The San Jose Sharks are returning home coming off a very successful road trip which saw team teal take five of the six games, and getting a much needed boost after a surprising 1-3 start to the season. With the Sharks returning to the Tank for a six game stand starting Thursday Night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Sharks need to re-establish their rink as a place that is not the favorite stop of any visiting team. One of the keys for a successful team is top be dominant at home (from a .667 to .750 clip), and at least .500 or better on the road which the Sharks have done, and have done in their past.
Here is a look at the upcoming six game homestand and each opponent that will be making a stop at the Tank as the NHL season enters it’s second month…
Pittsburgh Penguins (Nov 3rd) – The one obvious downside for the Penguins is that Sidney Crosby will not be playing this time around, but that does not mean the Penguins will enter this match unarmed. The Penguins enter the game with an (8-3-2) mark and are armed with all of their usual suspects. Evegeni Malkin, Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, Bay Area native Brooks Orpik and former Duck Chris Kunitz. The Penguins have been one of the better offensive teams in the NHL the past few seasons and will present a challenge for team teal.
Nashville Predators (Nov 5th) – The Sharks took the first round vs the Predators in Nashville 3-1 on Oct 25th. The Predators are a team that may not have the most loaded roster, but they have a fair level of talent that is competitive and give any team in the NHL a tough game. Dave Legwand, Patric Hornqvist, Craig Smith have carried the offense for the Preds while goalie Pekke Rinne has been tough under fire in goal. There are health questions regarding Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostisyn, who may or may not be in the line up Saturday Night.
Los Angeles Kings (Nov. 7th) – The Sharks will face the L A Kings in the first of six regular season meetings this coming Monday (Monday Night Hockey!!!). The Kings who gave the Sharks quite a battle in the regular season and post season last year will be looking to show the Sharks that they are loaded for bear. It’s hard to argue when you consider their line up and really the roster. Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Simon Gagne, Drew Doughty and more bring a team that is solid and could potentially be as much as a Cup threat as anyone. Jonathan Quick logged three consecutive shutouts in goal two weeks ago. Make no mistake, if you thought Anaheim was tough (and they were), the Kings may very well be that much tougher.
Minnesota Wild (Nov. 10th) – The Wild make their first of two appearances at the Tank a week from Thursday with the return of former Sharks Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley. Seto should get a good ovation from the Sharks fans (before the game). As for Mr. Heatley, well we will be a little nicer than Ottawa was and leave it at that. The Wild aside from Setoguchi and Heatley are lead by Mikko Koivu, Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak amongst others and have decent net minders in Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom. The Wild also just this week swept a home and home vs the Red Wings, holding Detroit to just one goal in the two games.
Phoenix Coyotes (Nov. 12th) – The Coyotes stop by San Jose for their second visit to the Tank. On opening night, the Sharks took Phoenix 6-3. The Coyotes have at times been a very tough opponent and if allowed to hang around could steal a game against anyone. Shane Doan will lead the Coyotes back in town for a second try at the Tank, but cannot do it all by himself. The Sharks have all the tools they need to take of business here, and they should be able to just do long as they don’t let the desert dogs hang around for too long.
Detroit Red Wings (Nov. 16th) – The conference rival Red Wings need no introduction to any Sharks fan or for that matter player. They are the most consistent franchise in the NHL over the last 20 years and expect excellence each time out. Niklas Kornwall’s contract extension will have him motivated to prove he’s worth every penny. Pavel Datsuk does things with the puck that defy description. Johan Franzen’s job is to be a thorn in the side, and he’s very good at it. Henrik Zetterberg, can’t forget where he is on the ice. Tomas Holmstrom, same job description as Franzen’s. And of course there are the ex-Sharks Brad Stuart and Ian White. Jimmy Howard in goal, is very strong though can get rattled but you must get to him early or it could be a long night. The Sharks took the first of their four meetings against the Red Wings in Detroit 4-2 on Oct 28th.
Synopsis – The Sharks homestand certainly will not be a walk in the park. The Sharks, as good as they were on the just competed six game road trip, are going to need to be that much better in this homestand. If the Sharks go 5-1 here, this could be the spring board of good things to come for team teal. The Sharks need to handle this homestand the same way you eat an elephant, one bite at a time. If they team has come together and is stronger because of the road trip, this could be a good homestand indeed. The Sharks need to establish themselves at The Tank too. Early season or not, that’s going to matter now and as the season moves along.
GO SHARKS, and good luck on the homestand…
The King Shark