Kevin Labanc’s hometown team rolls into SAP Center tonight. The New York Rangers have had a rough start to the season. They are currently dead last in the Metropolitan Division with a 3-7-1 record. Let’s not jump to conclusions that this will be an easy win. The last time these two teams met earlier in the season, the Sharks fell 2-3 in a brief overtime. Brady Skjei had the OT goal, while Henrik Lundqvist had first star of the game with a .953 save percentage.
The Sharks are currently coming off a road trip, and more specifically, another overtime game. This time they pulled off the win against the Anaheim Ducks. Timo Meier showed us that it was indeed Timo Time. He had two goals and an assist, as well as an offside goal we might as well count. He had a strong game that he can hopefully carry over against a struggling Rangers team. Rourke Chartier netted his first NHL goal, another positive note for the Sharks offense. They are sure looking good.
Oh, the New York Rangers, how did you get to this place? The Los Angeles Kings are awful this season, but they did pull off one win this weekend and it was against the Rangers. The Rangers put up a fight, at least. They lost by a goal (3-4) and Lundqvist saved 36 of the 40 shots on goal from L.A. Ryan Spooner, acquired from the Boston Bruins last season, got on the board for the first time this season. Anthony DeAngelo and Vladislav Namestnikov had the other two goals. Prior to facing off against L.A., they lost 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks. They seem to be in a vulnerable position and the Sharks could surely take advantage of it.
Will we see the return of Joe Thornton?
Jumbo Joe made the latest road trip with the team but did not make is return to the line up. Thornton has missed nine games with a knee injury. Though it seemed that maybe he was ready to go, he did not play in Sunday’s game against the Ducks. Prior to hitting the road, he skated an extra 20 minutes after practicing on a line with Logan Couture and Timo Meier. It appears he is getting close, will tonight be the night the beardless Jumbo makes his return?
Getting past Lundqvist?
Though the Rangers performance hasn’t had much to celebrate, Henrik Lundqvist is still good between the pipes. It’s been stated by several Rangers insiders that Lundqvist is maybe the only player on this squad keeping them competitive. Lundqvist has hit the ice with the Rangers for nine games so far this season and although they’ve only won three games, he still has managed a .917 save percentage so far. I think it’s important we don’t underestimate the man with the model-esque looks between the pipes. He is a strong competitor despite the statistics of his teammates. The Sharks will have to be offensively tough if they want to win this game.
Their offense vs. the Sharks’ defense?
What an interesting season both these groups are having. The Sharks’ defensive pairs are strong, but ever changing, apparently. Currently, we have Brenden Dillon playing with Erik Karlsson and a Justin Braun and Marc-Eduard Vlasic reunion. It’s been.. well.. not great. Sloppy turn overs and simple mistakes have left a bit of a hole in the defensive unit. It’s probably nothing to be worried about now, but something to be mindful of going into this game. Here’s to hoping we see a little defensive change up.
As for the Rangers offense, they are struggling. Relying on goaltending to win games isn’t cutting it. Mika Zibanejad leads the Rangers in points with five goals and four assists. The second leading goal scorer is Chris Kreider with four goals. They lack a strong goal scorer this season. These are two players to keep an eye on, but even with the Sharks strange defensive hiccups, they should have a pretty good chance protecting the goal against the Rangers.
Bold Prediction: Erik Karlsson gets a goal. Please. Can we finally have this? I want to celebrate that beautiful, flowing haired man’s first Sharks goal. Especially in front of the home crowd!