Sharks at Golden Knights Preview: Let it ride

San Jose is looking to make it three wins in a row.

For the first time this season, the San Jose Sharks (5-9-3, sixth Pacific) have a win streak. So, naturally, the team will head to Las Vegas to play one of the best teams in the league, the Vegas Golden Knights (13-3-0, first Pacific) for the second go-around for the division rivals this season. The last one didn’t go very well — on Oct. 25, a third period meltdown by San Jose allowed Vegas to score three unanswered goals and win the game 4-2 in regulation.

If the Sharks can play the full 60 minutes this time, the team has a shot at winning. San Jose  is coming off of two strong showings, first weathering a third period push by the Dallas Stars on Friday to win 5-4 in regulation. Then, on Sunday, San Jose pushed back against a 2-0 lead by the Minnesota Wild to win it in the shootout, 3-2. The Sharks scored two goals in the final seven minutes of the game to send it to overtime. That’s a good response from a team that hasn’t been particularly resilient this season.

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights suffered the team’s third loss of the season on Saturday night to the St. Louis Blues. The Blues scored two goals in the second period and then held the Golden Knights scoreless in the third for the 3-2 win.

If the Sharks want to win, the goal for the night will be a defensive lockdown and support for whomever is in net. The Golden Knights average 3.7 goals per game, led by Jack Eichel who has scored 9 goals this season. Reilly Smith is second on the team with 8 goals, and Jonathan Marchessault has 6 goals this season. He is always a scoring threat when he plays the Sharks.

The deck is stacked against San Jose

The stats aren’t good. Despite postseason success, the Sharks do not play well against the Golden Knights. In the regular season, San Jose is 5-16-3 all-time against Vegas since the latter team entered the league. The lone win in the last 13 games against the Golden Knights came in April of last season, when San Jose helped to spoil Vegas’ playoff prospects.

That said, both teams get fired up for these games. There was bad blood between the pair almost from the start and while the odds aren’t in San Jose’s favor, it’s bound to be a feisty game, especially given how the Sharks played on Sunday.

Play the special teams percentages

The Sharks aren’t better than the Golden Knights in much, but the one place where the team is outperforming Vegas is special teams. San Jose’s power play is middling at 20 percent, good enough for 17th in the NHL. Meanwhile, Vegas’ penalty kill is operating at just 76.9 percent, ranking it 19th in the league.

On the flip side of the coin, the Sharks’ penalty kill is running at 90.5 percent, second in the league, while the Golden Knights’ power play has converted 23.9 percent of the time, 11th in the league. If the power play can get going, San Jose has a chance to win the game.

Who replaces Radim Simek?

Just one shift into the game against the Wild and Radim Simek left after a hit to the head.

Mason Shaw will not face supplemental discipline after the play. There was no call on the ice and Simek left the game and did not return.

No one’s sure how much time he may miss. Scott Harrington is on the trip and ready to slot in. Harrington has only played two games for the Sharks this season; the last was on Oct. 22 against the New Jersey Devils, where he had one assist.

If the coaches decide not to go with Harrington, there are a few options just a short plane ride away with the San Jose Barracuda. Derrick Pouliot is an option, considering he has more than 200 NHL games to his name. Artemi Kniazev, Nick Cicek and Santeri Hatakka are other options for management, if they don’t want Harrington or Pouliot or want to see what one of the younger guys could bring to the table.

Bold Prediction: It’s going to be a big night for the third line, most specifically Nico Sturm. Sturm has found a way to spark the offense at key times this season and I think this game will be one of those occasions. While the Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture lines will be stalled going head-to-head with Vegas’ top lines, it will be Sturm’s line that pulls the Sharks through. Sharks win in a scrappy dog fight.