After a somewhat lack-lustre affair at home against the Bruins on Tuesday night, the Flames hit the ice tonight to take on the Sharks in the first half of a weekend set at home, and frankly, I'm terrified.
The Sharks have won five straight games dating back to February 15th, three of them against Western Conference opponents, and have surpassed the Phoenix Coyotes for first place in the Pacific Division. They've only been scoring an average of three goals in those games, but Antti Niemi has been on fire in net lately, allowing just eight goals in the same time span.
Much like the Flames, the Sharks have been up and down this season, but appear to have finally found their grove with time winding down on the season. There's no question that they were once amongst the underachievers of the Western Conference, but that seems to have righted itself; the Sharks are relatively healthy and now occupy their rightful perch in the company of the West's division leaders.
San Jose will reportedly be without defenceman Dan Boyle tonight, who suffered an injury in Wednesday's win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Flames will get another crack at former mate Ian White, who returns to the Saddledome tonight for the first time since being traded back in November. White has experienced something of a regression this season as predicted by some around these parts, and is shooting just 2.2% this season after operating at 9.3% efficiency in 27 games in 2009-10 with the Flames.
White has one assist in three games since joining the Sharks and is on pace for sixteen fewer points, although he is getting slightly less ice time now that he's not being used strictly in a top-four role, but that could change with Boyle out. If the Flames are going to win tonight they're probably going to have to try and exploit the Sharks' blueline, because their forward depth has the potential to give the home team fits.
Lines and Pairings:
Kipper gets his 15th consecutive start in net tonight against his former team while the aforementioned Niemi will start for the Sharks with Nittymaki on IR.
Enjoy the game everyone, and hope the Flames re-discover their scoring touch in the comments. Go Flames.