CALGARY, AB -- A lot has changed since the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks kicked off the 2013 National Hockey League season against each other on January 20th.
Opening the campaign at opposite ends of the ice, San Jose survived a rambunctious opening 20 minutes from the Flames en route to a 4-1 victory to start the season.
The win paced the Sharks to one of the Western Conference’s best opening 10 games, going 7-3-1 to start the shortened year. Unfortunately, San Jose hasn’t been able to replicate the same results over their last 10 games with just four wins over the same span.
Still, the Sharks are coming off a 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks and find themselves six points ahead of the Flames heading into Wednesday’s tilt at Scotiabank Saddledome, making the two up for grabs in Calgary all the more valuable.
Though pointless against the Canucks on Tuesday, Thornton had points in six straight heading into British Columbia and has been dangerous after slumping through mid-February with just one point in eight games. The former Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophy winner has been inconsistent at best but now has 18 assists and 22 points in 21 games this season.
Though he’s netted 12 goals in 21 games this season, Marleau has failed to record a point in each of the last four games for the Sharks. Though San Jose has won three of four games over that span – including two in overtime – a bigger contribution from Marleau is required as he will be heavily relied upon to regain a portion of the form that saw him net nine goals in the first five games of the season.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Taken to extra time in three of his last five starts, Niemi has delivered in capturing eight of a possible 10 points for a once-slumping Sharks squad. Over that same span, the 29-year-old Vantaa, Finland product hasn’t allowed more than two goals. In 18 games this season, the former Stanley Cup winner has a 1.83 goals against average (3rd) and .935 save percentage (4th) this season.
The second-round pick in 2005 acquired in exchange for Miikka Kiprusoff, Vlasic has spent his entire 492-game career in San Jose. No member of the Sharks has played more minutes on the ice this season than Vlasic, who has four assists and five points while playing in all 21 games this season.
Though he’s got just five assists in 21 games to show for his offensive output this season, Stuart is coming off a pair of assists against the Canucks on Tuesday. The former Flames’ rearguard is valued more by the contributions he makes in his own zone, however, and has averaged over 23 minutes of ice time in the team’s last three games. In all, only Vlasic and Brian Boyle have averaged more action in San Jose this season.
BY THE NUMBERS
San Jose’s Record This Season: 11-6-4 (5th in Western Conference)
San Jose’s Record Last Season: 43-29-10 (7th in Western Conference)
Calgary’s Record This Season: 8-8-4 (13th in Western Conference)
Calgary’s Record All-Time vs. San Jose: 49-34-8-3
Calgary’s Record vs. San Jose Last Year: 2-1-1
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