In the Crease: Slumping Sharks host NHL's top offense

In the Crease: Slumping Sharks host NHL's top offense
February 1, 2014, 9:45 am
Share This Post

The Blackhawks, the NHL’s top offense, have scored at least five goals in 20 games this season. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Blackhawks coverage gets underway at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California

Where they stand
Sharks: 34-15-6, 74 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference
Blackhawks: 33-10-13, 79 points, 2nd Central Division, 2nd Western Conference

The latest

Sharks: For just the second time this season, the Sharks have lost three straight games in regulation. The latest came on Thursday in Calgary, 4-1. Eriah Hayes scored the lone goal, his first in the NHL, and is the only scoring the Sharks have managed over the last three games. San Jose lost in Edmonton on Wednesday, 3-0, and to Los Angeles at home on Monday, 1-0. The Sharks’ final four games before the Olympic break are all at home, where they are 19-3-3.

[RELATED: Slumping Sharks badly missing Logan Couture]

Blackhawks: Chicago trailed 2-0 in Vancouver, but reeled off five straight goals to win 5-2 at Rogers Arena on Wednesday, snapping a four-game losing streak (0-2-2). The Blackhawks, the NHL’s top offense, have scored at least five goals in 20 games this season, a league high. Brandon Saad paced Chicago’s attack with two goals and an assist, and Corey Crawford made 29 saves. The Blackhawks spent the two days after the game in Las Vegas.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Patrick Marleau. The Sharks’ forward had one of his worst games of the season on Thursday in Calgary. He assisted on Eriah Hayes’ goal, but was on the ice for all four of the Flames’ markers (including an empty-netter), despite playing a season-low 14:56. He hasn’t done nearly enough as the second line center since Logan Couture got hurt, and is a big reason the Sharks’ offense is as stagnant as it is lately.

Blackhawks: Brandon Saad. The developing 21-year-old forward’s three-point night on Wednesday in Vancouver was his 10th multi-point game of the season. He’s sixth on Chicago in scoring (39 points), and fifth in goals with 17. He has two goals and two assists in four career games against San Jose.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.87 (7th)
Goals-against per game: 2.33 (4th)
Power play: 18.2 percent (17th)
Penalty kill: 83.8 percent (6th)

Blackhawks
Goals per game: 3.46 (1st)
Goals-against per game: 2.66 (14th)
Power play: 22.6 percent (4th)
Penalty kill: 79.1 percent (27th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Matt Nieto - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
Marty Havlat - Bracken Kearns - Eriah Hayes
James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Jason Demers
Brad Stuart – Justin Braun
Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Blackhawks
Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg – Brandon Pirri – Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw – Michal Handzus – Brandon Saad
Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger – Ben Smith

Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Johnny Oduya
Nikc Leddy – Sheldon Brookbank

Corey Crawford
Antti Raanta

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery), Raffi Torres (right knee surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery), Logan Couture (right hand) and Tyler Kennedy (lower body) are out.

Blackhawks: Nikolai Khabibulin (shoulder surgery) is out.

Season/All-Time series

Chicago is 1-0-1 against the Sharks this season, with both games at United Center. San Jose claimed the most recent game, 3-2 in a shootout, but dropped a 5-1 decision on Nov. 17 in the first meetings.

Patrick Sharp leads all scorers in the season series with two goals and two assists. No Sharks player has more than one point in the two games.

All-time, the Sharks are 42-29-5 against Chicago, with seven ties.

Quoteable

“Obviously with injuries, and every team goes through them, you need some others to pick up the slack and we’ve got to find that.” – Todd McLellan

Burning question

Assuming Raffi Torres and Logan Couture return at full speed, could the Sharks beat the Blackhawks in a playoff series as currently constructed? Leave your answer in the comments section below.