Sharks, Blackhawks get rematch (Feb 28, 2018)

February 28, 2018

While the San Jose Sharks are fighting for playoff positioning, the Chicago Blackhawks are in the rare position of playing spoiler.

Meeting for the second time in less than a week, the Sharks welcome the Blackhawks to SAP Center for the only time this season on Thursday night.

With Evander Kane making his debut in teal, San Jose opened a six-game homestand with a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. Acquired from the Buffalo Sabres one day earlier, Kane drew two assists while playing with Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi. The line combined for a goal and six assists.

"I kind of come from not playing so much meaningful hockey to playing some meaningful hockey," Kane told the San Jose Mercury News after helping snap a three-game skid.

The 26-year-old has never played in the postseason since being selected fourth overall in the 2009 NHL Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, but that skid is likely ending. San Jose (34-21-9) starts play in second place in the Pacific Division with narrow leads over the Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

Pavelski has a goal and five assists in a four-game points streak at home against Chicago. He is second on the team with 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists), one behind Brent Burns.

The Sharks could give Aaron Dell (14-5-3, 2.71 goals-against average, two shutouts) the start one day after signing him to a two-year, $3.8 million deal. If so, it would be his first career appearance versus the Blackhawks.

If not, San Jose still has Martin Jones (20-16-6, 2.51 GAA, three shutouts), who has surrendered a total of two goals while winning his last two home starts against Chicago.

"I've come to appreciate the Western Conference, particularly San Jose's travel. I've come realize that we need two A-(caliber) goaltenders in order to survive a season and compete in this situation," coach Peter DeBoer told the Mercury News.

After 10 straight playoff appearances -- and three Stanley Cups -- Chicago (27-28-8) is facing the reality of that streak ending. But don't expect the Blackhawks to roll over in the final quarter of the season.

"We can be spoilers against some teams that have a lot of incentive just on this trip alone," coach Joel Quenneville said.

After dropping a 3-2 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, the Blackhawks play three straight in California including back-to-back games this weekend in Los Angeles and Anaheim.

Quenneville said that J-F Berube would get the start in goal. He turned 42 away shots in a 3-1 win over the Sharks last Friday, and could see more work on this trip with Corey Crawford still sidelined.

The 'Hawks, who have been limited to a total of two goals in their last two visits to San Jose, hope to get a boost on offense from Matthew Highmore. The 22-year-old winger led Rockford of the American Hockey League with 21 goals, including seven power-play goals, and 35 points in 56 games before being recalled on Tuesday.

"At some point, you knew he was going to get a chance to be up here, and I think he deserved it at the right moment," Quenneville said.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who's been held without a point in four straight games, has five goals and five assists in 15 career games at SAP Center.

Toews is one of three Blackhawks with at least 40 points with Nick Schmaltz (42) and Patrick Kane (team-high 58). Rookie Alex DeBrincat needs one point to reach 40, and is one goal shy of tying Kane for the team lead with 23.

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