San Jose Sharks (+110) at Vancouver Canucks (-130, 5.5 o/u)
A crucial Pacific Division matchup hits the ice tonight when the San Jose Sharks (31-25-8, 70 pts) visit the Vancouver Canucks (36-23-3, 75 pts) at Rogers Arena (10:00 p.m. Eastern).
The Sharks blanked the Eastern Conference-leading Canadiens last night in San Jose, 4-0, dominating every facet of the game. San Jose is just 3-6-1 in its last ten, though, and had lost eight in a row at home before last night.
The slump has dropped the team outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. The Sharks are level with Calgary and L.A. on points for the third and final automatic berth in the Pacific Division, but both teams have two games in hand on San Jose. (The Sharks are also three points back of Minnesota for the second Wild Card spot in the West.)
Vancouver, meanwhile, finds itself second in the Pacific Division, five points up on the Flames, Kings, and Sharks, but 12 points back of division-leading Anaheim.
The Canucks are a solid 7-3 in their last ten, but there is cause for concern in Vancouver; starting goaltender Ryan Miller is out with a leg injury and backup Eddy Lack has been inconsistent in his stead. The team recently lost to the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres (6-3) and then blew a three-goal third period lead to St. Louis on Sunday before prevailing 6-5 in OT.
“It’s not what we wanted to happen, blow a three-goal lead in the third,” Canucks center Nick Bonino said after the game. “But, some resiliency there. We battled back and got the two points.”
Jakob Markstrom, who was recalled from Vancouver’s AHL affiliate Utica after Miller went down, is expected to get the start tonight.
At yesterday’s trade deadline, the Canucks picked up Cory Conacher (NY Islanders) and Sven Baertschi (Calgary), but didn’t part with anyone on their current roster. The Sharks, meanwhile, were sellers; they dealt Freddie Hamilton, Tyler Kennedy, Andrew Desjardins, and James Sheppard, while acquiring Ben Smith (Chicago), Kyle Stollery (Colorado), and draft picks.
Tonight’s game will be the fourth meeting of the season between the Sharks and Canucks. Vancouver leads the series 2-1, but the road team has won all three games to date, and San Jose dominated Vancouver 5-1 last time out (February 5).
“San Jose does have a team that a lot of times will put you on your heels early because they’re fast,” Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins said after that loss. “But they played last night and we knew what to expect. They shouldn’t have been able to do that. They did.”
The Canucks will be in the same situation tonight: at home against a San Jose team that played the night before. Inevitably, Desjardins will be hoping for a different outcome.
(Photo credit: Hockey Broad [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)