Chicago's fifth opponent on their two-week Circus Trip will be San Jose, the Stanley Cup runners-up from last year. Like the rest of the Pacific Division, the Sharks haven't had the best start to the season, but they do sit in second place behind Edmonton with a two-point gap and a game in hand. They began a five-game homestand on Monday, blanking the New Jersey Devils 4-0 to snap a three-game winless streak.
San Jose has plenty of firepower on the roster, but haven't been able to translate their league-leading 54.1 shot attempt percentage into consistent offense, ranking 23rd in the NHL with just 2.37 goals per game. As with the Oilers, a big part of the problem has been their power play, which has gone 3-for-32 over their last 10 games. With the talent on both units, the shooting percentages should improve as the season goes on, and the Blackhawks won't want to tempt fate as they did in their 5-0 loss to Edmonton on Monday.
The Blackhawks characterized the outing as a "weird" game, and a look at the stat sheet would confirm the assertion: The team racked up 28 shots on goal through two periods but were undone by untimely penalties late in periods, which allowed a struggling Edmonton power play to break the dam. The conversions dropped Chicago's penalty-kill percentage to 68.3, and they've now been shorthanded 11 times in the last three games, a stat they'd like to improve over the rest of the road trip.
The Sharks' main offensive contributors, at even strength if not on the power play, are all familiar names, beginning with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, the team's current and former captains. Pavelski leads the team with 17 points in 19 games and has a three-game point streak going, with a goal and two assists over that span. He'll be a threat for tip-ins further out from the net, which has been his calling card in the league. Thornton, currently centering Pavelski and longtime teammate Patrick Marleau, ranks third with 13 points; together the pair shares the team lead with 11 assists each. And although San Jose has struggled to put pucks in the net with the man advantage, the Joes lead the team in that category as well, with five assists from Thornton and two goals and three helpers to Pavelski.
Corey Crawford should have an opportunity to recover from a "not great" outing in Edmonton, where he allowed five goals on 27 shots, and he'll face off against Martin Jones, now in his second year as a start for San Jose. The 26-year-old has been net for 9 of the team's 10 wins this season, although his game-to-game performances have been inconsistent. In his last 10 starts, Jones has posted a save percentage over .950 four times, including two shutouts, but he's also ended the night at .885 or below four times. With both teams experiencing recent ups and downs on the offensive side, the outcome of Wednesday's matchup could very well hinge on the performance between the pipes.
MONEY TO BURNS
The news out of San Jose on Tuesday was the inking of defenseman Brent Burns to an eight-year deal, preventing their bearded superstar from hitting free agency next summer. Burns has been one of the most offensively dynamic blueliners in the league for a few years, and he finished third in Norris Trophy voting last season after posting a career-best 75 points and 353 shots on goal, which led all defensemen and ranked second overall. The 31-year-old has 16 points in 19 games this year and leads the league with 81 SOG, while his 7 goals share the lead among NHL blueliners.
Burns was drafted as a forward and has played both wing and defense during his NHL career, resulting in a highly offensive mindset and style of play, a propensity to join the rush as often as a possible and a booming, accurate shot that creates havoc in front of opponents' nets. Although he's not the only D-man who can contribute in the offensive zone (the third pairing of Brenden Dillon and David Schlemko have quietly posted good shot differentials this season), Burns is still inarguably the biggest weapon on San Jose's blue line.
CHI: Trevor van Riemsdyk (day-to-day)
SJS: Tomas Hertl (knee), Melker Karlsson (ankle)
Hinostroza -- Toews -- Hossa
Panarin -- Anisimov -- Kane
Rasmussen -- Kruger -- Panik
Hartman -- Schmaltz -- Motte
Keith -- Hjalmarsson
Campbell -- Seabrook
Forsling -- Rozsival