Matt Pryor The Hockey Writers
Preview: Stars & Sharks Face off Monday
Fortunately for the San Jose Sharks, the Dallas Stars aren’t a playoff team.
If they were, the Sharks might have a problem: In their last five games against playoff-bound clubs, the Sharks are 1-4-0. Worse yet, they were held to a single goal in each of the four losses.
This promises to be an interesting week for the Sharks. They kick off a four-game road trip at Dallas tonight, then fly to Minnesota for a Tuesday re-match with the Wild, who beat the Sharks 3-1 two weeks ago. The Sharks return to Dallas for a Friday night game before jetting to Nashville to battle the Predators Saturday.
The Sharks hope to use the two contests with the Stars to reset their game, return to playing winning hockey and rediscover the back of the net.
At the other end of the ice as well as the standings, the Stars head into Monday’s game with an eye on next season.
Management will spend the next three weeks evaluating players, deciding which ones to protect and which to expose in the expansion draft. Other decisions must be made as well: Do the Stars buy out one goalie or two? Do they offer head coach Lindy Ruff and his staff contract extensions? This summer promises to be a busy one for GM Jim Nill, and the remaining 19 days of the Stars’ season will influence and inform Nill’s decisions.
On an individual level, pending UFAs Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky and Jiri Hudler are playing for their next contract, whether that’s with the Stars or another club. Defensemen Jamie Oleksiak, Stephen Johns and Patrik Nemeth seem to be in a three-way battle for the final “protected” slot at that position. Adding to the blue line mix, Julius Honka is an expected call-up, as the Stars want to get him 8-to-10 more games at the NHL level this season. And role-players Remi Elie, Curtis McKenzie and Adam Cracknell hope to show they belong on the ice and skating a regular shift in Dallas next season.
Above all, the Stars and their fans need a reason to smile, to feel good about this team, if only for a night. If the team can extend the Sharks’ skid and send them to Minnesota with more questions than answers, well, that victory would be worth more than two points.
San Jose Sharks at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:30 pm CST
Broadcast channels – FS-SW, CSN-CA
2016-17 Season Series: Mar. 12 – Sharks 5, Stars 1
San Jose Sharks: 42-22-7 – 91 Points
Road Record: 19-12-3
Hot Players: Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Dylan DeMelo, Aaron Dell and Martin Jones
Key Injuries: Melker Karlsson and Jannik Hansen
Danny O’Regan – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Tomas Hertl – Joonas Donskoi
Marcus Sorensen – Chris Tierney – Timo Meier
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
Dallas Stars: 28-33-10 – 66 Points
Home Record: 18-12-6
Hot Players: Brett Ritchie, Remi Elie and Ales Hemsky
Key Injuries: Jason Spezza, Antoine Roussel and Mattias Janmark
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Remi Elie – Tyler Seguin – Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie – Adam Cracknell – Jiri Hudler
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Greg Pateryn
Patrik Nemeth – Stephen Johns
1) Backup goalie Aaron Dell starts for the Sharks Monday night. Last Sunday in San Jose, Dell stopped 29 shots in a 5-1 win over the Stars. In 16 games this season, Dell is 10-4-1 with a GAA of 1.90 and a Save percentage of .936.
2) More Aaron Dell fun facts: He played parts of two seasons with the Allen Americans, backstopping them to a CHL championship in 2013. Also, Dell was passed over in the draft, considered (at 6-foot-0 and 205 pounds) “undersized” for the NHL.
3) Jason Spezza left Sunday’s practice with back spasms. He did not skate this morning and Ruff called him “doubtful” for tonight’s game, so expect Tyler Seguin to move back to center.
4) Jamie Benn skated Sunday and this morning, and pronounced himself “ready to go” tonight. After the morning skate, he spoke of the need for the Stars to “bring a solid effort every night” over the remainder of the schedule. The captain said he didn’t feel his team did that over the course of their recent road trip, so that’s the challenge going forward.
5) Antoine Roussel and Mattias Janmark took part in the morning skate. Don’t expect to see them in a game anytime soon, though: Ruff reiterated afterward that Janmark won’t play this season, while a return for Roussel hinges on his ability to play without doing further damage to himself.
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