Maple Leafs at Sharks: Matthews, Marner & Co. visit SAP Center

Sharks look to play spoiler to another playoff contender

The San Jose Sharks (28-33-4, 6th Pacific) play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs (35-23-8, 3rd Atlantic) tonight.

The Leafs are a stacked team. Auston Matthews leads the team with 77 points and 45 goals this season. Close behind him is Mitch Marner with 64 points and 49 assists. They are supported by guys like Zach Hyman (37 points), William Nylander (57 points) and some guy named John Tavares (58 points). There’s no shortage of skill up front for the Leafs.

The trouble lies on the back end, where the team’s top two defensemen are out with injuries and they’re also missing depth defenseman Cody Ceci. Morgan Rielly fractured his foot in January and still hasn’t returned. Jake Muzzin was injured the day after the trade deadline and is still a few weeks from returning. That means other than Tyson Barrie, the team is leaning on a lot of young defensemen who are simply trying to hold down the fort until the aforementioned Muzzin and Rielly and Ceci get healthy.

The last time these two teams met, it was the start of dark times for the Sharks. San Jose had lost three in a row leading into the Oct. 22, 2019 game and would go on to lose four more following the 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. It was a road trip that truly showed what the Sharks were made of and it wasn’t pretty. Kevin Labanc had the lone goal for the Sharks and Martin Jones made 23 of 26 saves. Frederik Andersen was forced to make just 16 stops to claim the win.

Who replaces the injured Middleton?

The Sharks will have to dip further into their defensive pool tonight just to ice six defensemen. The injury to Jacob Middleton thankfully wasn’t as bad as it looked on camera, but he’s still out for weeks. The team hopes he’ll be back in action before the end of the season. I’m not going to post the video here, but you can look at this previous post if you missed out on what happened.

The Sharks haven’t released the lineup for tonight yet, but I would think that Brandon Davidson will finally get his shot. Davidson, if you remember, was acquired at the trade deadline from the Calgary Flames for future considerations. Head Coach Bob Boughner promised that Davidson would get into the lineup before the end of the season and it appears his time is now.

If you’re looking for a fun read on Davidson, check out the piece Curtis Pashelka’s post on The Mercury News.

Streaks are on the line

Okay, it’s not really a streak, but in this lost season I’m going to call it one.

The Sharks have won two in a row and will go for three tonight. The Maple Leafs have won three in a row and are hoping to make it four. Toronto has been on a tear since they were beaten by their own Zamboni driver a little over a week ago. They defeated three teams in playoff contention, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks.

San Jose will put Martin Jones in net tonight. It’s hard to second guess the choice since Jones just shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins. Meanwhile, our friends at Pension Plan Puppets say the Maple Leafs will give Jack Campbell the start. If the name sounds familiar it’s because it is. Campbell used to back up Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles. He was traded earlier this season when the Leafs discovered they could not ride Frederik Andersen to the finish line and still expect to compete in the playoffs.

Melker Karlsson returns

Earlier in the season, this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but since the Sharks are icing what appears to be half of an AHL roster, Karlsson’s return is nice to see. For all his lack of scoring Karlsson plays a two-way game and he was heating up in the points department before he was injured. Karlsson had two goals and two assists in February, which isn’t saying much until you realize that he’s had 10 points all season.

His return may take some pressure off the veterans on the penalty kill and relieve them of some of those tough minutes.

Bold Prediction: I was wrong last time in that Alexander True didn’t even play that I’m afraid to make a bold prediction here. Karlsson scores, Davidson gets in a fight and the Sharks eek out a win 4-3. We’re playing spoiler here folks.

Drop your prediction below and we’ll see you at game time.