A battle of inconsistency rages on for the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils, independent of one another. Both teams have found ways to lose games they should be winning, have found ways to expose glaring weaknesses that should have been covered with a band-aid before bleeding out of control and requiring stitches. This game can be many things ... we could see the Sharks overcome their defensive deficiencies and goal-tending woes in a dominating performance, or we could see the Devils turn things completely around on the defensive front and find a way to not put their own necks into a crude, hockey skate-bladed guillotine.
Or, we could see one of the sloppiest games among sloppy games as both teams defiantly try and gift wrap the victory to the other. "No, you take it," says the Sharks as they lose sight of the puck at the end of their stick and turn it over at the blueline. "But we don't want it!" say the Devils, stomping their feet in a tantrum comparable only to the most legendary of hissy fits while tripping over their own skates, missing shots by a mile and a half.
The Sharks are still looking for their first victory at HP Pavilion this season and they just might get it against the Devils, who have lost four of their last five and seven total in nine games this season. Ilya Kovalchuk provided the Devils with their lone goal in the first game of a six game road trip against New York. Martin Brodeur stopped 31-of-33 shots on goal in the 3-1 defeat. Brodeur is 10-6-0 with a pair of ties and 2.33 GAA in his career when facing the Sharks, who have lost three straight and seven of their last eight versus the Devils.
The Sharks offense was shut down in their last outing, a 4-0 rout in Calgary that was not pretty to watch. Joe Pavelski was coming off three goals in his previous two games, and had six shots on goal in the shutout to the Flames, but was ultimately just part of the struggling offense in that game. Antti Niemi had allowed three goals on only five shots before being pulled and giving way to Antero Niittymaki, who stopped 24 while allowing one.
Niittymaki will likely draw the start tonight. He is 2-0-1 with a 1.81 GAA in four games, but just 3-7-5 with a 2.79 GAA in his career versus the Devils. The Devils last meeting at HP Pavilion was a loss for the Sharks, a 4-3 win for the Devils.