50 remaining in the third period.
The Sharks are set to play their first game since the All-Star break and are currently riding a two-game losing streak, giving up 11 goals within that time.
The Penguins, on the other hand, are riding a two-game winning streak and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. Pittsburgh is coming off a huge 6-3 win against the Minnesota Wild Thursday night in a game where Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby all recorded three points. The Penguins have scored 35 goals over their last 10 games while only giving up 24.
The good news for Sharks fans is that some unexpected names are starting to heat up. Chris Tierney and Kevin Labanc have 10 points combined between them in their last five games. The bad news? Well, the Penguins currently hold a 17-7-1 home record and a five-game home winning streak.
Can the Sharks get back into the win column tonight?
The last two games may have been the most frustrating games of the year so far for San Jose. The Sharks allowed 11 goals in those two games, which has eclipsed the fact that they have scored nine goals in that time. The Sharks are an impressive 5-2-1 in their last eight games and will hope this mini-slide is a fluke to an otherwise solid series of games. Joe Thornton will miss his second straight game of an indefinite number, making this uphill climb even steeper.
How will San Jose stop the powerhouse Penguins team?
The Penguins are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, winning seven out of their last 10 games and outscoring their opponents by 11 goals. Kessel (6), Crosby (8), and Malkin (6) have all been on a tear in their last five games, scoring 20 points between them. The Sharks will have to stop those three dynamic players if they want to have any chance at all in this game.
How will they do that? Well, that depends on one thing.
Will the Sharks find their defensive game?
San Jose has given up a lot of goals recently — 19 in their last five games to be exact. 28-year-old goaltender Aaron Dell has had a rough week and has finally returned to human form after allowing 11 goals in his last two contests. Has the problem been an unproven goalie starting in net? Facing a couple of strong offensive teams? Terrible defensive play? All of the above? Whatever the case, the Sharks will have to be on their game against one of the hottest teams in the league tonight.
Bold Prediction: The two teams will battle back and forth with the Sharks losing 5-4 in overtime. Kessel will have a hat trick for the Penguins and Labanc will counter with a three point game for the Sharks.
Check back later for lines and an open game discussion thread. In the meantime, drop your bold prediction below!