Game Preview : Clash Of The Titans

Ezra Shaw

Chicago Blackhawks (16 pts 7-0-2) @ San Jose Sharks (15 pts 7-1-1), 9:30 PM HP Pavilion - San Jose, CA, TV: CSN Chicago Radio: WGN 720 AM

Tonight is the first of three meetings between the Blackhawks and the Sharks, all occurring within the next 17 days. Tonight's match up features the top two teams in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks are coming off of a crazy shootout win in Calgary Saturday night. They have had two days off so they should seem much fresher than they looked against the Flames. The days off have appeared to work wonders for Dave Bolland who, barring any major setback, will return to the Hawks lineup tonight. Speaking of returns to the ice, Corey Crawford will be back between the pipes for the Blackhawks. Crawford will be tested against the high powered San Jose offense, who is averaging 3.22 goals a game this season. The key match up tonight will be the Chicago penalty kill versus the Sharks' power play unit. San Jose has been on a league high 50 power plays this year and have scored on 13 of them for a 26% conversion rate which is 5th in the NHL. The Sharks were 0 for 6 on the power play last night in Anaheim. This will be a test for the Hawks top rated PK unit that has only surrendered 2 goals on 36 attempts.

The Sharks suffered their first regulation loss to the Anaheim Ducks last night, leaving the Hawks as the only team in the NHL yet to lose in within 60 minutes. The Sharks offense has been stellar to start the year. They already have four players that have reached double digits in points. Patrick Marleau has cooled down after his white hot start to the year. He only has one assist in his last four games after scoring 13 points (9 G, 4 A) in the first five games of the year. Thomas Greiss started last night so the Blackhawks will see their old friend Antti Niemi in net tonight. Niemi is 5-2-1 with a 2.64 GAA and .920 save % in eight career starts against his former team.

Chicago Blackhawks probable lineup:

Fowards

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp - Dave Bolland - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Viktor Stalberg

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Michael Frolik

Defensive Pairings

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Sheldon Brookbank - Nick Leddy

Goaltender

Corey Crawford 5-0-2, 1.66 GAA, .934 save %, 0 SO

Injuries

Dave Bolland (ankle) probable, Daniel Carcillo (knee) OUT, Michal Rozsival (knee) questionable

Leading Scorers:

P. Kane 13 pts (4 G, 9 A)
M. Hossa 10 pts (6 G, 4 A)
P. Sharp 8 pts (2 G, 6 A)
J. Toews 7 pts (4 G, 3 A)
N. Leddy 5 pts (1 G, 4 A)

Probable San Jose Sharks lineup:

Forwards

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - James Sheppard

Tommy Wingels - Michal Handzus - Martin Havlat

Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - Adam Burish

Defensive Pairings

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brad Stuart

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Goaltender

Antti Niemi 6-0-1, 1.80 GAA, .936 save %, 0 SO

Injuries

Brent Burns (hernia surgery) OUT

Leading Scorers:

P. Marleau 14 pts (9 G, 5 A)
J. Thornton 14 pts (3 G, 11 A)
J. Pavelski 12 pts (4 G, 8 A)
L. Couture 11 pts (6 G, 5 A)
D. Boyle 6 pts (2 G, 4 A)

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