CALGARY, AB -- Returning a near-identical roster to the one that saw them advance to the Western Conference semi-final, the San Jose Sharks are expected to be in the mix when it comes time to drop the puck on postseason action.
The likes of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau show little signs of age while Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski continue to mature. The team also welcomes back goaltender Antti Niemi, who will look to replicate his Vezina caliber season from a year ago.
The Sharks -- set to face Calgary on Saturday night -- are coming off their first defeat of the season, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars. The team has yet to fall in regulation after winning their first six games of the season.
Last Season: 25-16-7, 57 points (6th in West)
Notable Additions: C Tyler Kennedy, D Rob Davison
Notable Subtractions: C/RW TJ Galiardi, G Thomas Greiss
Flames Season Series Record: 0-0-0
Riding a seven-game point-scoring streak to start the season, few have been as hot to start the 2013-14 campaign as Marleau. He’s amassed six goals and nine points over that stretch, placing him in a tie for eighth in NHL scoring with a trio of Sharks teammates, though none have gathered points with the same consistency as the 34-year-old.
Before suffering an injury on a check that has earned St. Louis Blues forward Maxim Lapierre an in-person disciplinary hearing, Boyle had just two points -- both assists -- in six games. The defenceman returned to San Jose following the hit, and isn’t likely to dress for the Sharks Saturday against the Flames.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
The answer to the trivia question ‘Who did San Jose choose with Calgary’s pick acquired in exchange for Miikka Kiprusoff?’, Vlasic has been particularly strong for the Sharks this season. His plus-9 rating is tops on the club, while he leads all defencemen with two goals and six points. Though its unlikely he continues his torrid scoring pace, Vlasic will soon eclipse his totals of three goals and seven points over 48 games last season.
San Jose’s first pick (17th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, Hertl has delivered more than expected in his brief seven game NHL career thus far. The rookie has a team-leading seven goals, with four coming at the expense of the New York Rangers just over a week ago, tying a Sharks franchise record for most goals in a game with Owen Nolan (who accomplished the feat in 1995).
Another rookie, Nieto scored his first goal against the Rangers (as part of a three-point night) and added another Thursday night against Dallas, running his totals to five points in seven games on the season. Drafted in the second round (47th overall) in 2011, the 20-year-old is adjusting well in his first full professional season.