Blackhawks face old teammate as they take on the San Jose Sharks
The Chicago Blackhawks (17-8-4) taken on a familiar face when Antii Niemi and his San Jose Sharks roll into the United Center on Sunday. I’m sure Sharks coach Todd McLelland will have Antii Niemi in goal tonight even though he just went last night in goal when the Sharks fell 1-0 to the Blues.
Antii Niemi always seems to play his best against his former teammates or maybe he still feels he has something to prove to them parting ways with him. Last year the Sharks won 3 out of the 4 contests with him in the nets when facing the Blackhawks. This will be the second meeting this year and Niemi already posted a 1-0 shutout to his former team. Ray Emery will be in the Chicago nets.
The San Jose Sharks (15-10-1) come into the UC hungry for a win after last nights’ frustrations in St. Louis. They are coming off of a trying 3 game road trip that has them taking on some of the hot teams in the Western Conference. The Hawks are rested as they have had a couple of days off. Let’s hope the Hawks are not too rested and find their mojo early.
What to look for:
· The Hawks will have to stick with the Sharks 5 on 5 who are one of the best in the league as well as on their power-play. Where they are suspect is on their PK which, is where they Blackhawks must take advantage.
· Look for a real battle in the face-off circles as both of these teams are very very good there. The Sharks are 2nd in the league and the Hawks 4th in face-off percentages. Who controls possession of the puck will be key.
· San Jose is equally as good in their zone as they are in the offensive zone. They are currently ranked 6th in the league in +/-. The Hawks will have to work for everything they get.
· Both of these teams do not commit many penalties and have low PIM’s in the NHL with Chicago ranked 4th and the Sharks 5th in the league with the fewest.
· The scoring leaders for San Jose are Thornton, Pavelski, Marleau and Couture and for the Blackhawks it is Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa. I want to see the Hawks be selfish when there is a shot they need to take it and get as many as possible on Niemi. Crash the crease and put bodies in front of him and in the slot area to pounce on rebounds. Niemi is vulnerable high and his rebound control is sometimes suspect.
On a side note-Congratulations to #7 Brent Seabrook as he will be playing in his 500 NHL career game tonight. Seabs, so glad you are in a Blackhawks jersey and heres to another 500 for the Hawks.
Make sure to follow TCL Blackhawks on Twitter (@TCLBlackhawks) for updates on Chicago Blackhawks game and roster info and analysis.