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Sharks at Flames preview: San Jose stuck soul searching sans Donskoi

The injuries piled up for the Sharks against the Edmonton Oilers earlier this week.

Dec 28, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic (24) passes the puck in the game against the San Jose Sharks during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose
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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks have won five of their last seven games. They’ll meet a Calgary team tonight that has lost five of its last eight contests. At the moment, Calgary is not on track to make the playoffs, while San Jose remains on pace to keep the second playoff slot in the Pacific.

The Sharks’ recent record belies somewhat their underlying performance, as Team Teal has collected just 50 percent of score- and venue-adjusted shots at 5v5 during their latest seven-game stretch. In some ways, it’s the same old story. Their offense continues to hum along while their defense keeps allowing shots of all varieties.

The Flames, on the other hand, have been the best team in the league during their past eight games, collecting nearly 60 percent of all score- and venue-adjusted shots at 5v5. A 5.8% shooting percentage is likely to blame for Calgary not turning those shots into more standings points. During that same stretch, Calgary has taken a league-high 57 unblocked shots per hour — four shots more per 60 minutes than the next best team in that category.

How Will San Jose manage injuries in their top-6?

During the last game in Edmonton, both Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi suffered injuries. Kane would eventually return to the game after a first-period absence, but the thought is that Donskoi’s injury is a bit more serious. Neither skater participated in the morning skate ahead of tonight’s game. Donskoi has arguably been the Sharks’ best forward after Joe Thornton, and Kane has long been an offensive dynamo. How San Jose steps up in those players’ absences will tell us a lot about how the strength of this team’s depth.

Can Martin Jones withstand the likely onslaught?

San Jose’s defense hasn’t been awful, but it has not been good. A chart of the team’s unblocked shots against on a rolling five-game basis shows a team that has allowed more and more shots as the season has transpired. If Calgary maintains its recent strong offensive play, Martin Jones is going to be in for a big workload, especially on the road. Jones has enjoyed his best statistical season as a starter this year, so he should be up for the challenge. Still, no goalie is going to be able to stand up to what could amount to a hefty barrage of rubber.

How will Hansen and Sorensen handle a top-6 role?

As of this morning’s skate — and again, these lines are subject to change pending Kane and Donskoi’s health — Marcus Sorensen and Jannik Hansen are playing alongside Joe Pavelski on one of the team’s two top lines. Hansen has been a solid and relatively positive contributor in a bottom-6 role, and Sorensen has struggled in a fourth-line position without the right teammates. We’ll have to watch to see if Pavelski can unite the wingers into a solid line or enjoy another Pete DeBoer line blender early in this game.

If there’s a weakness to this Calgary team (even right now), it’s the team’s depth. After the Sean Monahan / Johnny Hockey and 3M lines, their forward depth peters out some. If the Sharks can neutralize those first two dangerous groups and put together solid bottom-6 performances, they should be able to walk out of Calgary with another W.