SB Nation Rival Blog: Fear The Fin
Hurricanes Record: 26-26-9 | 61 pts | 7th Metro | 13th EC
Sharks Record: 39-17-6 | 84 pts | 2nd Pacific | 4th WC
Games Remaining: 21
Minimum Points Needed: 92
Points Back: 31 (1.41 points/game)
Playoff Chances (Sports Club Stats): 3.8%
It feels like a long time since the Carolina Hurricanes played a complete team game against a top NHL opponent, but that's just what they did in Raleigh on December 6, 2013, when a four-goal third period capped off by a three-point night from Elias Lindholm led to a 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks. Tonight they have an opportunity to close out a disappointing road trip on a positive note if they can muster a similar effort at the Shark Tank.
What to know about the Sharks:
- The Sharks are back home for the first time after the Olympic break, having started with a three-game road trip that featured a loss to the Sabres sandwiched between wins against the Flyers and Devils.
- The Sharks are one of the strongest teams in the league for controlling five-on-five play. They lead the league in shot attempts per game and are top-five in limiting shots against. While their power play is middle-of-the-pack, they draw a lot of penalties, and their PP-PK differential is the best in the league.
- Joe Pavelski leads the team in goals (32) and is tied with Joe Thornton for the lead in points (59). He followed up a strong Olympic performance with a hat trick in the Sharks' return against the Flyers, and has 5 points in the last three games.
- The Sharks are also getting a boost from the return of Logan Couture (hand surgery) and Raffi Torres (knee surgery), both of whom gathered three points on the road trip.
- Antti Niemi was in net for the loss against the Sabres on Friday. Alex Stalock was in net for wins against the Flyers and Devils. The Sharks didn't practice yesterday, and no decision has been made as to tonight's starting netminder. Both Niemi and Stalock have one career game against the Canes, both losses, Stalock's loss coming in the December game. Niemi is 29-13-6 season to date with a 2.41 GAA and .911 save percentage; Stalock is 10-4-0 with a 1.78 GAA and .933 save percentage.
What to know about the Canes:
- The Hurricanes are looking to salvage anything positive out of this road trip. Prior to the Buffalo game the Canes had a 26.7% chance of squeaking into the playoffs with 25 games remaining. Four games and four losses later and those chances are now down to a depressing 3.8%. While not mathematically eliminated, the writing is on the wall that the Canes are likely missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year, and with the trade deadline looming, changes will certainly be on the horizon.
- Slow starts have plagued the team on the road trip. They have not led at any time in the last five games. Their power play woes continue as well, now minus -3 for 19 (3 shorthanded goals against) since the Olympic break, next to last in the league.
- Justin Faulk will be out of tonight's line-up. He suffered an undisclosed upper body injury in the first period of the Ducks game, among reports that he may have already been questionable to play that night, and per team sources he could miss up to 10 days. The injury is not concussion-related. Mike Komisarek will draw back into the lineup to fill the roster spot.
- Andrej Sekera and Alexander Semin have kept decent scoring runs going. Both scored in Sunday's game. Sekera now has 12 points in his last 13 games and is tied for sixth among NHL defensemen with eleven goals. Semin has 10 goals in his last 14 games; only Phil Kessel (TOR) has more goals in that time span.
- No decision has been made with regard to starting goaltender. Cam Ward is 3-1-0 in four career games against the Sharks and was in net for the win in December. Anton Khudobin has not previously faced the Sharks.
- Jim Rutherford and Ron Francis were originally scheduled to fly back to Raleigh yesterday, but weather issues postponed their trip home. The team will stick around in San Jose until after tomorrow's trade deadline has passed (3 pm ET, noon PT) and will fly back afterwards, which depending on what transpires Wednesday could make for an interesting flight home.
We'll have the game thread open and ready to roll later this evening.