FROM THE OTHER SIDE – SAN JOSE SHARKS
CALGARY, AB – After sneaking into the playoffs in the season’s final week and failing to earn home-ice advantage in the postseason for the first time since 2007, the San Jose Sharks were quickly dispatched by the St. Louis Blues in the opening round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With a re-ignited hunger to return to the Western Conference’s elite, the Sharks will try to prove that their championship window remains as open as ever.
That responsibility could fall on forwards Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. With three 30-goal scorers in the mix and arguably the league’s top playmaker, putting the puck in the net shouldn’t be something San Jose struggles with.
Defensively, the addition of former Calgary Flames defenseman Brad Stuart will help stabilize an already solid blueline that features assistant captain Dan Boyle, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Between the pipes, the Sharks will rely on Antti Niemi to hold the fort. The 29-year-old netminder was solid but unspectacular last season and his play this season could determine whether the school of Sharks sink or swim in 2013.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Couture has quickly become one of San Jose’s biggest scoring threats, posting back-to-back 30-goal seasons. The London, ON. native was an all-star last season and nothing in his game has given Sharks fans any reason to doubt they won’t get the same effort this season out of the 23-year-old.
Joining the Sharks with the now-departed Daniel Winnik at the NHL Trade Deadline last season, Galiardi struggled in his short audition. Better acquainted with head coach Todd McLellan, the Calgary Hitmen alumnus will have a better opportunity to prove he can hang in San Jose.
Though one of the league’s elite passers and playmakers, Thornton has failed to reach the 80-point plateau in each of the last two seasons. He’ll come into the season with a little extra motivation and comes into the year game-ready after a successful stint with HC Davos of the Swiss League during the lockout.
BY THE NUMBERS
Calgary’s Record All-Time: 49-34-8-3
Calgary’s Record Head-To-Head Last Year: 2-1-1
Record Last Season: 43-29-10 (7th in Western Conference)
Who’s In: Brad Stuart, Adam Burish
Who’s Out: Torrey Mitchell, Daniel Winnik
Top Scorers vs. Flames: Logan Couture – 3G 1A 4P
Flames Top Scorers: Jarome Iginla – 2G 3A 5P
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