Preview: Sharks at Flames
Tensions may come to a boil when the San Jose Sharks visit the Calgary Flames on Thursday in a battle of the Pacific Division’s top two teams. While San Jose has won three in a row and 10 of 13 and Calgary is on a torrid 9-1-1 run, their physical New Year’s Eve contest was ratcheted up a notch after Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk’s hit on defenseman Radim Simek caught the ire of several Sharks players.
“We’ll see,” San Jose’s Evander Kane told reporters when asked if the late actions in Calgary’s 8-5 win will play into Thursday’s tilt. “It’s something hopefully everyone in this room remembers because it doesn’t matter who you are – whether you are a skilled guy, a big guy, a tough guy, a small guy, it’s on each and every person in this room to stick up for one another.” Captain Joe Pavelski scored his team-leading 29th goal 2:49 into overtime of Tuesday’s 3-2 victory versus Winnipeg to give him eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last four outings. While San Jose appears charged for the rematch, Calgary star Johnny Gaudreau said he is focused on his team’s play as it heads toward a pivotal stretch in the schedule. “This is the most important part of the season, these last 30 games,” said the 25-year-old Gaudreau, who leads the team in goals (29), assists (45) and points (74). “You’re still trying to string together wins, other teams are battling, trying to make wild-card spots. It gets harder down the stretch. This when you need your best players to show up, night in and night out.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN-Plus, NBCS California (San Jose), Sportsnet 1 (Calgary)
ABOUT THE SHARKS (31-16-7): Defenseman Brent Burns set up Pavelski’s short-handed goal in overtime on Tuesday to boost his club-high totals in assists (48) and points (58). Like Burns, Logan Couture is also riding a four-game point streak after his power-play versus the Jets gave him three tallies and three assists in that stretch. Joonas Donskoi hasn’t been as fortunate of late as he has been held off the scoresheet in four consecutive contests heading into the tilt with Calgary, against which he has three goals and an assist this season.
ABOUT THE FLAMES (34-14-5): Tkachuk wasn’t interested in providing bulletin-board material when he met with reporters on Wednesday to discuss the rematch with the Sharks. “I don’t think I’m going to be the guy who’s going to give you what you want on that quote,” the 21-year-old said. “… We have guys that can play that style, too. (Kane) is a good player. They’re a really good team. It’s going to be a great game.” Sean Monahan notched five assists for a career high in points for a game in the last meeting with the Sharks, while Gaudreau and Tkachuk each scored two goals and set up two others.
1. Calgary and San Jose combined for 64 penalty minutes in the final 41 seconds in their New Year’s Eve game.
2. The Sharks have surrendered the second-most goals in the league in the first five minutes of a period (48).
3. Calgary F Mikael Backlund, who had two goals in the last meeting with San Jose, has five points (three goals, two assists) in his last four games overall.