San Jose Sharks (36-7-6, 78pts) vs
Columbus Blue Jackets (24-22-5, 53pts)
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
Saturday, February 7, 2009
7:00 PM EST
What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday morning, the Jackets sat in sixth place, after having shut out the Ottawa Senators. They had three winnable games coming up, and were poised to make a move. This morning, they sit in 11th place, losers of three straight games, and facing the top-ranked team in the Western Conference. Goalie Steve Mason is ailing, battling mononucleosis, and the Jackets seems to be playing with less confidence without him at 100%. Columbus is expecting Mason to go tonight against San Jose.
San Jose Sharks:
LW: Patrick Marleau – Milan Michalek – Mike Grier – Jody Shelley
C: Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski – Marcel Goc – Tomas Plihal
RW: Devin Setoguchi – Ryane Clowe – Jonathan Cheechoo – Claude Lemieux
D: Dan Boyle – Rob Blake – Douglas Murray
D: Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Christian Ehrhoff – Alexei Semenov
G: Evgeni Nabokov
Columbus Blue Jackets:
LW: Rick Nash – Fredrik Modin – Jason Chimera – Raffi Torres
C: Manny Malhotra – RJ Umberger – Jason Williams – Michael Peca
RW: Kristian Huselius – Jakub Voracek – Jared Boll – Andrew Murray
D: Jan Hejda – Fedor Tyutin – Kris Russell
D: Mike Commodore – Rostislav Klesla – Ole-Kristian Tollefsen
G: Steve Mason
SJS – 3.41 gpg (3rd NHL)
CBJ – 2.62 gpg (21st NHL)
SJS – 2.33 gapg (3rd NHL)
CBJ – 2.81 gapg (14th NHL)
SJS – 23.3% (5th NHL)
CBJ – 12.0% (30th NHL)
SJS – 85.2% (5th NHL)
CBJ – 81.0% (17th NHL)
Those stats above are daunting, especially when you factor in how Columbus has played in their last three games. Last night against Pittsburgh, Columbus played with solid effort in the first and third periods; they just could not capitalize on any scoring chances. This is something that has plagued them since the All Star Break, and will only be magnified against a team like San Jose. Further, the first two goals that Pittsburgh scored in last night’s second period were both softies. This seemed to completely take the life out of the team. The Jackets are a team that can ill-afford to take periods off, like they did last night. They have to play solid for 60 minutes, and they just have not been doing that for the last three games.
The Sharks are loaded. Second in point total only to Boston in the NHL, they lead the Western Conference. With Detroit’s recent struggles, they move closer and closer each game to all but locking up the number one seed in the West. The top line of Marleau/Thornton/Setoguchi has a combined 144 points on the season, including 59 goals. But, unlike some other stellar lines the Jackets have matched up with in recent games, this team is deep from top to bottom: they have seven double-digit goal scorers, and 13 players with double-digit point totals on the season. Goalie Evgeni Nabakov is one of the league’s best. In short, there is not a lot of weakness on this Sharks team.
I beg your pardon for the shortness of this preview, but quite frankly I just can’t look at all of the factors involved and see Columbus coming out on top. San Jose is a juggernaut; Columbus is playing poorly; Steve Mason is battling mono; the Jackets are on the second night of a back to back in which they had to travel. It all adds up to a loss, in my opinion. I could see this one getting ugly by the middle of the second period, even. About the only thing in the Jackets’ favor tonight is that San Jose has lost two straight (one in a shoot-out) at home, and played on Thursday in San Jose: that alone is a tough travel schedule not to mention having to play two games in three days sandwiched around a trip from California to Columbus. If any team can rise above that, it’s this Sharks team. Playing a wounded Jackets team will probably only help that.
Side game notes:
- Sharks winger Jody Shelley was an original member of the Blue Jackets, and played in Columbus from their inaugural season in ‘00-‘01 until the trading deadline last year, at which time he was dealt to San Jose. Shelley is the Blue Jackets all-time leader in penalty minutes, with 1025. The Jackets used the draft pick obtained in exchange for Shelley to bring in forward Jason Williams last month.
- This is the final of four meetings between these two teams. San Jose is 2-1-0 against Columbus this year. The Blue Jackets are 9-19-0-3 against the Sharks lifetime, and are 8-6-0-1 against them at Nationwide Arena.
Next Game For The Jackets
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
7:00 PM EST
Colorado Avalanche at Columbus Blue Jackets