Lightning Strikes

The San Jose Sharks face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at HP Pavilion, in what will certainly be a gut check game for Todd McLellan’s squad.

In addition to needing some serious offensive CPR to shock their scoring touch back from the grave, they will have to do it without the services of Joe Thornton.  Joe will be in civilian clothes tonight, serving the first of a two-game suspension following the collision of his elbow to the jaw of St. Louis Blues’ winger, David Perron on Thursday night.

Ok, collision or threw a elbow shiver…I suppose it all depends on your perspective.

Whatever your opinion, Perron played quite the convincing role of hipster fixie bike to Jumbo’s red-light-running bread truck. The Blues winger went down in a heap, the St. Louis crowd moaned their displeasure and Joe was tossed. Perron later came back and scored a game sealing goal in the second period, and the San Jose Sharks were sent to the dressing room on the heels of their second straight shutout defeat.

Following the game, Thornton was suspended two games in what can only be illustrative of the heightened awareness surrounding head shots, both in the NHL and beyond these days. This hit was certainly not something worthy of a suspension even a year ago, but we live in a different world now where contact sports leagues, specifically the NFL and NHL are cracking down on all head shots, both deliberate and otherwise.

Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pittsburgh Steelers’ James Harrison was also fined for Thornton’s hit on Thursday night…that’s how weird it’s getting out there.

As for tonight, the Sharks will welcome wunderkind NHL points leader, Steven Stamkos and his Lightning to the friendly confines. In only in his third campaign, Stamkos has already assumed ownership of the Lightning, displacing former leaders, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis to strictly supporting cast status with his stellar play.

In net for the Sharks tonight will be Antero Niittymaki, who will face his former team for the first time this evening. Given that fact and his great start to the season, one can expect Niittymaki will bring his best game to the Tank tonight and keep the Sharks close. Expect Coach McLellan to juggle the lines a bit over the next before Thornton returns next Thursday, and also expect the pressure to be squarely on Dany Heatleyand Patrick Marleau to fill the breach of Jumbo’s absence.

The Sharks will definitely miss Thornton, but might get a boost from Worchester call up Benn Ferriero, who joins the team tonight after leading the Sharks AHL affiliate in points, including seven goals in his first 11 games.

Life without Joe, even for a couple games will be a challenge, but will provide an excellent opportunity for some new leaders to emerge. Whether or not guys like Logan Couture or Devin Setoguchi answer that call will be up to them.

After zero tallies in the last two games, a spark from any source at this point would be welcomed…be it “Two N” Benn or a more familiar face.


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Tags: Antero Niittymaki Benn Ferriero Dany Heatley David Perron Devin Setoguchi HP Pavilion James Harrison Joe Thornton Logan Couture Martin St. Louis NFL NHL Patrick Marleau Pittsburgh Steelers San Jose Sharks St. Louis Blues Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning Todd Mclellan Vincent Lecavalier

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