The San Jose Sharks (43-23-8) are slumping hard as they head into playoff territory. They fell 4-2 last night to the Los Angeles Kings (26-39-8), who are definitely not playoff bound. The Sharks are missing key players to illness and injury as the head southbound on the 5 to visit the Anaheim Ducks (30-36-9).
I have really enjoyed writing about the downward spiral this Anaheim Ducks team has been on every week for our Pacific Division Round Up. They were once, believe it or not, on top of the division at one point this season, thanks largely to the strength of their goaltending tandem of John Gibson and Ryan Miller. They’ve had a very rough season between losing players to trade and injury, as well as a big coaching change. The only positive aspect of their 25th anniversary season is their third jersey (and those are really, really good, I must say).
Had this matchup taken place a few weeks ago, I would very happily write this preview all about how the Sharks would dominate this struggling Ducks team. Life comes at you fast, though, and now it seems the shoe may be on the other foot, just a little less intense version. The Sharks are struggling, while the Ducks have found some late-season hope. The Sharks are currently on a four-game losing streak, while the Ducks have won two of their last three. Sure, that’s not saying much, but the Ducks have pulled off some unlikely wins. In the month of March, the Ducks have defeated the Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers, which is more than the Sharks can say in some cases (cough, Florida and Nashville, cough).
The Anaheim Ducks are still heavily relying on Ryan Getzlaf to pull the team together. Currently, he tops the roster with the most points with 13 goals and 33 assists. The Ducks’ captain is a name Sharks fans know well. Remember that one time he fought James Sheppard? 2014 was weird. Anyway, the point I’m making here is he still plays good hockey and can’t be discounted. Jakob Silfverberg and Adam Henrique are two names the Sharks should look out for tonight. Silfverberg leads the team in goals, netting 22 this season. Henrique is just behind Getzlaf in points with 38 points. Daniel Sprong and Devin Shore are also getting hot as the season comes to a close. The Sharks defense will have to keep their eyes on them tonight.
Like the Sharks, the Ducks are also coming off a disappointing loss. They faced the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday and lost 3-0. The Ducks took 29 shots at net, all of which were saved by Connor Hellebuyck. John Gibson manned the net for Anaheim and allowed three goals on 23 shots. Yikes! While the Sharks have their own goaltending issues to figure out, if Gibson is coming back to earth, that’s bad news for the Ducks. If the Sharks focus on putting pucks on net, things may turn around for them.
Who is healthy?
Between injury and illness, this is a great question. Logan Couture sat out against LA last night with flu like symptoms. It’s unknown if he will be hitting the ice tonight, but thankfully the flu isn’t typically a long-term issue and he should be back on the ice soon.
Joe Pavelski, on the other hand, is another question entirely. He made the trip with the Sharks and skated Thursday morning. That is certainly a good sign, but there is definitely an offensive gap without the top goal scorer in the lineup. Couture and Pavelski are such key members of this team and their absence on the ice is clearly noticed. The good news is though, they should be back in the lineup quickly. Maybe not tonight, but definitely before the playoffs.
Erik Karlsson has also made the road trip. With Radim Simek also sidelined, could Karlsson come back soon?
The end of Ryan Kesler?
The Sharks will not meet head-to-head with fan least favorite Ryan Kesler tonight. Kesler’s own personal season has been just as frustrating. He’s been battling a lower-body injury consistently throughout the season. He’s been out since March 6 and hasn’t traveled with the team since. He’s played 60 games this season and has only netted five goals. The 36 year-old’s season with the Ducks is over which makes us all wonder if his time in the NHL has come to a close. As much as we can’t stand the guy on the ice, it would be sad to see him go. Regardless, the Sharks will not see Kesler tonight.
Shutting down Silfverberg
The Ducks just resigned Jakob Silfverberg to a five-year contract. This was probably the best move they’ve made all season. Silfverberg has 22 goals and 12 assists. At one point this season, he carried his injured team as the top point-producer. He has scored over 100 goals in his six seasons as a Duck. The month of March has seen a handful of goals from the Swede. Third overall in point production this season, Silfverberg has been a bright spot in a very dark season for the Ducks. With a struggling blueline, the Sharks will have to be mindful of the man with the five-year contract. He likes to put pucks on the net.
Bold prediction: Corey Perry will out Corey Perry himself, throwing the biggest tantrum in the history of Corey Perry tantrums. I’m talking broken sticks, lots of yelling, and maybe some tears.