The storylines are lining up nicely in San Jose as the Sharks gear up to take on the Chicago Blackhawks. Former Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi will draw the start for San Jose and face his old team for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup with them last season. Chicago eliminated San Jose from the playoffs last year after the Sharks seemed to shake off some of their "choking" woes in a dominating sweep.
Niemi played a big part in Chicago's postseason last year, including a 1.67 GAA in the four-game sweep of San Jose in the Western Conference finals. He's struggled since signing a one-year, $2M deal with San Jose after having to walk away from Chicago when they couldn't afford his restricted free agent contract. Niemi has posted just a 2-4-1 record with 3.91 GAA. Niemi is downplaying the showdown however, saying that "It's not that big."
The Sharks are on a three-game losing skid, but only their most recent against the Blue Jackets was in regulation, a 3-0 shutout with Antero Niittymaki in goal for San Jose. Douglas Murray was absent for all three of those losses, but figures to be back tonight following a lower-body injury. Jason Demers will be sitting out, however.
The Blackhawks fair slightly better in the conference standings, but worse in their divisional standings. Much like San Jose, they've been streaky this year and inconsistent at best. San Jose needs only to come into this game prepared and they can treat the fans at HP Pavilion to a win.