Such is life in the NHL playoff race that a win or loss on any given night can change your perspective. The Canucks certainly seem like they're right back in the hunt thanks to their recent two-game win streak. What's intriguing, with tonight's game being the first of five meetings between Vancouver and San Jose, is the possibility the Canucks could potentially rein in the Sharks if they can get hot against their Pacific Division rival down the stretch. Vancouver sits 10 points behind San Jose in the standings which, with a little bit of luck on the Canucks' part, could make the head-to-head battles between the two rather interesting as the regular season winds down.
The Canucks are bracing for what could be significant changes to their line-up come tomorrow but for now their line-up will look fairly similar to what they had on Thursday against Ottawa with the exception of Adam Cracknell dressing in place of Jared McCann. Look for Ryan Miller and Martin Jones to get the start between the pipes for their respective teams. The Sharks acquired netminder James Reimer but he's not expected to be active tonight.
Puck drop at 4 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
Keys to the Game
Playoff-like intensity. The Canucks and Sharks are going to become real familiar with one another over the next 33 days; so much so that the season series will take on the feel of a playoff series. It remains to be seen if the Canucks will qualify for the actual post-season, but they certainly can impact the playoff aspirations of the Sharks.
Showcase showdown.It's no secret that the Canucks are approaching Monday's trade deadline with a seller's mentality so there will be a spotlight on the players thought to be on the market. For them to have a good showing would not only help the Canucks out tonight, but also help increase their value with the deadline looming.
The big boys bounce back. Among the Sharks players that had point streaks snapped in Friday's loss to Buffalo included Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton. Those sticks haven't been silent often this season or historically against the Canucks, so expect to see them back making noise tonight.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Sharks this season when leading after one period (19-2-0).
Straight wins for the Sharks at Rogers Arena dating back to March 5, 2013.
Points each for Vrbata (5-1-6) and D. Sedin (0-6-6) last season against the Sharks, leading all players.
Road wins for the Sharks this season, tied for most in the NHL.
Anniversary for the Sharks this season.
Penalty kill percentage for the Sharks over their last four games (4 goals allowed on 7 times shorthanded).
- While much of the off-season focus around the Sharks (aside from the coaching change) centred on the changes in the crease with the arrival of Martin Jones and departure of Antti Niemi, it's been their offence that has made the most notable strides. The Sharks have seen their goals for increase from 2.73 per game a year ago to 2.92 this season where they're among the league's top scoring teams.
- The usual suspects of Pavelski, Thornton, and Burns are the leaders of the Sharks' offensive charge but they haven't been alone. The Sharks have received consistent secondary scoring from the likes of free agent acquisition Joel Ward (36 points in 58 games this season after recording 34 points in 82 games with Washington last year), rookie Joonas Donskoi (10 goals and 27 points), and Tomas Hertl (career-high 32 points and counting).
- The offensive boost they've received from the aforementioned three has helped them offset the offence that they've been missing so far this season from Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. Injuries have limited Couture to just 30 games played this season although he's been very effective when he's actually in the line-up with eight goals and 22 points to his credit. Marleau, meanwhile, is clearly a shadow of his former self and is on his way to his lowest point totals in a full season since his rookie year in 1997.98 even though he still sits fourth in team scoring overall.
- Without question, the Sharks' offence is driven by blue-liner Brent Burns. Not only does he sit third in team scoring with 51 points (9 shy of tying his career-high of 60 set last season), he leads the team in shots with 258 – 100 more than the next leader, Joe Pavelski. In fact, the only player in the NHL with more shots than Burns is Washington's Alex Ovechkin.
- The power play has been a big part of the Sharks' offence and Burns has been a big part of the power play as he leads the team with 21 power play points. San Jose is clicking at 22.5 percent efficiency this season. It helps that they get plenty of chances to work on it as well. They average 3.33 power play opportunities per game. The Canucks, by comparison, average just 3.03. (In other words, the Sharks get roughly one more power play opportunity than the Canucks every three games).
- Defensively, the Sharks have seen their goals against average drop slightly from 2.76 last season to 2.68 this season. They're hoping the recent addition of veteran blue-liner Roman Polak from the Leafs will help with that, as well as their abysmal penalty kill which ranks near the bottom of the league clicking at just 79.3 percent (although they're significantly better on the road at 82.2 percent).