Best of the West! San Jose Sharks Vs. Chicago Blackhawks Preview


Feb 10, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) skates with the puck past San Jose Sharks center Andrew Desjardins (69) during the second period at HP Pavilion. San Jose defeated Chicago 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Game #10–  Chicago Blackhawks(7-0-2, 16 points) Vs. San Jose Sharks(7-1-1, 15 points)

Game time-  9:30 PM Central Time


Radio- WGN 720 AM, KFOX(San Jose area)

Preview- The top two teams in the NHL Western Conference face-off against each other tonight at the HP Pavillion in San Jose.  This game will be a great test for each team, as each team is trying to see if they are the best-in-the-west at this early check-point in the season.

The San Jose Sharks will be playing in their second of back-to-back games, as they are coming off of their first regulation loss of the season, at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.  The Sharks are lead by their high-powered offense with the likes of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who are tied for the team lead in points with 14 apiece.  Also lighting the lame for the Sharks at a consistent pace are Joe Pavelski and young star, but big-time contributor, Logan Couture.  The Sharks’ defensive core is anchored by veteran Dan Boyle, Douglas Murrayand newcomer from the Detroit Red WingsBrad Stuart.

The Hawks have to figure out how to beat a familiar face in net for the Sharks, as Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goaltender.  As many know, Niemi helped the Blackhawks capture their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, back in 2010.  Niemi was part of the Hawks’ offseason purge in 2010, as he went to the Sharks, and has found success and a long-term contract to stay in the bay-area.  This season, Niemi is off to a terrific start with a 6-0 record along with a 1.80 Goals Against Average, and a .936% Save Percentage.  The Blackhawks have always struggle to find the back of the net against Niemi, so they have thier work cut out for them.

The Blackhawks should be well-rested as they haven’t played since Saturday night when they defeated the Calgary Flames in the shootout.  This will be the fourth game of a 6-game road trip for the Hawks, while so far the Hawks have a record of 1-0-2(4 points) on the road trip.  Not a bad first half to their longest road trip of the season, as the Hawks have secured at least one point in the standings in each game on the trip, thus far.

Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa off to explosive starts for the Blackhawks this season.  The real story of the Hawks’ success so far this season, has been their special teams.  The penalty-kill has been especially good, as the Hawks’ have killed off 94.4 percent of opponents power-plays, the best percentage in the league.  Captain, Jonathan Toews has been winning face-offs at an outstanding 61.2%, a huge factor in the Hawks’ early-season success, as it contributes to their “own-the-puck” style of play.

The Blackhawks penalty-kill has been incredible thanks in large part to goaltender Corey Crawford’s excellent play in net.  Crawford continues to silence doubters this season, and even earned extra rest as Ray Emery filled in(superbly) for him in Calgary.  This season, Crawford has put up a 5-0 record with a 1.66 Goals Against Average, and a .934% Save Percentage.  He should be well-rested and ready to stop the Sharks’ dynamic offense tonight in San Jose.

Tonight’s game will be great test for each team, as well as a potentially important game in impacting the face of the Western Conference standings.  The Sharks loss last night against Anaheim, left the Blackhawks as the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss on hte season.  The Sharks would love nothing more than to hand the Hawks their first, in this potential playoff match-up between two elite teams.