Two of the Chicago Blackhawks’ next three games will be played at 9 p.m. or later, so fans may need to load up on the caffeine tonight and Saturday. First, we have the San Jose Sharks tonight at the Shark Tank, with the hosts on a lengthy win streak.
The Sharks are off to an odd start and have won six games in a row before tonight’s action. They’re 13-8-0, good for 26 points and a share of first in the Pacific Division. The reason the start is odd, though, is because the Sharks have a 10-3-0 road mark and are the only team currently at double-digit road wins. Meanwhile, the Sharks are a mediocre 3-5-0 in San Jose. So maybe the ’Hawks can take advantage of this.
Let’s see what the projected lineups look like, starting with the Blackhawks.
So those are weird lines. But that’s how the Blackhawks finished Sunday’s game in Vancouver (essentially), and they actually played fairly well at that point, despite how the score ended up. Toews looked somewhat invigorated alongside the two grinders Shaw and Garbutt. Hossa paired with Dano is beneficial from an offensive standpoint, and Hossa paired with Kruger works defensively. The second line is obviously gangbusters, and the fourth line … should just try not have any goals scored against it.
While Crow had a rough night in Vancouver, the defense in front of him also needs to be better. The Seabrook-van Riemsdyk pairing has had rough moments, and the Daley-Rozsival pairing is obviously bogged down. That leaves a lot of pressure on Keith and Hjalmarsson, who have also responded with a few hiccups. A shutout would be exactly what the doctor ordered for this group, Crow included.
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On to the San Jose lineup.
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Justin Braun is out with an injury, while Logan Couture is dealing with a fractured fibula suffered early in the season. There are some unfamiliar names on the roster compared to seasons past, but the Sharks are making it work. They’re led by the veterans in Pavelski, Ward and Thornton. Ward, an offseason acquisition, has been a pleasant surprise for San Jose so far with 17 points. Zubrus was signed by the Sharks yesterday, and he projects to make his San Jose debut tonight.
Jones has been stellar in net for the Sharks, especially of late. After serving as a backup to Jonathan Quick in L.A. for awhile, Jones has taken the Sharks’ starting job by the horns. He has permitted two goals or fewer in six of his last seven starts and boasts an 11-5-0 mark with a .929 save percentage, a 2.02 goals-allowed average and a league-tying-best three shutouts. As I mentioned in my week ahead post on Monday, firing as much rubber as possible at Jones should be the mission tonight.
Let’s take a look at three Blackhawks to watch in San Jose.
Nov 21, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Vancouver won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
This would be a fantastic night for Crow to pull out one of his best performances of the season. His numbers have sagged of late, and while that’s isn’t entirely his fault, he still needs to play better overall. The Sharks are red hot, but they’ve also struggled at home, as previously mentioned. The Blackhawks have had nearly three days to stew over letting a game against Vancouver get out of hand when it could have been won. For them to come out of the Shark Tank with a win, they’re going to need their top netminder to turn in a top performance. Crow has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his last five starts against the Sharks, winning three of them, so maybe they bring out some of the best in him.
Nov 21, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks forward Ryan Garbutt (28) shoots past Vancouver Canucks forwardDaniel Sedin
(22) at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
When Garbutt has been paired with Toews, he’s received some golden opportunities but struggled to bury them. If he actually gets an entire evening to play alongside the captain, he’s going to need to come up clutch and convert when he receives big chances. Garbutt finally got off the goal-scoring schnide against Vancouver, potting his first against two assists for the season. He and Shaw will help themselves and their team by working hard to get to the net tonight and getting pucks at Jones as often as they can — or standing in front of him when the pucks are traveling to Jones. Garbutt could be in for a big night if the line blender doesn’t hit too quickly.
Nov 20, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) skates with the puck as Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) defends during the overtime period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ever since Keith’s return from injury, Seabs hasn’t been up to his usual best. Playing alongside van Riemsdyk, Seabrook has been hit and miss on the defensive end, though his offensive production has been fair with three assists in five games. While this might be more of a product of van Riemsdyk’s struggles as the makeshift No. 4 defenseman, it’s time for Seabrook (and Keith and Hjalmarsson) to prevent such heavy numbers of opponent shots from getting to Crawford and Darling. This starts tonight with San Jose, which has been fairly potent on offense so far.