Kevin and Brodie: Canucks declining, Sharks rising
Tommy Wingels (above) will start as a third-line winger with Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Sharks-Canucks coverage gets underway today at 6:30 p.m., only on Comcast SportsNet California
Where they stand
Sharks: 0-0-0, 0 points
Canucks: 0-0-0, 0 points
Tyler Kennedy – Logan Couture – Patrick Marleau
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Matt Nieto – Joe Pavelski – Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard – Andrew Desjardins – Matt Pelech
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle
Jason Demers – Scott Hannan
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Alex Burrows
Chris Higgins – Ryan Kesler – Jannik Hansen
David Booth – Brad Richardson – Mike Santorelli
Tom Sestito – Zac Dalpe – Dale Weise
Dan Hamhuis – Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler – Jason Garrison
Chris Tanev – Ryan Stanton
Keep an eye on…
Sharks: Tomas Hertl. The Sharks 2012 first round draft pick will make his NHL debut on Thursday, playing on a top line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. The Sharks already down a forward in Raffi Torres, Hertl will have to be a key ingredient to the Sharks’ offense. He had three goals and an assist in four preseason games.
[RELATED: Sharks look to correct one glaring weakness]
Canucks: Ryan Kesler. The Canucks’ feisty and highly skilled forward enters the season as the team’s second line center. On a team with a very top-heavy offense in which depth looks to be an issue, Kesler will have to remain healthy and have a monster year in order for Vancouver to remain competitive.
Sharks: Raffi Torres (right ACL surgery), Marty Havlat (offseason pelvic surgery), and Adam Burish (lower body), and Brad Stuart (lower body) are out.
Canucks: Jordan Schroeder (broken left foot), and Zack Kassian (suspension) are out.
The Sharks won all three games of the season series with the Canucks, and all four first round playoff games in the first-ever franchise series sweep. The Canucks have not beaten the Sharks in the regular season or playoffs since Jan. 21, 2012.
All-time, the Sharks are 41-42-9-5 against Vancouver, including a 22-9-5-4 mark at home.
“There is some youth involved, and I still think the core guys are in the prime of their careers. I like the balance, and I said that word about a thousand times last year. I just like the balance of our team moving forward.” – Dan Boyle
Which three Pacific Division teams will earn automatic playoff bids? Leave your answer in the comments section below.