The Anaheim Ducks are back in the office Tuesday night, hosting the rival San Jose Sharks at Honda Center. Anaheim sits only three points back of the Pacific Division-leading Sharks, making tonight’s contest an oddly important one for a late-December affair. The Ducks have had an up-and-down season, but they’ve found success against San Jose, having beaten them twice in the last month.
That success may very well continue tonight, as Sharks’ head coach Pete DeBoer confirmed Tuesday morning that defenseman David Schlemko will once again be a healthy scratch. Schlemko is a nifty puck-moving blueliner, and his absence should be a welcome sigh of relief for the Ducks’ forecheckers.
John Gibson off the ice first. Jonathan Bernier has beaten San Jose twice but his past two starts haven't gone well.
— Curtis Zupke (@curtiszupke) December 27, 2016
Ducks’ head coach Randy Carlyle would surely get a sigh of relief if he got a solid performance out of John Gibson. The 23-year old has been maddeningly inconsistent. Coming off an outstanding performance against the speedy Toronto Maple Leafs, where he stopped 33 of 35 shots, he allowed two goals on just 18 shots against the hapless Ottawa Senators. The Sharks are sixth in the league in shot attempts per 60 at even strength, so Gibson should get plenty of opportunities to solidify his starter’s role.
San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks
Honda Center – 7:00 p.m. PST
TV Broadcast Channels: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, CSN California
Radio Broadcast Channels: 98.5 KFOX
San Jose Sharks: 21-12-3, 43 points
Road Record: 9-8-1
Hot Players: Kevin Labanc, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton
Key Injuries: Tomas Hertl
Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc-Logan Couture-Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier-Chris Tierney-Joonas Donskoi
Melker Karlsson-Michael Haley-Joel Ward
Paul Martin-Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon-Dylan Demelo
Anaheim Ducks: 17-12-6, 40 points
Home Record: 10-4-1
Hot Players: Cam Fowler, Rickard Rakell, Ryan Kesler
Key Injuries: Simon Despres (LTIR), Nate Thompson (LTIR), Clayton Stoner
Rickard Rakell-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Nick Ritchie-Antoine Vermette-Ondrej Kase
Joseph Cramarossa-Logan Shaw-Jared Boll
Cam Fowler-Sami Vatanen
Hampus Lindholm-Josh Manson
Korbinian Holzer-Kevin Bieksa
1) Although Sharks fans have been predictably upset by Schlemko being scratched two games in a row now, there might be deeper implications at play, according to our very own Zachary DeVine:
Don't like speculation, but with Schlemko out B2B games, recent increase in game day scouts, DeMelo's steady play…add it up. #SJSharks
— Zachary DeVine (@zakkthebear) December 23, 2016
2) Some statistical trends are arising in Gibson’s game. A main point of criticism in 2015-16 was his sub-par high-danger save percentage, and he once again finds himself near the bottom of the league in that category.
3) Has anyone seen Ryan Getzlaf? Though he’s been piling up the assists, he’s badly struggled to put the puck in the net with a paltry four tallies through 32 games. Perhaps even more worrisome is that he’s slid to below break even in shot attempt differential. It’s tough to understand what exactly is wrong with the captain’s game, but the Ducks had better hope that this isn’t part of a larger trend given his hefty contract and his 31 years of age.
4) Hampus Lindholm seems to be finding his groove once again after a delayed start to his season. The freshly-extended 22-year old is posting some gaudy possession numbers, thriving next to Josh Manson on what has been the Ducks’ best pairing this season. Though he’s not exactly piling up the points, he’s showing that his $5.25 million cap hit is an absolute bargain for Anaheim.
There might not be anyone who needs a strong performance more than Gibson tonight. Though it may sound like a tired narrative, the Ducks don’t exactly have a viable Plan B if Gibson doesn’t pan out.
Although the Ducks haven’t been very good at suppressing opposing shot attempts this season, they’ve also managed to keep those attempts to lower-percentage spots, as their eighth-overall expected goals-against would indicate. He was handed the keys to the franchise over the summer, and tonight is as good of an opportunity as any to validate that decision. No pressure, John.