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Forest for the Trees: Blackhawks vs. Sharks Preview

The Blackhawks start off the new year by hosting the Sharks.

Chicago Blackhawks v San Jose Sharks Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

As the calendar changes to 2023, the Blackhawks look to start the year off on the right foot when they host the Sharks on Sunday evening at the United Center.

It’s no secret what the Blackhawks’ plan is for this season and they’ve have made their way to the basement of the Central Division — and NHL — nearing the midway point of the season. As if their 8-22-4 record and measly 20 points didn’t look bad enough of paper, the on-ice product has become more and more difficult to watch. However, the Sharks are not all that great of a team, either, and the Blackhawks could do just enough to squeak out two points on New Year’s Day.

San Jose’s 11-19-7 record is ugly enough in its own right. Their 29 points leave them in seventh in the Pacific Division and 29th overall in the NHL. The Sharks have played the Hawks before, with San Jose taking a fluky 5-2 loss back on Oct. 15. The Blackhawks scored three goals in about three minutes in the second period — two of which were short-handed goals, both coming from Sam Lafferty. This game proved that the Sharks weren’t that great of a team, but the Blackhawks have had to depend on oddball heroics like that to get victories this season.

The bulk of San Jose’s roster is relatively healthy, although, Kevin Labanc and Luke Kunin have both missed time recently with injuries. Defenseman Erik Karlsson — yes he’s still there — leads the team in scoring by a country mile with 50 points (13 G, 37 A). Following the veteran blue-liner are veteran forwards Timo Meier with 37 points (20 G, 17 A) and Tomas Hertl with 35 points (13 G, 22 A). While the Sharks do have weapons that pose scoring threats, the Blackhawks main concern should be not beating themselves by allowing as many shots on goal as they have been as of late (shot suppression, anyone?).

On the Chicago front, Jujhar Khaira has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury, while Jarred Tinordi remains out with a facial fracture. It’s likely that Petr Mrazek will get the start in net for the Hawks after Alex Stalock played on Saturday.

One detail also of note is that both the Hawks and Sharks will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. Although the Blackhawks got their shin pads handed to them by the Blue Jackets on Saturday, they had a shorter travel distance and will be playing at home on Sunday night after losing on Saturday afternoon. San Jose played be traveling from Dallas to Chicago after losing to the Stars 5-2 on Saturday night. It may not matter all that much in the end but the Blackhawks need all the help they can get these days.

It’s been a rough season so far, but we’re sticking this one out together. Here’s to a better year in 2023. This is a process and we have to remember to see the forest for the trees.

Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Sharks

41.84% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 48.71% (23rd)

41.28% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 51.41% (15th)

2.26 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.03 (22nd)

3.81 (29th) — Goals against per game — 3.57 (27th)

56.6% (1st) — Faceoffs — 50% (16th)

18.8% (16th) — Power play — 22.2% (15th)

75.0% (28th) — Penalty kill — 83.6% (4th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

T. Johnson — Domi — Kane

Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh

Athanasiou — Dickinson — Lafferty

Katchouk — Johnson — Blackwell

McCabe — S. Jones

Phillips — Murphy

J. Johnson — C. Jones

Mrazek

Stalock

Sharks

Meier — Couture — Barabanov

Nieto — Hertl — Labanc

Bonino — Sturm — Svechnikov

Lindblom — Lorentz — Gadjovich

Megna — Karlsson

Vlasic — Simek

Harrington — Ferraro

Reimer/Kahkonen

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720