Programming note – Sharks-Blackhawks coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California
WHERE THEY STAND
Sharks: 31-17-2, 64 points, 1st Pacific Division
Blackhawks: 30-16-5, 65 points, 2nd Central Division
PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES
***The Sharks begin their post All-Star weekend schedule tonight, after they had their six-game winning streak snapped by the Oilers last Thursday. This is the rubber match of the three-game season series with the Blackhawks. Each team has defended its home ice.
Playing the club that has captured three of the past six Stanley Cups and remains a contender is a good way to jump back into the season, according to Joe Pavelski.
"Obviously you've got to be ready for them," said the captain. "They're one of the better teams in the conference, and they've got a lot of dynamic players on their team, so it's a game you've got to take care of the puck."
Pete DeBoer said: "You never wish to play Chicago I don't think, but the nice thing about playing them is it immediately grabs the guys' attention that we've got to be dialed in and our attention to detail has to be right, or they make you pay."
The Sharks are 17-7-1 at SAP Center. They can equal their win total at home from all of last season with a victory.
***Chicago, which had a league-high four players at the All-Star Game, is beginning a six-game road swing tonight. The Blackhawks lost their last two games in regulation before the break, blowing third period leads in both.
"The two losses the way we had [them], we should have those games. A couple of minutes left, it definitely hurts," Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. "We've been very busy. Having a nice three days off, it definitely helps to step back from hockey for a second and recharge and get some energy back and continue again."
The Blackhawks are 12-9-1 on the road.
***The Sharks' February schedule is not overly taxing, with the bye week coming from Feb. 20-24 and many non-playoff opponents on the horizon after tonight.
For now, they'll focus on the 10 games in 20 days before their week off.
"We've talked like we've kind of got two little seasons here within the season in the next two months," DeBoer said. "We've got a nice schedule, the way it lays out here from now until our five-day break, and then really a sprint to the finish line with a real busy March and April."
After the bye week, the Sharks will have 22 games over the final 43 days.
KEEP AN EYE ON...
Sharks: Tomas Hertl. The forward returned after a 32-game absence on Thursday against Edmonton, and despite him not registering a shot on goal, the top line looked more effective than it had been. Although the Sharks coaching staff would eventually like Hertl to return to the center position, he'll remain with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski for at least another night while he gets his game legs back underneath him.
Blackhawks: Duncan Keith. Fresh off of being named one of the NHL's top 100 players of all-time, Keith will bring a two-game goal streak into tonight's game. The former Norris and Conn Smythe Trophy winner has just four goals on the season, but is tied for fifth among blueliners with 33 points. He scored his first goal against San Jose on Dec. 18 in Chicago.
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Ryan Carpenter – Melker Karlsson
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
Martin Jones (starter)
Nick Schmaltz – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman – Tanner Kero – Vinnie Hinostroza
Andrew Desjardins – Dennis Rasmussen – Richard Panik
Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Brian Campbell – Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Corey Crawford (starter)
Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body) and Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) are out.
Blackhawks: Marcus Kruger (illness) and Michal Rozsival (lower body) are out.
"I think the pace will be good. It's the execution after three or four days off that is always off a little bit off. But, you've got two skilled groups, I don't think it will take long." – Pete DeBoer