The San Jose Sharks embark on a four-game road trip to end February that is the second longest of the season and longest remaining trip in both length and distance. It starts in Dallas Monday at 5pm PST in a showdown between division rivals.
The Sharks are in first-place and the Stars are in second place in the Pacific Division. Either the Sharks or the Stars have won the division every year but one since it was created. So let’s look at how the teams match-up:
Head-to-head: advantage Sharks
San Jose has won all three games this season, with a combined score of 11-4. This will be the third and last contest in Dallas, and the Sharks won the first 6-2 and the second 3-1. But it is important to note that all of these games were in 2008, before Dallas began to turn their season around.
Recent performance: toss-up
Since the All-Star break, Dallas is 9-4—18 points in 13 games, a point percentage of .692; eight of those games were at home. In the same time period, the Sharks are 6-2-4—16 points in 12 games, a point percentage of .667, with only six of those games at home. Expanding back to their games since their last meeting, Dallas is 14-7-2 for 30 points in 23 games (.652), while the Sharks are 12-4-5 for 29 points in 21 games (.690).
Injury Report: major advantage Sharks
San Jose just got Jeremy Roenick, Tomas Plihal, and Josy Shelley back. Moreover, all accounts are that Brad Lukowich is also ready to return: he actually took part in the pre-game skate Saturday and has been activated. That leaves only centres Torrey Mitchell (out all season with a broken leg suffered in the pre-season) and Marcel Goc on the injured list.
Dallas, however, is missing three of its five best players in defenceman Sergei Zubov and forwards Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards. In addition, forward Landon Wilson is on injured reserve.
By the numbers:
- San Jose has the league’s best record, with a .781 point percentage, and their road point percentage of .654 ranks third. Dallas has the 14th best record in the league at .560 and their .655 point percentage at home is ninth in the league…slight advantage, Sharks.
- The Sharks are the league’s second-ranked offence at 3.44 goals per game and is fourth defensively, giving up 2.39 goals per contest. Dallas has the league’s 13th best offence at 2.91 goals per game and is just 23rd defensively, yielding an average of 3.02 per contest. The Sharks goal differential is second in the league at +1.05, while the Stars are just 17th at -0.11…major advantage, Sharks.
- San Jose has the second best power play in the league at 24.4 percent and the fourth-best penalty kill at 83.8 percent. Dallas has the 21st-ranked power play at 16.9 percent and the 23rd-ranked penalty kill at 79.1 percent. Combine those values and the Sharks are second in the league with a 108.2 special teams rating, while the Stars are 23rd with a 96 rating. This may see to be a huge edge, but it is important to note that these figures already factor into offence and defence above. Nonetheless, it show another potential advantage the Sharks can exploit.
Ultimately, San Jose seems to have a clear edge in this game: both teams played Saturday afternoon, San Jose has had plenty of time to come into Dallas early enough not to suffer jetlag, and everything else points to a Sharks victory. The Stars may have more at stake in the sense that they are fighting to make the playoffs, but the Sharks have their last road trip to erase, and things will get sticky if they lose the first game on this trip.
However, one should not consider their dominance thus far to be likely to continue, and were it not for the fact that in the past two years the road team has won more often in this series, I would give this to the Stars on the basis of it being their last chance to get a home win. Sharks 4, Stars 3 in OT.