The San Jose Sharks (13-10-5, 3rd Pacific) head back to SAP Center after a disappointing East Coast road trip to face the Carolina Hurricanes (12-10-4, 5th Metropolitan). The Carolina Hurricanes have been fun to watch this year, somewhat because they actually aren’t half bad, but mostly because of that fun post-win ceremony they put on for their fans at home. Hockey media has had a field day with this ceremony, but all of us here at Fear the Fin fully support it.
The Sharks’ road trip was a rough one I’m sure we’re all trying to forget. The Sharks head home with only one win in four games played. The lone victory was over the Montreal Canadiens, where Martin Jones made 40 saves on the second half of a back-to-back, skating away with a .976. Jones hasn’t been in his best form this season and goaltending concerns continue to linger, but it was great to see him shine after a dark period.
Another bright patch on this rocky road trip came from Brent Burns. Though Erik Karlsson seems to be taking all the blame for the struggling Sharks defense, Brent Burns didn’t score a goal the entire month of November, a 15-game drought. We saw something similar last season — Burns struggling to heat up early has become a trend, it seems. He has four goals on the season, but 25 assists. He produces, of course, but not in the way we are used to.
The Carolina Hurricanes are not half-bad this season. They’re running a pretty decent campaign so far, sitting in the middle of the Metropolitan Division’s standings after some early season dominance. Sebastian Aho leads the team in points with 26 (7 goals, 19 assists). Michael Ferland leads the team in goals, putting 11 pucks in the net so far.
Though the Canes top the NHL with shots on goal (1,007) they only have 65 goals, meaning they’re shooting at just 6.5 percent. Their top goal scorer has 11 goals and second in line are Aho and Jordan Martinook with seven each. Point production has not been the highlight of their season.
Neither has goaltending. In a strange turn of events, the Carolina Hurricanes placed starting goaltender Scott Darling on waivers. He’s playing for the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers. Darling sustained an early season injury and never snapped back into form. He is currently on a four-year, $16.6 million deal with Carolina. Darling has a 15-25-8 record with Carolina after coming from the Chicago Blackhawks in 2017.
The Canes have opted instead to start Curtis McElhinney, acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs off waivers earlier this year, and his performance in goal seems to be good enough for now. He has seven wins and two losses in ten games with the Canes, allowing 2.10 goals on average with a .930 save percentage. Petr Mrazek has been playing backup, with three wins and four losses in nine games.
The Canes kicked off their California road trip on a low note, being shutout by Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings. Quick recently made his return to the Kings’ lineup and racked up his first shutout of the season. The 2-0 loss saw some good scoring opportunities but the Canes failed to get pucks on net. Former Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton led the team in shots on goal with six.
Down on their luck or desperate for a win?
Both teams are coming off losses. Sure, the Sharks won their last game against the Montreal Canadiens, but the road trip on the whole was a massive loss for a team that is as strong on paper as it’s ever been. This is a team who is desperate to get back into the win column. The Sharks could capitalize on the goaltending drama and struggling Hurricanes offense.
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, kicked off their Pacific road trip with a shutout loss to a notoriously bad team this season. The California road trip is not an easy one and losing to the worst team in the state isn’t a fun place to start. Carolina could be down on their luck or desperate for a win. Who will be more desperate to win this game? It feels like a toss up to me.
Who in the world will be in goal?
Another question that goes for both teams. Martin Jones is coming off a back-to-back with one win and one 6-2 loss. Allowing six goals and playing a game right after probably wasn’t the best idea, but the Sharks did win that game. It’s probably Aaron Dell’s time to man the goal, but knowing how this Sharks starting lineup is going, goaltending decisions haven’t exactly come down to things like logic. As for the Canes, we should see McEhlinney in net. Petr Mrazek started in net against the Kings and came away with a .971 save percentage. Maybe they’ll stick with him in net today, but I think they’ll make a change.
As of Tuesday, Timo Meier is said to be healthy. His injury is still undisclosed, but he practiced on the Joe Thornton line this week. It’s believed that Meier will be back in the lineup tonight. The Sharks need some offensive help and we know what the Sharks look like when Timo time hits the clocks. His return could be greatly beneficial to tonight’s game.
Bold prediction: Brent Burns scores his fifth goal of the season. I’m done riding the “Erik Karlsson must score” train, let’s put Brent Burns on the hot seat.