With a win over the St. Louis Blues (36-25-6, 3rd Central) today, the hosting San Jose Sharks (40-19-8, 2nd Pacific) can bypass the Calgary Flames for first place in the Pacific division. The Flames, idle until they host the Vegas Golden Knights tomorrow, sit a single paltry point ahead of our Sharks, ripe for the overtaking. All the Sharks have to do is beat the plummeting Blues, who have underachieved all season to the point that they sit third in the Central.
Wait, does that say third? What happened? Jordan Binnington? Is that Craig Berube’s butler?
After a headline breaking disastrous start the season, the Blues have turned their fortunes 180 degrees and, with a 15-3-1 record in their last 19 games, will pose a serious challenge to a Sharks team that looked sleepy and sloppy in their 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
If there’s hope for the Sharks at all, it’s that the shine seems to be finally wearing off of this year’s Andrew Hammond, as St. Louis has allowed four or more goals in three of their last four games, the lone standout being Thursday’s 4-0 shut out of the Los Angeles Kings (a game Jake Allen started). Binnington started two of those three games, and is likely to start again today, after his magical run stole the job away from Allen, a man away from whom jobs seem prone to being stolen.
The Sharks are on a run of their own, however, and their 12-3-1 record in their last 16 has been enough to overcome what was a nigh-insurmountable gap between them and the first place Flames a few weeks ago. Calgary did their part, no doubt, failing to record a single point in their last four games, but the Sharks have outscored their opponents 14-7 in three straight wins, as offense has been the key to their success all season long.
The Joe Thornton watch continues apace as well, as the gentle giant is one point shy of tying Stan Mikita for 14th place on the NHL’s all time points list at 1467. A point-per-game player in his last 13 appearances (4-9-13), the odds are pretty good that Thornton hits yet another milestone in a season full of them.
Goals will need to come early and often if the Sharks are to overcome a Blues team that seems hell-bent on making some serious noise this year, but with the offensive talent boasted by this San Jose team, they should be more than up for the challenge.
Expected scratches: Joakim Ryan, Lukas Radil, Dylan Gambrell
Injured reserve: Erik Karlsson (groin), Evander Kane (undisclosed)
As reported earlier this week, Karlsson is likely out of the Sharks’ lineup until the post-season or just prior. There has been no work on Kane’s availability just yet, but you’ll know as soon as we do.
Blues (via NHL.com)
Brayden Schenn — Ryan O’Reilly — Vladimir Tarasenko
Pat Maroon — Tyler Bozak — Robert Thomas
Jaden Schwartz — Oskar Sundqvist — Alexander Steen
Mackenzie MacEachern — Ivan Barbashev — Sammy Blais
Joel Edmundson — Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester — Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn — Robert Bortuzzo
Expected scratches: Zach Sanford, Robby Fabbri, Michael Del Zotto
Injured reserve: David Perron (upper body)
Head coach Berube has declined to clarify who he’ll start in net this afternoon, but all signs point to Binnington. Allen has started five games of the team’s last 21, and all of them have been back-to-back situations.
We all know by now that today is Brent Burns’ birthday, but you may not know that it’s also Mackenzie MacEachern’s. Maybe let him have one or two, he seems like a sweet boy.
Where to watch
Puck drop is at 1:00 p.m. Pacific/3:00 p.m. Central at your very own SAP Center in sunny(ish) San Jose. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports California in the bay area, Fox Sports Midwest in the river city, and the NHL Network everywhere else. For the dulcet tones of radio hockey, tune into 98.5 KFOX in San Jose or through the Sharks App.
Due to the early start time and our pesky loving families, there will not be a running liveblog, but check back here at puck drop and throughout the game for the regular festivities of the gamethread.
Bake ‘em away, toys.