The last time the San Jose Sharks paid a visit to the Pepsi Center, they allowed three unanswered goals in the first period and were basically out of the game before it even got underway. Today, they’ll look to get a little revenge against a Colorado Avalanche team that’s without its top scorer Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon is out at least another week with an upper body injury, though it’s likely to be longer.
As of this morning, the Sharks are second in the Pacific Division with 64 points and a 28-16-8 record. The Avalanche are sixth in the Central Division with 60 points and a 28-19-4 record. They are one point away from the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
San Jose is coming off back-to-back 3-1 wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday and the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. The Sharks played a complete game on Sunday, giving the Hurricanes very little opportunity to score.
The Avalanche, meanwhile, are struggling to score without MacKinnon. They were blanked by the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 on Saturday.
These are two teams working to find their identities without a major piece of their offense. It should be interesting to have them face off — last time, MacKinnon scored two goals while Thornton notched one of his own.
Can the Labanc continue to cash in?
Kevin Labanc was held off the score sheet in Sunday’s win over the Hurricanes, but has been a more than point-per-game player in his last five games. He has six points (two goals, four assists) in that span. Playing a top-six role has certainly contributed to those numbers, but he’ll need to continue to score if he wants to stay on the wing of the likes of Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.
Can the Sharks continue to make defense a priority?
Whether it’s been Martin Jones or Aaron Dell in net, the Sharks have held opponents to just one goal in each of their last three games. That’s thanks in large part to defensive responsibility by both the forwards and defensemen and a punishing forecheck that’s tilted the ice in the Sharks’ favor. Both will be very important tonight against a younger and faster Colorado squad.
Will Danny O’Regan be back in the lineup tonight?
Make no mistake, O’Regan was almost 100% responsible for Carolina’s lone goal on Sunday. He made an horrific turnover in the Sharks zone that led to an easy goal for the Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho. However, after the game, Sharks’ head coach Peter DeBoer said he was happy with O’Regan’s efforts and even said it was one of the 24-year-old’s better games as an NHLer. It will be interesting to see if O’Regan slots back in on the fourth line or if a healthy Marcus Sorensen or Jannik Hansen get a shot.
Bold Predicton: The Sharks win 4-3 in overtime with Kevin Labanc scoring the game winner. Martin Jones will be back in net and showing he’s recovered from whatever ailed him. He’ll let a weak one in, but will buckle down and make some spectacular saves to send the game into OT. That’s when Labanc will score the game winner thanks to a strong defensive play and up ice feed from Marc-Edouard Vlasic. (Hey, we said bold didn’t we?)
Check out the game thread for lines and an open game discussion.