We’ve all seen some pretty big signature victories this year from the San Jose Sharks, and this game has the potential to be the biggest so far. With the Detroit loss against the Los Angeles Kings, the Sharks are now in prime position to tie for the second seed in the Western Conference.
In the final meeting of these two Western Conference superpowers, the stakes don’t get any higher for either team looking to maintain momentum heading into the playoffs.
The Canucks are atop the NHL with 95 points, currently nine points over the Detroit Red Wings and 11 points over the Sharks.
San Jose is no stranger to taking on the league’s top teams while they are red-hot and the Canucks are no different.
The Canucks have won the first three games of their current five game road trip, winning four of their last five overall and improving to 20-9-4 on the road.
Here are five keys to victory for the Sharks to continue their march into the playoffs.
The last time the Canucks were in town, they dominated an affair whose score was a lot closer than the actual game was. The 4-3 loss to the Canucks sent the Sharks on a six-game slide that had fans worrying about Team Teal’s playoff chances.
The loss also led to a locker room outburst which has highlighted Ryane Clowe’s leadership and raised questions that have since been answered.
After raising some eyebrows questioning his teammates’ work ethic, Clowe would elaborate the day after in further comments.
The Sharks effort during their meteoric rise to the top of the Pacific Division has been nothing short of spectacular. Don’t be surprised if Clowe steps up his game tonight against the Canucks, as he’s been a key contributor with five goals and an assist in his last nine games.
Clowe has been a huge part of the leadership group for the Sharks, second on the team with 132 hits and fourth among team scorers with 50 points.
Revenge will be on the Sharks’ mind against the Canucks and backup Cory Schneider, who was in net Jan 3rd, making 32 saves for the win.
The Sharks power play is still ranked third with a middle of the pack penalty kill, but their special teams will be put to the test against Vancouver.
With or without Dan Boyle, the Sharks must capitalize on their power play as the Canucks lead the West with a 86.4 penalty kill percentage. The Canucks have allowed just five tallies in their last 76 penalty kill opportunities and have the league’s best power play.
Needless to say, the Sharks special teams units must come to play tonight and put forth the best effort of the season to date.
The Sharks finally got on the board against Nashville, going 1-2 on the power play after a 1-12 stretch that has conceded with Boyle’s absence.
Head coach Todd McLellan may stick with his changes to the top power play unit, with Devin Setoguchi and Ian White stepping up into their new roles.
The Sharks new acquisitions have made some serious noise since joining the Sharks, and played huge roles in the team’s surge to the top .
Ian White and Ben Eager have been huge contributors both on the stat sheet and off, and figure to play huge roles in tonight’s game.
Of course the big story could be Kyle Wellwood, who left for the KHL after playing for the Canucks last year. His knowledge of the team and their players could be a factor tonight and I think he’ll be playing with some extra jam in his stride.
The Canucks were quite busy at the deadline themselves, acquiring MacGregor Sharp and the always loved Maxim Lapierre from the Ducks. General Manager Mike Gillis also traded for Chris Higgins from Florida to improve an already deep Canuck team.
This is the biggest matchup of the season, against a hot team with four lines and a very deep defensive corps.
Antti Niemi will bring his “A” game as he has for the last 10 games, going 9-1-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average.
Patrick Marleau has been absolutely huge in the Sharks play recently, scoring in the last three games along with the OT winner vs Nashville.
Dany Heatley has found his game of late, getting back to the areas of the ice that made him so successful last year.
Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski have cooled a bit since their February tear, but are still playing with a ton of hustle and heart. Don’t be surprised to see either of them play a huge role against the Canucks.
The Sedin twins are also on a tear with 10 points on the current road trip, posting six points against Phoenix. Each brother has six points in their last five games against San Jose, Daniel leads the NHL with 84 points, and Henrik isn’t far behind with 79.
The Tank figures to be a-rocking in this pivotal matchup against the Canucks, as the Sharks have recaptured their home-ice advantage. The Sharks must guard against the ever dangerous demon of complacency, something the Canucks know about recently.
The Canucks went through a stretch of play alternating wins and losses through a 12 game stretch, but have gotten back on track recently.
The Sharks rebounded after posting a lukewarm home record in the first half of the year, and have won eight of their last nine games at home.
Home-Ice means something to the Sharks again, and the fans in San Jose will be out again in force to back their beloved team.
What you won’t see in San Jose : The Canucks beat the Ducks recently in a game at the Honda Center, which looked like a home game for Vancouver. The Canucks fans lustily sang “O Canada” before the game and chanted MVP after the Sedin twins scored.
Late in the third, you could clearly hear the crowd chanting "na na na na, goodbye" taunting the Ducks in their own house.
Think that’s going to happen at the Tank?
I don't think so.......