The San Jose Sharks wrap up their current four games in six nights road trip in the unfriendly confines of the United Center against the NHL-leading Chicago Blackhawks. San Jose has enjoyed little success when visiting the Windy City of late: the Sharks are just 1-8-1 at the United Center since March 14, 2011.
The Sharks road trip has already picked up two points in each of its three stops: two shootout wins at Ottawa and Toronto and a 4-2 victory at Montreal. The San Jose road power play clicked for two rare goals against the Canadiens and could again get on the board against the Blackhawks who own the worst overall penalty kill in the league.
The Sharks are expected to keep Timo Meier in the lineup after debuting against Montreal. Mikkel Boedker has also shown signs of life for the Sharks with good scoring chances and strong offensive zone play in the last five games have netted him a pair of assists. However, Boedker’s goal drought is now 21 games and San Jose’s need for secondary scoring is ongoing. Joel Ward was a healthy scratch to make room for Meier and with the team’s performance in Montreal, head coach Peter DeBoer might just keep the forward lines intact from the Sharks previous win.
It is business as usual for the Blackhawks despite star netminder Corey Crawford going under the knife for an emergency appendectomy earlier this month. Scott Darling, who played for two SPHL franchises, the Louisiana IceGators and Mississippi RiverKings after leaving college, has been a savior for the Blackhawks. In 14 games, the 27-year-old goalie has posted slightly better statisitics since the injury to Crawford, even leading to some speculation about possible changes in net.
Regardless of who is in net, the Blackhawks have depended on stellar goaltending of their duo for much of the year, but the offense is getting on track with the return of Jonathan Toews and the recent hot streaks of Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov. Panarin and right wing Patrick Kane share the team lead with 29 points each in 32 games played.
San Jose Sharks at Chicago Blackhawks
United Centre – 7:00 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – CSN California, WGN
Radio: Sharks Radio Network, WGN 720 AM
2016-17 Season Series: 1-0-0
November 23, 2016 – San Jose Sharks 2 Chicago Blackhawks 1
San Jose Sharks – 19-11-1 – 39 Points
Road Record: 9-7-1
Hot Players: Brent Burns, Martin Jones
Key Injuries: Tomas Hertl
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thronton – Joe Pavelski
Mikkel Boedker – Logan Couture – Kevin Labanc
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi
Micheal Haley – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Brain
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
Martin Jones (Likely)
Chicago Blackhawks – 21-8-4 – 46 Points
Home Record: 12-2-3
Hot Players: Artem Anisimov, Artemi Panarin
Key Injuries: Corey Crawford
Ryan Hartman – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmusen – Marcus Kruger – Richard Panik
Andrew Desjardins – Vince Hinostroza – Jordin Tootoo
Duncan Keith- Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny – Brent Seabrook
Trevor van Riemsdyk – Brian Campbell
Scott Darling (Likely)
1)Brent Burns continues his white-hot play. The player that Joe Thornton recently called the best player in the world is leading the team in points (29), goals (13), and the entire NHL in shots on goal (133) in 31 games played and has eight points in his last seven games.
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) December 15, 2016
2)Chicago Blackhawks starter Scott Darling has never faced the San Jose Sharks in his NHL career. Darling has a career record of 30-14-6 in 58 career appearances, all with Chicago. He owns a 2.35 goals-against average and .922 save percentage to go with three shutouts.
3)Timo Meier scored his first goal on his first shot in the NHL. The 20-year-old was the ninth overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and scored 117 goals in his QMJHL career with the Halifax Mooseheads and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. This season, he leads the San Jose Barracuda in goals as well with nine.
4)The Chicago Blackhawks penalty kill is struggling this year, tied for 29th in the NHL with just a 73.3% success rate. The Sharks road power play has struggled as well with just six goals in 54 attempts, but two of those goals came last game against Montreal.
5)Speaking of struggles, both the Blackhawks and the Sharks have not done well in the face-off dot this year. Chicago face-off winning percentage ranks 25th in the league (47.9%) which is one spot ahead of 26th ranked San Jose (47.8%).
6)Patrick Kane’s 694 points in his career ranks sixth all-time in Blackhawks history. He will have to pass current Sharks general manager and former-Chicago great Doug Wilson’s 779 career points to get into the top five.