Sharks at Stars Preview: Keeping the heat in Texas

The Stars are on a three-game win streak, while the Sharks are coming off a 5-1 win. Who will stay hot?

The San Jose Sharks (14-10-5, 3rd Pacific) had a very impressive 5-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. The Dallas Stars (15-10-3, 4th Central) are also impressing, looking to keep their three-game winning streak alive with a victory over the Sharks tonight. The Stars are a bit like the Sharks, going through waves of success and mediocrity this season. They’ve had big wins and disappointing losses.

The last time these teams met was early in November. The Sharks fell short, 3-4, in Dallas. Devin Shore had two goals for the Stars, while Tyler Seguin and Gemel Smith each netted one. Gemel Smith was placed on waivers this week and claimed by the Boston Bruins on Thursday. In fourteen games, Smith had two goals and an assist. Though he scored on the Sharks the last time these teams met, I don’t think his impact will be missed tonight. As for the Sharks, Martin Jones was in net and made 18 saves. Jones is coming off an impressive win, making 39 saves. I think it’ll be Aaron Dell’s time in net, but we never know for certain with Pete DeBoer.

The Dallas Stars played three Pacific division teams last week and won all three. The first was a 4-3 overtime win against the Calgary Flames. Anton Khudobin was in net and made 30 saves. They faced the Vancouver Canucks next, beating them 2-1. Jamie Benn had a goal and an assist and Ben Bishop was back in net with a .960 save percentage. The third win added to their streak came against the Edmonton Oilers. Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn, Jason Dickinson and Esa Lindell all had goals in the 4-1 victory. Khudobin was in net and made 28 saves.

Tyler Seguin leads the team in points with 26 (8 goals, 18 assists). Jamie Benn sits closely behind him with 24 (12 goals, 12 assists). Jamie Benn leads the team in goals, so the Sharks’ defensive core will have to keep their eyes on him. After a successfully defended game against the Carolina Hurricanes where the Sharks were out-shot and out-chanced, if the Sharks’ defense plays another game as strong as that, Benn should be no problem for them. Forward Martin Hanzal will make his return to the Stars lineup tonight against the Sharks after having back surgery in February. Hanzal played 38 games with the Stars before sustaining the injury where he had five goals and five assists. Also, Roman Polak plays for the Stars now and has a whopping one point. Remember him?

Goaltending? Again?

The Stars have two pretty solid options to put between the pipes tonight. Ben Bishop sustained a lower-body injury and just recently made his return to the lineup after missing 11 days on the ice. The Stars obtained Anton Khudobin from the Bruins and have put him to the test this season. He’s played 13 games with six wins and five losses, a .915 save percentage. Bishop has played 16 games with nine wins and five losses, .925 save percentage. Bishop has two shutouts and averages about 2.25 goals against allowed. Khudobin has no shutouts this season and averages about 2.70 goals against. Both goalies have stepped up to the plate this season and either could be a tough match up for the Sharks.

Special teams?

The San Jose Sharks have the third best penalty kill in the league. The Dallas Stars had a terrible power play last season, sitting 20th in the NHL while the Sharks were 2nd. Now, the Stars sing a different tune. They are currently 5th in the NHL for penalty kills. When it comes to the Stars on the power play, they’re 24th in power play goals, so the Sharks shouldn’t be too concerned in that department.

The Sharks should chill with penalty minutes, though, since the Stars are 5th in the league when it comes to penalty kills. Evander Kane currently leads the team in penalties with 18, spending 15 minutes in the box. His closest contender is former Star Brenden Dillon, who has 8 penalties, spending 8 minutes in the box. The Sharks have a pretty good special teams unit, but the Stars have gotten their kill together. The Sharks should be careful.

Coaching woes?

Pete Deboer made a bold move and completely adjusted the Sharks’ coaching staff prior to Wednesday’s game. Steve Spott, who coached forwards, is now coaching defensemen. Dave Barr will be working with forwards now and Rob Zetter will play special assistant, or “eye in the sky.” Maybe this is the push the Sharks needed? They had a great game against the Hurricanes. Timo Meier made his return and had a goal and an assist. Joe Pavelski netted his 18th of the season, while Barclay Goodrow got back on the scoreboard with a goal. Joe Thornton had three assists while Kevin Labanc had two. Justin Braun even had a strong game, playing Carolina hard on defense. Will this coaching switch be a permanent solution? Or will the Sharks need to make a bigger coaching shift?

Bold prediction: Martin Jones plays in net again and shuts out the Stars 6-0.

The Sharks play a back-to-back following Dallas, facing off against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. Dallas visits the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.