The San Jose Sharks return home for the first time since Jan. 26 as the Sharks get set for a Pacific Division tussle against the Calgary Flames. San Jose comes home fresh off a 2-2 road trip, but they ended it on a high note with a complete team effort in blanking the Blackhawks by a 2-0 margin.
Alex Stalock will get the nod between the pipes for the Sharks tonight, and he will need to rise to the occasion. Stalock hasn’t played since Jan. 18 against the Ottawa Senators when he made a critical mistake that led to the opening goal. Stalock will look to continue San Jose’s recent trend of playing well at SAP Center as the Sharks are 5-0-2 in their last seven contests at home.
Meanwhile, Calgary has had a disappointing 2015-16 campaign after making a surprise run to the second round of the playoffs last year. The Flames sit in 12th place in the West with 51 points, but they have won three of their last four games as they try to make some sort of late season push.
This will be the fourth meeting of the season as San Jose has taken two of the first three meetings. Last time out, it was a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair with the Sharks claiming a 5-4 victory in Calgary on Jan. 11.
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Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Once again, Vlasic is quietly going about his business and is having one of his most productive seasons of his career. Vlasic is on pace to surpass his previous career-high of 36 points as he has 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 49 contests this season. Vlasic was a stalwart against Chicago on Tuesday night as he logged a season-high 30 minutes of ice time. He will need to be on point again tonight with Brenden Dillon out for this one.
Flames: Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t let his diminutive size fool you, “Johnny Hockey” is a dynamic scorer. The 5-foot-8 Gaudreau uses his speed and hands to make up for his lack of size. He leads Calgary with 21 goals, 28 assists and 49 points, while ranking second with a plus-eight rating. He was scratched for their last game in Toronto for disciplinary reasons so he will be motivated and ready to go for this matchup against the Sharks.
Keys to the Game
1. Team Defense
San Jose did a great job last time out, limiting the high-flying Blackhawks to no goals. The Sharks will need another full-team defensive effort as they will be without the services of Dillon who will be replaced in the lineup by Matt Tennyson. Besides their stinker against the Predators the other night, San Jose’s defense has been much better of late as they have risen to 17th in the league in goals against at 2.65 per game.
2. Special Teams
The Sharks have a distinct special teams advantage heading into this one as the Flames are one of the worst special-teams units in the NHL. Calgary sports the league’s worst power play (although San Jose did allow three power play goals when these two teams last met), while ranking 29th on the penalty kill. Meanwhile, the Sharks possess the league’s fourth-best power play that has scored three goals over the past two games.
3. Don’t Try To Do Too Much
San Jose hasn’t been the best at home after returning home from these long road trips, and they will need to be on their toes in this one. The Sharks need to make the easy play and get their feet moving against a fleet-footed Flames bunch. With Stalock and Tennsyon checking into the lineup, San Jose needs to make the simple play and keep doing what they’ve been doing over the course of the past month.
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