Sharks Gameday: Playing It Out
|47-24-9, 103 points||42-25-13, 97 points |
|2nd in Western Conference ||6th in Western Conference |
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Five For Howling
At this point in the season, there isn't much to play for. The Sharks have clinched home ice and the second or third seed. There is little point of trying to position the team into a higher seed for a potentially better match-up; the Western Conference has been so strong this year, any playoff team is a very good team. There's a potential that a team could get 97 points and miss the playoffs, that's how strong the Western Conference has been this year. As it stands now, the Sharks would be facing the Ducks in a re-match of the infamous 2009 playoff series that resulted in the Sharks losing 12 of their players in the following off-season (off the top of my head: Brian Boucher, Christian Ehrhoff, Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo, Marcel Goc, Tomas Plihal, Mike Grier, Jeremy Roenick, Travis Moen, Brad Lukowich, Claude Lemieux, and Alexei Semenov). But there's the potential the Sharks could face the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, or tonight's opponent, the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Phoenix Coyotes can still potentially miss the playoffs. If they are swept by the Sharks in this home-and-home with every team below them earning points, and the Dallas Stars get two non-shootout wins, Dallas will have the same number of points and the wins tiebreaker. If they get one point, they are in. Thus, the Coyotes should be coming out, raring to go. Or, at the very least, they will play for overtime. Either way, this series means much more to them than it does to us.
There is a bit of intrigue left in the season for the Sharks, mostly individual accomplishments. Joe Thornton is still looking for his 1000th point. With the speculation by David Pollak that Thornton is injured (backed up by his greatly reduced ice time against Anaheim and his lack of faceoffs taken in the past several games), I would guess that the only reason that Thornton has been playing is to get that 1000th point. Of course, it could be a product of his (in)famous willingness to play through any and all injuries. Joe Pavelski, on the other hand, is one goal away from getting 20 goals on the year, which would make him the seventh 20-goal-scorer on the Sharks this season, which would be a Sharks franchise record. Logan Couture is still chasing Jeff Skinner for the rookie scoring lead, trailing by five points. While Couture is a better two-way player than Skinner, that he is trailing in points while being older hurts his Calder campaign, so narrowing that gap will help his case.
Expect to see Scott Nichol to finally be back in the lineup, as McLellan said that he would play in two of the last three games, and there are only two games left. Ryane Clowe is still day-to-day, and will likely not be in the lineup either tonight or tomorrow. Kent Huskins is still MIA, and I personally would guess that he's done for the year barring injuries to the blue line.
No word as to who is in goal at the time of writing - Niemi would be my first guess, but I wouldn't be surprised if Niittymaki got a second start in a row to let Niemi have the second half of the back-to-back and the last game of the regular season. Of course, it wouldn't be too surprising if Niemi ends up starting both games.
Prediction: Sharks win, 4-2. Pavelski, Demers, Couture, and Thornton. Jumbo scores when Rebecca Black finally decides which seat she can take, which happens sometime in the second period.