[Open Thread] Game Thirty-Five: Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks

3rd in Pacific Division
8th in Western Conference
2nd in Pacific Division
6th in Western Conference

The War To Settle The Score.

The Brawl To End It All.

"Oh, good grief -- you again?!!"

The water fowl and the sea predators get it on for the third time in a week tonight at the Tank.  The Sharks have lost two straight, both at home, while the Ducks are riding a modest two game winning streak, the first one at the expense of San Jose.

To the surprise of no one, Anaheim's defense has tightened up considerably since Scott Niedermayer ended his extended summer vacation three games ago.  Meanwhile, San Jose's offense has gone south for the winter in the past few games, having retreated into their So Scared Mako method of pass first, second, and last with less mobility than a table hockey game with a warped playing surface.  Not good.

Los Tiburones de San José had a two hour players and general manager Doug Wilson-only meeting yesterday trying to sort out why a team with Stanley Cup-level talent can't be bothered to show up for more than a game at a time before mailing the next one (or several) in.  The phrase "lack of leadership" was one of the few whispers about what was said.  Interpret that as you will.

To me, it means Patrick Marleau needs to get off his dorsal fin and start installing some fire in his teammates and more importantly himself.  Watching the last game, with Phoenix's captain Shane Doan and his "follow me boys" on-ice demeanor as he plays every shift like it's his last, constantly challenging not only the other team but his own to match his intensity, makes me wonder what it would be like to have a captain like that.  I'm not really on the "trade Marleau" bandwagon, but I'm not averse to the prospect if it means bringing in someone who might have a slightly lower skill level but more than compensates for it with personal fire and sharing same with those wearing the same color sweater.

There will reportedly be some line changes tonight, with Jeremy Roenick joining Devin Setoguchi and Joe Thornton as the first unit.  Milan Michalek will be with Marleau and Steve Bernier, and Patrick Rissmiller plus Torrey Mitchell and Mike Grier will be the third line.  The fourth will be Joe Pavelski and Rob Davison along with whoever draws the double-shift assignment, since you'll probably see seven defensemen.

So what will happen tonight?  Will the Sharks show up?  How will Anaheim respond?  This could get interesting.