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Game 8--Sharks@Flames: Home Sweet Home

The weary Flames return to the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight to the waiting San Jose Sharks (6PM MT, Sportsnet West), who scored three powerplay goals en route to thrashing the young Oilers 6-1 at Rexall last night. While Friday's offensive outburst at the expense of the Blue Jackets was encouraging, the home team will likely be hard-pressed to replicate such a performance against the Sharks, who will most certainly be one of the teams to beat in the West again this season despite their rather mediocre 3-2-1 record.

The Sharks sit near the top of the league in goals for/game with 3.17, and with Heatley, Marleau, and newly minted captain Joe Thornton operating at a PPG pace, the big line appears to be off to a good start. It's a different Joe who's leading the club in scoring six games in, however, as Joe Pavelski padded his early totals last night in Edmonton with one goal and three helpers. The 26-year-old's three goals and seven points lead the way for the Sharks after he finished first on the team in playoff scoring this past spring with nine goals and 17 points in 15 post-season games.

In net, Antero Niittymaki and Antti Niemi have split the duties right down the middle thus far, with the former emerging as the early favourite, going 2-0-1 and allowing just six goals on 78 shots, good for a .923 SV%. Niemi, who will start in net tonight for the visitors, has been thoroughly mediocre through three games, going 1-2 and operating with an .879 SV%, although he has faced more rubber than Niittymaki.

The Sharks are healthy with the exception of defenceman Derek Joslin (upper-body), while the usual suspects are missing for the Flames. Steve Staios will be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game tonight, with Brendan Mikkelson once again taking his place in the lineup after a solid showing in Columbus.

Lines and pairings:

Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla

Niklas Hagman-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque

Curtis Glencross-Mikael Backlund-Brendan Morrison

Craig Conroy-Stefan Meyer-Tim Jackman

Robyn Regehr-Ian White

Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich

Jay Bouwmeester-Brendan Mikkelson


Sorry for the delay in posting everyone--I see the good guys are already up 2-0 early on courtesy of Rene Bourque and Jarome Iginla--and enjoy the game!