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Flames at Sharks Preview: Here’s where the fun begins

Prepare for trouble! Make it double!

Jonah Gadjovich #42 of the San Jose Sharks and Dennis Gilbert #48 of the Calgary Flames exchange punches in a fight during the second period at SAP Center on December 18, 2022 in San Jose, California. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Calgary Flames (14-12-6, fifth Pacific) wrap up a two-game series at The Tank on Tuesday, taking on the San Jose Sharks (10-17-6, seventh Pacific) once again. The first game of this series on Sunday night featured a third-period implosion and a 5-2 Flames win.

San Jose made a few moves on Monday, sending defender Nick Cicek and forward C.J. Suess back to the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda. This clears the way for defender Mario Ferraro to be activated off injured reserve. Ferraro suffered a foot injury on Nov. 25 in a 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, blocking a shot from Viktor Arvidsson in the first period and laboring through the game. He was placed on IR on Nov. 27 and has missed the last 10 games. If Ferraro does return, Scott Harrington appears to be the odd man out on the blue line.

Tomas Hertl had a meeting with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Monday and has been suspended two games for a high stick on Elias Lindholm during the third period of Sunday’s game. He will miss both Tuesday’s game and the game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.

Facing off against each other twice in three days means tomorrow’s game could get very chippy. Jonah Gadjovich and Dennis Gilbert had one of the most entertaining tilts in recent memory on Sunday night — could we see a rematch? Or maybe a rumble between Gadjovich and Milan Lucic, as Gadjovich continues to work his way up the NHL weight class.

The Sharks look to be getting healthier, as Luke Kunin is the only player on IR at the moment, pending the return of Mario Ferraro. As for the Flames, Christopher Tanev and Oliver Kylington are on IR. Tanev took a puck to the head on Dec. 12 against the Montreal Canadiens, but could make his return on Tuesday. Kylington has been out all season with a personal matter. Radim Zohorna missed Sunday’s game with an illness. Dennis Gilbert also did not return to Sunday’s game after his tilt with Gadjovich for precautionary reasons.

Where has the secondary scoring gone?

Over the weekend, the Sharks scored four total goals against the Kings and Flames. A comprehensive list of players who scored or assisted on those goals:

  • Timo Meier: 2 goals, 1 assist
  • Erik Karlsson: 3 assists
  • Tomas Hertl: 1 goal, 1 assist
  • Logan Couture: 2 assists
  • Kevin Labanc: 1 goal

That’s the list.

The Sharks continue to be a top-heavy team, but have gotten very little contribution from the depth forwards.

Calgary has struggled this year trying to get a new roster to gel, but have been getting a more even distribution of scoring. While Elias Lindholm would tie with Couture for fourth in team scoring with 28 points, the drop-off behind the top scorers and the depth players is not as severe. After Couture, Barabanov ranks fifth in points with 19, nine points behind. The Flames have five players between the 19 and 28 point mark, and 18 players that have hit double digits.

In November, the Sharks finished ninth in scoring, with 3.53 goals per game. So far in December, the team has dropped to 15th, with 3.29. San Jose been able to keep most games entertaining because of their ability to score goals. If the stars are not going to get any support from the secondary scoring, it’s going to be a long road to the trade deadline.

James Reimer, ready to save the day?

After a little bit of a rusty return against the Arizona Coyotes, James Reimer was lights out in LA. He dragged the Sharks toward earning a point and probably would have won the game, if they’d let him shoot in the shootout.

Quick aside: After five rounds of the shootout, the goaltenders should be allowed to shot from center ice, but with the goalie target. 1 point for the bottom corners, 3 points for the five hole and 5 points for the top corners. Each goalie gets 3 shots. I’m available to talk whenever you’re ready to bring this to life, Mr. Bettman.

Goalie Target
Goalie Target

Reimer faced 17 high-danger shots on Saturday against the Kings and turned away all but one. The Flames didn’t generate a ton of high-danger shots on Sunday, but took advantage of the ones that they did create, scoring on two of their nine shots. Reimer will probably have his hands full again on Tuesday and be called upon to keep San Jose in a game that they probably won’t deserve to win.

Who plays 2C?

With Tomas Hertl out for the next two games, Logan Couture is the presumed first-line center, but who will play on the second line with Barabanov?

Nico Sturm and Nick Bonino are the obvious candidates. Bonino has struggled playing center this season and was replaced by Nico Sturm as the third line center. In a pinch, could we see a second line of Matt Nieto, Nick Bonino and Alexander Barabanov? Or does Sturm jump up to play second line to create a Bonino, Sturm and Barabanov line?

The main issue this causes is that the only player left with any real center experience is Luke Kunin and he is on IR. The team could look to the Barracuda to add a center. C.J. Suess was just sent down, but could be recalled to add some depth. Jeffrey Viel is also an option, since he was also called up earlier this season.

But with a glaring whole at second line center, may I present one Thomas Bordeleau? Bordeleau ranks first in goals (12) among rookie AHL skaters and third in points (18). He chipped in five assists in his eight NHL games last season. Plus, he could be a big addition to the power play’s second unit.

Bold Prediction: Without Hertl, the Sharks struggle to generate offense and the middle-six get caved in. Flames romp 4-1, despite James Reimer making 35 saves.