San Jose (48-14-10) at Chicago (38-22-11)
5:30 PM PST
Now that the Sharks have actually caught the Detroit Red Wings (comparatively speaking; the Wings are technically in the lead but played one more game), the trick is to manage through the crazy wave of injuries and try to stay on top, even if by a point. Tonight's game against the Chicago Blackhawks doesn't make things any easier since Patrick Marleau decided to skip the game for some silly birthing-of-his-second-child thingy. Geez, where are his priorities? Seriously!
(By the way, wouldn't it be funny if the Sharks gave Alexei "Awesome Playmaker" Semenov the C for one game? Anyone? Bueller?)
(By the way part 2: if you're actually going to the United Center for the game tonight, pick up the latest issue of Committed Indian before you go in. Some really smart good-looking guy named Mike Chen is interviewed about the Sharks.)
Still, the Hawks aren't exactly on fire right now. They've lost four of the last five games (two in OT), though the return of two-way forward Patrick Sharp last game seemd to spark Chicago. Of course, the fact that they were playing the Kings probably helped.
The Hawks, currently falling apart and losing their grip on home-ice advantage, are probably all revved up to try and make one of those theoretical "statement" games that everyone gets all worked up about. That, and they probably want to avenge the mistreatment of Brian Campbell by those mean ol' Sharks fans. (Just kidding on that, though I still don't get why Sharks fans are so bitter about losing Campbell -- that's why they're nicknamed Rent-a-Players and besides, without Campbell bolting Dan Boyle would have never arrived.)
The bright spot for the Sharks lineup? Jeremy Roenick's back, and while JR Superstar ain't the 50-goal guy he was when he was playing for the Hawks back in 91-92, he does have a flair for the dramatic. While JR might not pop in a hat trick (though he's still got it in him, and we know how he's been itching to go), here's betting that he makes an impact with some big hits. And with Marleau out of the lineup, JR's getting practice time on the power play.
The really good news is that Roenick's back far earlier than things projected out to be. Of course, Doug Wilson and company have a tendency to keep a tight lid on things like this. Much like the delivery date of vaporware Duke Nukem Forever, there's not necessarily a return date so much as a "When it's ready." I just hope this means we get some nice surprises regarding Mike Grier and Torrey Mitchell soon.
Speaking of Mitchell, there's still no word on whether or not he's actually practicing, just that he's skating. This reminds me of the rumors a few years ago that Owen Nolan was going to re-sign with the Sharks in a perennial "7-10 days."
Prediction: Sharks 3, Hawks 2. Goals by Roenick, Boyle, and Pavelski.