Less than a week ago, the San Jose Sharks (19-21-3, 6th Pacific) walked into Nationwide Arena in Columbus and walked out with two points. It was one of the Sharks' better wins of the season. They came out hard against the Columbus Blue Jackets (21-15-8, 6th Metropolitan) and despite the early start time, the Sharks scored the first goal of the game and held the lead for more than half of the game. The team received solid goaltending in the 3-2 win and it looked like things were starting to come together.
Now, San Jose faces some serious adversity. Captain Logan Couture is out for weeks with a fractured ankle and the young players are being asked to step up. It’s a difficult request. Management has asked the young guys to step up since the start of the season and look where they are. Filling the void left behind by the team’s leading scorer is likely too much to ask.
Meanwhile, Columbus is trending in the right direction. The Blue Jackets rightly made mincemeat of our friends to the south. They chewed up the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 on Monday and then rolled right over the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 on Tuesday. Columbus is searching for that California sweep and San Jose is the only thing standing in the way.
For the Blue Jackets, Zach Werenski continues to pad his stats since scoring two goals against the Sharks last Saturday. The defenseman has 8 points (7 goals, 1 assist) in his last five games. He scored two goals on Tuesday night in Anaheim.
Also keep an eye on Pierre-Luc Dubois and former Shark Gustav Nyquist. Both have surpassed the 30-point mark this season. Dubois has 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) and Nyquist has 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) to date.
In net, Elvis Merzlinkins is expected to get the start. The young netminder stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced against the Sharks on Saturday.
With Couture out, Antti Suomela will slot in and take up the center spot on the second line. Tomas Hertl will be asked to take another step in his development and try out that 1C role. And in what appears to be a trend, Aaron Dell gets the nod in net. It looks like Head Coach Bob Boughner is starting to think of Dell as his number one.
Expected Scratches: Joachim Blichfeld, Tim Heed
Injured Reserve: Logan Couture (fractured ankle), Dalton Prout (upper body)
On the other side of the ice, this is what NHL.com predicts:
Gustav Nyquist — Pierre-Luc Dubois — Nathan Gerbe
Sonny Milano — Boone Jenner — Nick Foligno
Emil Bemstrom — Alexander Wennberg — Kevin Stenlund
Jakob Lilja — Riley Nash — Eric Robinson
Zach Werenski — Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov — David Savard
Scott Harrington — Markus Nutivaara
Expected Scratches: Ryan MacInnis, Gabriel Carlsson
Injured Reserve: Brandon Dubinsky (wrist), Ryan Murray (lower-body), Josh Anderson (shoulder), Andrew Peeke (fractured finger), Cam Atkinson (ankle), Oliver Bjorkstrand (rib, oblique), Alexandre Texier (lumbar stress fracture), Dean Kukan (torn meniscus), Joonas Korpisalo (day-to-day, knee)
Where to Watch
Puck drop is at SAP Center at 7:30 PT/10:30 ET. Tonight’s broadcast will be available on NBC Sports California in the Bay Area and on Fox Sports Ohio for the visitors’ market. Streaming will be available on NHLtv. The radio call will be on 98.5 KFOX or available to stream through the Sharks + SAP Center app.