Jan 5, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) moves the puck against San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) and goalie Alex Stalock (32) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Disney on Ice road trip was never going to be easy, and it hasn’t been. Now, however, the Chicago Blackhawks begin what will be the meat of this road trip, as they are set to face the San Jose Sharks, tonight.
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This is a great matchup, statistically. The advantage would have to go to San Jose, though, seeing as how they are either near average, or elite, in every category. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are often elite, but have a couple categories where they are near the bottom of the league(PK% and SV%). Special teams could be interesting, as each teams’s strength is the other team’s weakness, so look for both team’s to try extra hard to stay out of the penalty box, tonight.
The Sharks are currently in the midst of a 3 game losing streak, but have won 6 of their last 10 games, and still sitting comfortably, in 2nd place, in the brutally competitive Pacific Division.
San Jose is lead by their usual suspects of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Patrick Marleau. All three, of these long-time Sharks are having wonderful offensive seasons, at, or near, a point per game pace. Brent Burns is having a great season, too, in his first season as a forward, after playing 8 seasons as a defenseman. The Sharks are still trying to make due without the services of injured forwards, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. Couture should be returning soon, and it remains to be seen how much longer Hertl will be out, after knee surgery, in late December.
In net, for the Sharks should be Antti Niemi. Niemi is having yet another very good season, in San Jose, as he has put up a .913 save percentage, in 45 games played, this season.
The Blackhawks are barely hanging onto 2nd place, in the Central Division, with a 2 point lead, over the St. Louis Blues. However, that lead should be seen as a bit of a mirage, as the Blues have played in 3 fewer games, than the Hawks. So far, on the road trip, the Hawks have done well, all in all, as they are 1-0-1, and have earned a total of 3 out of 4 possible points, so far.
Patrick Kane is starting to heat up again, and has been a mighty force, offensively, for the Hawks. Marian Hossa has been the Hawks’ best player, over the last 2 weeks, and is a big reason why, their recent “slump” wasn’t a real slump. Jonathan Toews continues to play his all-world all-around play, as he has quietly had yet another fantastic season. Duncan Keith continues his search for his 2nd career Norris Trophy, as he has been the Hawks’ offensive fire starter, and their defensive leak stopper.
In net, figures to be Corey Crawford, tonight, for the Hawks. Crawford has been very good, this season, as he has a .911 save percentage, in 38 games played, this season.
In what could very well be a Western Conference Championship preview, both teams can win the 3-game season series, between them, with a win tonight. A great matchup of not only Western Conference elite, but NHL elite, as well. This should be a great game!