It is no secret that the San Jose Sharks have fallen on hard times of late, going an extremely disappointing 4-6-1 in their past 11 contests.
However, a couple of weeks ago the Sharks made a move that may end up being crucial to their playoff success.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson made a trade at the deadline that went relatively unnoticed by the rest of the league. Wilson brought in veteran winger Travis Moen and defenseman Kent Huskins from the Anaheim Ducks, in exchange for prospects and a conditional draft pick.
The move paid off almost immediately when Moen, in just his second game as a Shark, provided a short-handed goal in what eventually turned out to be an over-time victory against Minnesota.
Not only that, but Moen was the only player to score in his fifth game as a Shark; against his former team, the Anaheim Ducks. With help from his new teammate, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, Moen's late second period goal held up as the game-winner.
Moen's arrival has provided San Jose with a huge boost on the penalty kill, and in the improved play of the team's third line. The Sharks have dealt with an enormous amount of injuries this year, and are thin on the left-side to begin with. The only two natural left-wings on the roster are Milan Michalek and enforcer Jody Shelley.
Patrick Marleau has often played left-wing this season, but is a natural center, Ryane Clowe was in fact used primarily as a right-wing in his first half-season with the team, and Mike Grier is also a natural right-wing who has spent time on the left-side this season.
Now Moen's acquisition has stabilized the third-line by bringing a solid presence on that left-side. Moen has been able to help kill penalties alongside Patrick Marleau in the absence of Mike Grier and Torrey Mitchell. Both Grier and Mitchell are out with injuries and when they return will probably get the bulk of penalty kill duty, but having Moen on the roster as an extra penalty killer will be a huge boost come playoff time.
If the Sharks can get healthy come playoff time, Moen will most likely be called to play on the Sharks' fourth line. With enforcer Jody Shelley out of the lineup in the playoffs, Moen will take his spot on the left-side on the fourth line. Moen is a perfect fit in that role; not only can he play the body, he can also score.
The bottom two forward lines of the Sharks have had difficulty contributing offensively all year, and having Moen down there, with his playoff experience, will help out tremendously.
Back in the 2007 playoffs, Moen was a key offensive contributor for the Ducks. The winger totaled 12 points in 21 playoff games, including seven goals; three of which were of the game winning variety. One of the game-winners was in OT during the semifinals, and the other two were during the Stanley Cup final.
Sharks fans have yet to see their newest defenseman, Kent Huskins, who is still out with a broken foot, but is expected to be back soon. Huskins has only amassed 28 points (6g + 22a) over parts of three seasons with the Ducks but put up 19 points last season in 76 games.
However, for his career Huskins has a +26 +/- rating and was a +4 with one assist while playing in all 21 playoff games when the Ducks won the cup in the 2006-07 season.
Despite playing for a division rival, Sharks fans may not be too familiar with Huskins, who has only played 142 career games in three seasons with the Ducks. However, the word from Anaheim fans is that Huskins is a solid, defensively minded defenseman, but with the speed of a Christian Ehrhoff that can be utilized on the offensive end of the ice.
Huskins is nifty stick-handler as can be seen in this highlight-reel goal in a game against the Red Wings last season: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzF1MyF4vm4
Huskins is also not afraid to drop the gloves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeRSgARqCOY&feature=related
The Sharks' newest addition to the defensive corps is not going to blow anybody away, he's no Dan Boyle or Douglas Murray, but if he can get healthy he will provide a huge boost to the Sharks defense.
One can only assume that one of the top six Sharks defensemen will be hurt at some point or another come playoff time, and Huskins coming in as the seventh D-man instead of Alexei Semenov will be a huge upgrade.
Semenov is the only Shark that is absolutely hated by the fans, so much so that many of the Shark faithful refer to him as "worthless," and absolutely no Sharks fan wants to see him on the ice during the playoffs.
The playoffs are still some 14 games away for the Sharks, but the addition of Moen and Huskins may be the move Sharks fans look back on and say "that was what we needed to get over the hump."
As I mentioned earlier, neither of these guys are going to scare the opposition, but it doesn't hurt that they both have Stanley-Cup rings and know what it takes to get the job done.
With both of them healthy, the Sharks are much better prepared for the grueling run that is the Stanley-Cup playoffs.
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