Preview: Flames vs. Sharks
FLAMES (21-20-5) at SHARKS (25-12-5)
TV: SNET-W (HD), CSN-CA (HD)
Last 10: Calgary 4-5-1; San Jose 6-2-2.
Season Series: This is the first matchup of the season for San Jose and Calgary. The Sharks won three of four against the Flames last season, including a 6-3 victory in their last meeting on March 23, 2011 at HP Pavilion.
Big Story: As Calgary opens a three-game road trip, the Flames are going to try to creep closer to the West's top eight against a Sharks team coming off a rare loss.
Flames: Looking at the division standings isn't a particularly pretty sight for the Flames, who are well off the pace for first place behind the Canucks, but the playoffs aren't a complete pipe dream with nearly half a season to go. Calgary is just four points behind the eighth seed in the West, but with four teams in the way, the climb is still significantly uphill. The Flames were unable to make up any ground Saturday night when they lost to the resurgent L.A. Kings, although on the bright side, recent re-acquisition Mike Cammalleri did score in his first game back in Calgary.
If Calgary is to make any ground up in the race in the long term, however, it will have to improve its play on the road. The Flames are currently enduring a five-game winless streak away from the Saddledome. Losing at San Jose Tuesday night would give them their longest such stretch since a seven-gamer nearly five years ago.
Sharks: If there is a team one wouldn't want to see while enduring a road losing streak, it's probably these Sharks. San Jose is likely to be hungry after coming off a 4-3 loss to Chicago Sunday night, the Sharks' first regulation loss in 2012, few teams enjoy the comforts of home like they do. The Sharks are 14-7-2 at home this season, but they've been particularly good lately, going 7-1-1 in their last nine at the Tank.
As a result, San Jose is the proud holder of a two-point lead in the Pacific over the Kings, but that lead becomes significantly more impressive when one takes into account that the Sharks have four games in hand on L.A. Add to that that the Sharks have arguably been the hottest team in the League lately with a 10-2-2 mark in their last 14 games overall, and their lead in the Pacific is one that seems likely to grow.
Who's Hot: Dan Boyle has been a huge contributor on San Jose's blue line recently, tallying eight points in his last five games. ... Miikka Kiprusoff is looking like his younger self in net. The Flames' goalie has won three of his last four games while posting an impressive 1.74 goals-against average in that span.
Injury Report: Calgary recently lost Scott Hannan to an upper-body injury, but the Flames are likely still recovering from a brutal December in which Derek Smith (high ankle sprain), Alex Tanguay (upper-body injury), Matt Stajan (sprained ankle) and Henrik Karlsson (sprained MCL) all went to injured reserve and are yet to return. San Jose is still without Colin White (lower-body injury) and Martin Havlat (hamstring), while Andrew Desjardins is considered questionable after taking a hit to the head against Columbus Saturday.
Stat Pack: Few teams play better at home than the Flames, who are 13-6-2 in Calgary, but few teams can pull off quite the same Jekyll and Hyde act with their play on the road, too. The Flames are 8-14-3 away from home this season.
Puck Drop: With the teams they need to leapfrog to make it into the West's top eight, the Flames will need to start winning games by the bucketful to make an impact on the race, and that means winning on the road. They could have asked for an easier assignment to start turning that tide around, though. The Sharks are unlikely to be hospitable hosts.