The Sharks will look to improve on their 11-13-3 mark at SAP Center when Montreal comes to town.
Fresh off a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks last night, the San Jose Sharks return home where they look to carry over the momentum from their four-goal, third-period outburst. San Jose hopes to sweep the back-to-back as they welcome the Montreal Canadiens to town.
While the Sharks own the most road victories in the NHL with 22, they’ve struggled to generate any sort of consistent play on home ice, recording only 11 wins at SAP Center. They had improved their performances at home, before laying an egg against the Buffalo Sabres last Friday night.
Meanwhile, after a blistering start that saw Montreal win their first nine contests, they’ve really fallen off following an injury to star netminder Carey Price. While Price is still working his way back, the Canadiens have shown some slight improvement as they’ve won three of their last four contests.
This Montreal team is still one that brings a lot of speed to the table and can put the puck in the back of the net, ranking 12th in the league in goals per game. The Sharks will need to be on their toes and into the game, rather than relying on a big third period. San Jose won the first matchup between these two teams by a 3-1 final back on Dec. 15 behind goals from Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Dainius Zubrus.
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Sharks: Martin Jones. With James Reimer still in Canada, San Jose will turn to Jones once again. This will be the ninth consecutive start for Jones between the pipes as he played in 13 of the Sharks 14 contests during the month of February. He responded by putting up very solid numbers amassing a 7-4-1 record with a 2.15 goals-against-average and a .923 save percentage as he’s been a key reason for the Sharks improved play in 2016.
Canadiens: P.K. Subban. This game features two of the best offensive defensemen in the league in Brent Burns and Subban. Subban leads Montreal with 47 points as he ranks fifth in the NHL amongst blue liners in terms of point production. San Jose will need to be cognizant of Subban, especially on the power play where he’s tallied 23 points (two goals, 21 assists).
Keys to the Game
1. Be Ready
The trade deadline is always an interesting time as players come-and-go, and the Sharks were no different this year. Now that all the silliness is behind them, San Jose should be on their toes as their roster is now set for the stretch run. The Sharks need a 60-minute effort after a couple of lackluster performances recently.
2. Apply Pressure
With both the Kings and Ducks idle, this is an opportunity for the Sharks to continue to linger in the race for the Pacific Division crown. San Jose is firmly entrenched in the third spot so they can focus on tracking down their SoCal rivals. A win tonight would pull the Sharks to within four points of Los Angeles while just two points behind Anaheim.
3. Establish Home Ice Identity
Including tonight’s contest, San Jose will play 14 of their last 21 games at SAP Center. With that in mind, the Sharks must find a way to consistently perform in front of their home fans as they won’t go anywhere in the postseason without a home-ice advantage. It would be helpful if they began that trend tonight against Montreal.
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