Update: Stuart will be sitting out tonight per David Pollak.
The Sharks kick off the 2013/14 season tonight at home against the Vancouver Canucks. The two Pacific Division rivals met twice in the pre-season with the Sharks taking the first game 3-2 and the second 5-0, but as we all know, the pre-season means nothing.
Last season the Sharks were a perfect 3-0 against Vancouver and will look to continue that success this year, as both teams have remained relatively unchanged. Cory Schneider is going in Vancouver, but Roberto Luongo remains between the pipes. Both teams' major players are still in tact and expectations for both clubs remain at a high level this season.
With the season opening tonight, the Sharks will begin a year filled with rumors due to expiring contracts and sought after players. It looks as though I'm not alone in my thinking on the Sharks big three. David Pollak wrote this, in reference to Thornton, Marleau, Boyle, in his column for the Mercury.
The three are still integral to the team's success and recognized among the NHL's elite players. But their productivity has declined. So has their ice time.
Combine those factors with the NHL's salary cap, and it's fairly certain the three would have to be willing to sign for less than their current salaries of $6.9 million for Marleau, $6.7 million for Boyle and $6 million for Thornton if they want to come back. But how much less?
Freddie Hamilton has been assigned to Worcester of the American Hockey League.
Matt Pelech has been recalled from the San Francisco Bulls of the ECHL.
1. Focus The Physical Game On #33 & #22.
The defensive gameplan for San Jose should be to focus their physicality on the Sedin twins throughout the night. Wearing down Vancouver's top two offensive players has been a key component for success in the past for teams playing against the Canucks. The Sharks are especially defensive minded so eliminating the top two threats against a good defensive scheme should give a considerable edge. Daniel and Henrik should feel like they don't want to continue the game when they go back on the ice in the 3rd period.
2. Stick To Your Roles.
The Sharks will be playing a younger roster tonight than they had last season and its easier for younger players to get off track and try to do too much. The Sharks have to stay focused on Todd McClellan's plan and stick to their identifying roles within the system. The easiest way to break down a defensive system is to generate turnovers, and turnovers happen when you deviate from the plan and try to make extra moves and attempt fancy plays. Keep it simple.
3. Get Shots Through.
John Tortorella has a knack for transforming his teams into shot-blocking animals. San Jose needs to make sure they get shots through to the net with a little more attention than usual tonight. The only players that the puck should hit on the way past Luongo are the ones wearing teal creating havoc at the top of the crease.
Expect a close game, much to the tune of the first pre-season game, between the two combatants tonight as both teams look to kick off the season with a win. I'll update the gameday blog with any relevant information during the day as I catch it.
Thanks for reading! Stay icy, Sharks fans.