San Jose Sharks (+131) at Ottawa Senators (-145, 5.5 o/u)
The San Jose Sharks (35-29-8, 78 pts) are in a battle for their playoff-lives at the moment. The squad, which hasn’t missed the postseason since 2002-03, is currently six points back of Calgary for the third and final playoff berth in the Pacific Division and eight points back of Winnipeg for the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
Making matters worse, the Sharks have to travel to Ottawa tonight (7:30 p.m. at the Canadian Tire Centre) to face the blistering hot Senators (36-24-11, 83 pts), who are making a more successful playoff push of their own in the Eastern Conference.
San Jose comes into tonight losers of three of the last four. They created their share of scoring chances on Saturday against Montreal, but couldn’t find a way to beat Vezina candidate Cary Price, falling 2-0 to Les Habitants.
The Sharks managed to down the slumping Leafs (4-1) the game prior, but let two valuable points get away in Winnipeg (5-2) in the first game on their current seven-game road trip.
Ottawa, meanwhile, has won six straight and is 9-1 in its last ten. The recent hot-streak has the Sens sitting just one point back of Boston for the final Wild Card spot in the East (with two games in hand).
The Senators helped their own playoff chances substantially last Thursday, downing Boston 6-4 in Ottawa. They followed that up with a 5-3 win over their arch-rivals from Toronto.
But coach Dave Cameron realizes the team hasn’t achieved any of its goals, so far.
“We’re not in the playoffs yet,” said Cameron. “Yeah, we’re on a good run, we beat Boston, a huge emotional game. We’re still on the outside. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.”
While Ottawa is playing much better from top-to-bottom under Cameron than they did under his predecessor, Paul McLean (who was let go mid-season), the Sens can largely thank the stellar goaltending of rookie Andrew Hammond for their startling playoff push.
The 27-year-old is 13-0-1 with a .947 save percentage and 1.65 GAA since being called up from the AHL. But the rookie is downplaying his own role in the recent Ottawa magic.
“I don’t think the streak is something that’s on my shoulders, I think it’s kind of a team thing right now for us and right now we’re fortunately getting rewarded for playing good hockey right now and that’s something that doesn’t always happen,” said Hammond.
The streaking Senators come into the game at -145 in the moneyline, while the slumping Sharks are +131. The over/under is at the usual 5.5.
The last time these teams met (February 28), Hammond had 28 saves in a 4-2 Senators victory in San Jose. Though the Sharks haven’t looked good on the current trip, they are actually better on the road (18-13-3) than they are in at home (17-16-5). Taking the San Jose moneyline (+131) looks like decent value.
(Photo credit: Derek Ortiz (Own work – SJ Sharks Teal And White Game) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)