Sharks Gameday: Gonna Be A Barnburner
|15-5-2, 32 points||16-5-4, 36 points |
|2nd in Western Conference ||1st in Western Conference |
[Update 10:19 AM]: According to a Worcester Sharks press release from Eric Lindquist, three players were called up today-- Ferriero, Zalewski, and Callahan. I'm assuming this means Boyle will be out tonight as he hasn't been skating since Anaheim where he was shaken up after blocking a shot. He was trying to skate it off during the entire commercial break afterwards; hopefully this is not another case akin to Pavelski (which also occurred against Anaheim-- when they can't beat you they still end up beating you apparently). While the loss of Blake hasn't hurt with Joslin's steady play, losing Boyle means the D corps will be looking mighty thin. Definitely not the best of news, and stay tuned for an update from Pollak.
Marian Hossa returns tonight for his first game in a Blackhawk uniform after recovering from shoulder surgery performed this past offseason, and will find himself placed on the first line between Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. While they may not be quite as prolific as their San Jose counterparts (Heatley-Thornton-Marleau), it should be interesting to see how McLellan attacks them-- does he hard match big guns against big guns like he did against Anaheim early in last year's postseason series, or does he try and split the time between Malhotra/Pavelski in order to give Thornton & Co. some better looks? This is one of those games where I don't think San Jose's big guys stick together on the same line for too long-- Chicago is so deep that it may be wise to spread out your scoring, especially with Devin Setoguchi unlikely to go and Quenneville holding the Keith-Seabrook card in his back pocket. Then again, they'll probably come out and score two goals in the first and prove me wrong. I love it when they do that.
Chicago is one of the hottest teams in the league right now (8-1-1 in their last ten), but with Cristobal Huet as your starting goaltender there's no telling how long that will last. Regardless, what we've got on our hands tonight is what we always have on our hands when it comes to the Blackhawks-- a fast paced matchup that's going to result in a fair amount of odd man rushes going both ways, a lot of creativity with the puck, and one hell of a strain on your blood pressure. We mused about how a playoff series between these two teams would be a dream come true back in November of last year, and after watching every single game since then, nothing has changed that opinion. These two teams are the class of the league right now, and this game has the potential to be yet another one that sticks with you months down the road.
On a side note, Brent Sopel has been mentioned in trade rumors this week (with Toronto being the apparent front runner) which reminded me of something. Maybe I'm crazy or whatever, but is Sopel not a product of some twisted dimension where scientists combined the facial features of Jody Shelley and Teemu Selanne? The resemblance is uncanny.
Have a safe trip if you're traveling today folks.
Prediction: Sharks win 5-4. Goals by Marleau, Clowe, Pavelski, Nichol, and Vlasic. Brent Sopel scores two goals and drops the gloves twice. Uncanny.