Game 65: San Jose Sharks (40-17-7) host the Montreal Canadiens (35-23-7)
When: Saturday, March 8 2014 7:00 pm PT (10pm ET)
Where: SAP Center (aka The Shark Tank) San Jose, Ca.
TV: CSN-CA (Northern California); CBC-TV (Eastern Canada, second half of the Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader)
Radio: Sharks Radio Network (98.5FM San Jose/102.1FM San Francisco); TSN Radio 690AM Montreal (CKGM)
Storied Franchise Visits the Shark Tank
The Montreal Canadians make their annual visit to the Shark Tank tonight when they take on the San Jose Sharks in their second of two meetings this season. The Sharks on October 26th defeated the Canadiens 2-0 at the Bell Centre thanks to a pair of goals from Logan Couture while Antti Niemi made 22 saves in one his best efforts of the season in the net. This also happens to be the last time Niemi had shut out an opponent this season.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, have had their share of ups and downs this season, but are in strong contention for a quality playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Montreal has 77 points in the standings and currently sits in second place in the Atlantic Conference and third overall in the east. This will also be the Canadiens first visit to the Shark Tank in two years. Montreal has not won a game in San Jose since November 23, 1999 and needed overtime to pull that game out. However as they old saying goes, “That was then, and this is Now.”
Canadiens Ending Western Roadie
For Montreal, San Jose is the final stop of a four game west coast swing. So far the Canadiens are 1-2-0 on the trip having lost 2-1 in Los Angeles this past Monday, and dropping a 5-2 decision in Phoenix Thursday. The Canadiens did puck up a shootout victory in Anaheim 4-3 on Wednesday.
Prior to this western swing, the Canadiens had won their last three on the road. Montreal added Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline from Buffalo in the hopes that he will provide more punch for their offensive attack. The Canadiens are have some powerful weapons to bring to the table in Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Plekanec, and Brian Gionta who have combined for over 70 goals this season. Meanwhile P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and David Desharnais are among the leaders in assists not only on the Canadiens, but in the NHL. In addition, Subban and Markov are about the most competitive defensemen the league has to offer. Now throw Vanek into that mix. The Canadiens have all the ingredients of a team that if they gel at the right time could possibly be the team who comes out of the wide open Eastern Conference to get to the Stanley Cup Finals and just perhaps nail down their 26th Cup in franchise history.
That is a “big maybe” but certainly a possibility. Another big piece to that puzzle is their number one goalie Carey Price, who is on injured reserve and will not play tonight. The Canadiens likely will start either veteran backup Peter Budaj or former Oilers netminder Devan Dubnyk, who came over from Nashville at the trade deadline Wednesday. Dubnyk, playing on his third team this season has had the most experience against the Sharks.
Sharks Try To Keep Momentum Rolling
Team Teal is coming off of a huge come from behind win over the Pittsburgh Penguins this past Thursday Night. The Sharks exploded for four goals in the third period after a two periods of somewhat frustrating hockey against the Pens. The Sharks have had recent success against Montreal and look to continue that tonight. Admittedly, this Canadiens team is arguably better than the one they faced back in late October.
However, the Sharks may also be a better team as well. Raffi Torres is back in the fold and has played well, Brent Burns has scored three goals in two games after not scoring in 19 straight games. Logan Couture is back after a short injury layoff. Patrick Marleau is finding the back of the net again, and both Joes (Thornton and Pavelski) have played hard every shift. The main question for the Sharks is the situation in goal where lately Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock have rotated starts since the end of the Olympic break. This could be to give Niemi extra rest that he frankly needed.
Niemi, despite being shaky in the net as of times, actually was able to keep his head about him Thursday night against the Penguins as key saves in the second and third period gave Team Teal a chance to win this game. Niemi played a huge role in that win and hopefully this will give his confidence a much-needed boost. If it does that can only mean good things lie ahead for the Sharks. If Alex Stalock starts, the Sharks know they have a strong and stable backup who wants the puck and can stand tall in net when needed.
The Sharks are playing their third game of a four game home stand against all Eastern Conference teams, and “Yes, Virginia…these games and points matter…a lot!” The main goal for the Sharks is to get as many wins and points as they can to see if they can track down the Anaheim Ducks while staying ahead of the now red-hot LA Kings. Montreal will be a stiff challenge tonight, especially when you consider that they are chasing a high seed themselves in their own division and conference. This will make them a very tough opponent tonight. This will also make for a very interesting and fun game to watch as well.
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