Before we get to the game, an update on Ryane Clowe. He skated (yesterday, I believe) for 25 minutes by himself, but Ron Wilson said that he won't be ready until March.
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"He won't be ready until March at the earliest," Ron Wilson told Emmons. "He's got to build up his strength. We're not going to risk him. Obviously, we could use him, but we've been getting by without him well enough. We want him at 100 percent before he steps back on the ice."
So that's promising for Sharks fans, Clowe has become a fan favorite over the last few years both with his hard work (Sharks fans always appreciate hard working players; Mike Ricci anybody?), physical play and willingness to throw down with anybody in the league. Glad to know that he'll be around before the Playoffs roll around. The Sharks (in my opinion) seem to be missing his physical presence a lot.
Now, on to the game. Big game, and homestand, for the Sharks. The first game (arguably) being the most important since it's a divisional game against the Stars. Saturday night will pit the Sharks against the league's #1 team, Detroit, which can be used as a good measuring stick to see where the Sharks currently stand. After that, a game against Chicago and the last of the homestand against St. Louis. This homestand will be tough, and I expect to see a heavy dose of Nabby throughout it.
The Sharks will be facing one of the best power play quarterbacks in the league in Sergei Zubov, one of the best (if not the best) stickhandling goalie in the league in Marty Turco, and the Tank will have the NHL's all time #1 and #2 American-born goal scorers in the building tonight in Mike Modano of the Stars, and Jeremy Roenick of the Sharks respectively.
After their uninspiring effort on Tuesday, I expect the Sharks to come out in a sour mood, which (hopefully) means the Sharks play a physical game. I think everyone in the league knows by now the Sharks are very difficult to stop when they use their huge bodies in the corners and finish their checks.
Here are my keys for the game tonight:
1. Finish your checks.
2. Take the game to the Stars, don't sit back.
3. Force shots to come from the outside, clear the front of the net.
4. Challenge the puck carrier at the blueline.
The last key is something the Sharks haven't done too much of this year, dispite their stellar defensive numbers. All too often, I see the opposing team just walk across the blueline with the puck, while our defensemen are standing at the top of the circles just looking at them. They need to challenge them by either pinching them along the boards, or use your stick in the middle of the ice and force them to play a north-south game, rather than east-west.
Personally, I feel good about tonight's game. I don't know why, usually I feel like Sharks-Stars games are a toss-up, anybody's game. But tonight I feel like the Sharks are going to dominate the physical game and check the Stars into submission.
On a side note, Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren had minor knee surgery, but is not expected to miss any significant time. Also, Sharks defenseman Matt Carle missed practice on Wednesday with the flu (which has been spreading around the league like a wildfire), but is expected to play in tonights game against Dallas. Dallas right winger, B.J. Crombeen was recalled from Iowa (Stars AHL affiliate) and could make his NHL debut tonight.
Last but not least, GO SHARKS!
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