San Jose Sharks at Calgary Flames
This is what I wrote right after the Detroit loss:
With that in mind, I'd separate Thornton and Marleau to start the game. It's not a Ron Wilson-esque Screw You to either guy, it's just seeing if a different look will work -- because if it does, that's all the more weapons in McLellan's arsenal later on down the line.
Assuming Milan Michalek is playing, I'd revert back to the Thornton/Cheechoo/Michalek group for the top line and Pavelski/Marleau/Setoguchi for the second line. See how it goes and give it a period to see if these different looks can establish a solid forecheck and create scoring chances. It's always good to have options, and all of these guys have played together in some form over the past few seasons, so it shouldn't be too difficult getting in a groove.
And this came down the wire, courtesy of the ever-reliable David Pollak:
These were the combinations at the morning skate and you can expect them to be the ones that open the game against the Flames tonight:
Switch up Clowe and Pavelski and you've got what I was advocating a few weeks back. Does this mean that Todd McLellan reads BoC? I have no idea, but I'm guessing he's looking at it from these two approaches:
1) The more options you have, the more weapons you have when facing different situations.
2) Go with players that have shown chemistry together in the past.
Cheechoo is certainly coming around, and it's not just his offensive game. His hustle and commitment are standing out, and I think he's earned his slot on the top line for at least a few games. Marleau and Setoguchi compliment each other's speed, though I'd personally like to see Pavelski with them simply because he's creative and more of a playmaker. Of course, since Clowe's a big crease crasher and both Marleau and Setoguchi are shooters, their should be plenty of chances for rebounds.
Where this really comes into play, though, is that it opens the door for possibilities when Torrey Mitchell and Jeremy Roenick return to the lineup. Mitchell hasn't proven himself to be a 60-70 point guy yet, but he's got the chops and he's probably the fastest start-to-finish skater in the league. With that in mind, you basically have eight guys that can be mixed and matched into scoring units (Thornton, Marleau, Cheechoo, Setoguchi, Michalek, Clowe, Pavelski, Mitchell). Then there's two guys that can slot into that role if necessary (Roenick, Grier). Since McLellan's experimenting a little bit, I think he's trying to figure out how to maximize the somewhat embarrassment of riches he's got on his roster.
The first step, though, is seeing how they fare tonight against Calgary. You know it's a strange season when the Flames are pumping in goals, Dion Phaneuf is a severe minus player, and Adrian Aucoin is playing well. Our old pal Miikka Kiprusoff has managed to shrink his Turco-esque GAA below 3 but his save percentage still isn't that great. Still, no one's going to argue with a 23-11-3 record.
Prediction: Sharks 4, Flames 3. Goals by Boyle, Cheechoo (2), and Setoguchi.