After a five-game road trip that ended with a near disastrous effort against the Colorado Avalanche, the San Jose Sharks return to their comfy home to play none other than the Buffalo Sabres. This game represents an opportunity to get back on track against an inferior opponent right? I’m just glad the Sharks will be in an environment they play much better in.
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This game has two things to watch for. First, Sharks fans will witness the home debut of Roman Polak and Nick Spaling. Also, fans can gauge where this team is at by playing a team that isn’t playoff caliber. But judging by Wednesday’s game, I’m not sure that will be useful.
Despite the rebuild, the Sabres are again in the conversation for the first overall pick (Auston Matthews). While improved, they are realizing that patience is key as adding star players without adequate role players can only go so far.
Another factor of their struggles has been goaltending. Imagine if Martin Jones was injured during the first game of the season against the Los Angeles Kings. That is what happened with the Sabres and Robin Lehner. After being acquired for a similar price and coming from a similar situation as Jones, Lehner suffered an unfortunate injury that kept him out until recently. Now he is back in goal and Sharks fans will get to see a goalie that mirrors Jones stats-wise.
However, the main difference between the two netminders is that Jones provides a calming presence in net while Lehner is the opposite as getting under his skin and altering his focus is easier. So if the Sharks are winning this game, the key is getting to Lehner.
As for the Sharks, this game is a test to see where they match up at the trade deadline as well as their impending playoff run. The Sharks are already 10 points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division so what matters now is making sure they play well against a team they can beat. Confidence is key when preparing for a team like the Anaheim Ducks or the Kings.
Otherwise, we’ll get to watch Polak as he makes his home debut playing against Jack Eichel. I wonder how that will turn out.
Team Stats at even-strength (at the end of February 24, 2016)
Buffalo Sabres/San Jose Sharks
Goals For/60: 1.76 (29th)/2.28 (7th)
Goals Against/60: 2.34 (24th)/2.13 (18th)
Shots For/60: 28.0 (20th)/28.3 (17th)
Shots Against/60: 30.2 (24th)/25.9 (1st)
Fenwick For %: 47.7% (25th)/52.3% (6th)
Corsi For %: 48.0% (23rd)/50.8% (13th)
PDO: 98.6 (27th)/99.9 (16th)