How Sharks Will Be Challenged as Four-game Road Trip Gets Underway

After opening up their post-break stretch with a victory over the Arizona Coyotes, the Sharks will hit the road for a four-game stint north of the border. While a few of those are more important to circle than others, each presents a unique challenge for San Jose. 

Let's break down each stop of the trip, and what awaits the Sharks in the next week away from home. 

Winnipeg Jets (Tuesday, Feb. 5)

The "West Side Story" matchup has been tapped as a potential Western Conference Final preview since the start of the season. The Sharks and Jets played in a heavy, highly entertaining contest in San Jose back on Dec. 20. Despite losing 5-3 that night,  the Sharks said they liked how they played against the Jets, and felt like they should've won.

Here's what makes Tuesday's game more challenging: The Jets have a 20-6-2 record in their home barn and haven't lost at Bell MTS Place since Dec. 29. The Sharks also do not know if All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson will play, and the lineup would certainly benefit from having him against a stacked Winnipeg offense.

Calgary Flames (Thursday, Feb. 6)

The Sharks currently trail the Pacific Division-leading Flames by six points, making this game even more contentious than it's already slated to be. This is the first time the teams are meeting since Calgary pummeled San Jose on New Year's Eve 8-5 – the same night Flames forward Sam Bennett leveled Sharks rookie defenseman Radim Simek with a dirty hit that concussed him. It's fair to think this game could get ugly fast.

The Flames continue to be one of the NHL's best this season, and are 8-1-1 over their last 10 contests. They've also done well on home ice, going 17-4-5 so far. In addition, the Sharks are only 23-31-3-3 lifetime at the Saddledome. 

Edmonton Oilers (Saturday, Feb. 8)

This may not seem like a game to get too nervous about since the Oilers are sixth in the Pacific. The Sharks also kicked the snot out of them, 7-2, last month. Plus, this Edmonton team remains inconsistent and has lost five straight games – the latter three all by one goal.

The challenge here will be for the Sharks to not sit back on their heels, and give the Connor McDavid-led Oilers any room. Even if Edmonton wins its game against the Chicago Blackhawks before hosting San Jose, the Oilers are going to bring a level of desperation to the ice on Saturday evening. The Sharks have to be ready for it.

[RELATED: Rusanowsky picks 10 favorite Sharks regular-season wins]

Vancouver Canucks (Monday, Feb. 11)

Team Teal has only seen the Canucks once this season. You may recall San Jose won that game in November, before kicking off a four-game skid with a 6-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights the following night. 

The stakes are higher in this second meeting. Vancouver entered Monday in the West's second wild-card spot, and standout rookie Elias Pettersson is back in the lineup after he sustained a knee injury in early January. The Sharks can expect some pushback from the Canucks' squad as they close out their road trip.

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