|The unofficial start of the second half to the NHL season takes place tonight, and for the San Jose Sharks, it is paramount for them to renew the momentum they carried into the All-Star break. From Jan. 19-23, the Sharks lost three straight games to the Ottawa Senators, Vanouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers, but earned a 1-0 victory over the Calgary Flames to go into the break on a high note. |
As of today, the Sharks occupy first place in the Pacific Division with a slim two-point lead over their rivals from down the California coast – the Los Angeles Kings. It figures to be a close race down the stretch, as both teams have picked up their game over the past few weeks.
When the Sharks and Blue Jackets meet for the third of four meetings tonight at HP Pavilion, not only will it be their second game in the same building in the last month, but it’s likely to be another tight-checking contest as the previous matchups have been.
San Jose has won both meetings by 2-1 finals, but the last game in the Bay Area was a tale of two halves: the Blue Jackets got an early goal from Vinny Prospal in the first period, but the Sharks came back to tie the game at 13:03 of the period (Ryane Clowe) and got the eventual game-winner less than five minutes into the second period. After that, the flow was largely dictated by the Sharks and they got several key saves from goaltender Thomas Greiss, who has stopped 48 of 50 shots in the season series against the Blue Jackets.
With both teams on full rest and the Blue Jackets arriving a day early to California, it’s expected that both regular starting goaltenders will play in tonight’s game. That means Curtis Sanford gets his third start of the year against the Sharks, and he’s been terrific of late: he has allowed two goals or fewer in three of his last four starts, carrying a 2.46 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in that stretch.
| || || |
|Nash (17) ||Couture (21) |
|Prospal (21) ||Thornton (30) |
|Nash (33) ||Thornton (38) |
|Dorsett (111) ||Winchester (71) |
|Johansen (+5) ||Vlasic (+17) |
|Sanford (8-11-4) |
|Niemi (21-10-5) |
|Sanford (2.57) ||Greiss (1.98) |
|Sanford (.912) ||Greiss (.927) || |
|• After playing three road games prior to the All-Star Break, the Blue Jackets continue a six-game road trip tonight at San Jose. Columbus is 0-2-1 so far on the trip, which includes stops at Los Angeles tomorrow night and Anaheim on Friday. |
• Derick Brassard picked up his first assist in five games with a helper on Lebda’s goal Jan. 24 at Tampa Bay. He last had an assist Jan. 13 vs. Phoenix. He has tallied 5-6-11 the last 17 games after being held to 2-3-5 the first 24 games of the season.
• R.J. Umberger registered his first multi-point game in nine games with a pair of assists Jan. 24 at Tampa Bay. He last had a multi-point outing was Dec. 22 at Nashville. The assists also snapped a skid that saw him go five games without a helper. He has collected 2-8-10 the last 13 games after being held to 2-1-3 the previous nine games.
• Columbus is 13-25-4 all-time against San Jose, including a 3-16-2 mark at HP Pavilion at San Jose. The “road” team has won five of the last six meetings (includes a pair of games in Stockholm, Sweden).