December 18 – Day 72 – First trip to Canada since my return from hiatus!

It took two goals in the third period, but the Blues were able to hold home ice to beat the Predators and spoil Third Star of the Game Barret Jackman’s homecoming in last night’s Game of the Day.

Nashville struck first with a power play goal at the 7:14 mark of the first period.  Filip Forsberg and Shea Weber assisted Roman Josi to the Predators‘ lone goal of the night to set the score at 1-0, which held into the first and second intermissions.

Only 2:38 into the third period, St. Louis leveled the score thanks to Second Star David Backes’ 10th goal of the season, assisted by Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.  The draw held until the 14:40 mark, when Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny assisted First Star Vladimir Tarasenko to his 20th tally of the season, setting the score at its 2-1 final.

15-7-2 Jake Allen earned the win after saving 27 of 28 (96.4%), while Pekka Rinne’s record falls to 12-9-6 after saving 31 of 33 (93.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 26-10-6, still favoring the home squad by 24 points.  Before anyone points it out, yes, I’m aware that this does not line up with yesterday’s record – This should be the correct record.

Today’s schedule includes six games, with the first three starting at 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at Pittsburgh [TVAS], Tampa Bay at Washington and Florida at Carolina), with two more following half an hour later (San Jose at Ottawa [RDS] and Vancouver at Detroit [SN]).  Finally, the nightcap gets its start at 8 p.m. eastern when the New York Rangers visit Winnipeg.

None of tonight’s matchups involve divisional rivalries, and San Jose at Ottawa represents the only game between two playoff qualifiers.  Sounds like reason enough to me to head up to the Canadian Tire Centre!

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The 16-14-1 San Jose Sharks currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division, but seventh in the Western Conference, utilizing a defensive-first game plan.  They played last night in Toronto, where they won 5-4.

So far this season, 13-10-1 Martin Jones and the Sharks have given up only 832 shots against (due in part to Brent Burns’ team-leading 64 blocks), a total well below the league average, and those efforts are reflected in their 79 goals against.  Even on the penalty kill, the Sharks have been tough to score on.  They’ve given up only 17 goals on 94 opportunities for a 81.91% kill-rate that slightly exceeds the league average.

It has been the offense that has been letting the Sharks down this season made evident by only 880 shots on goal so far this year (led by Burns’ 132).  As can be expected from that total, San Jose has only managed 77 goals this season, led by Joe Pavelski’s 14.

A portion of their offense that especially needs work is the power play.  On 96 opportunities, San Jose has only scored 17 times, for a 17.71% success rate that slightly trails the league average.  If the Sharks want to keep up with the Kings in their division, they need to improve their offensive proficiency.

The 16-11-5 Ottawa Senators were most recently featured in the Game of the Day series on Wednesday.  You can read a quick summary of their squad here.  Their last game played was that Wednesday game in Washington, where they fell 2-1.

Some players to watch in today’s game include Ottawa‘s Craig Anderson (14 wins [tied for sixth in the league] and two shutouts [tied for seventh in the league]), Mike Hoffman (17 goals [tied for fourth in the league]), Erik Karlsson (28 assists [tied for league lead] and 35 points [tied for fourth in the league]) and Mark Stone (21 assists [tied for sixth in the league]) & San Jose‘s Jones (three shutouts [tied for fifth in the league] and 14 wins [tied for sixth in the league]) and Pavelski (15 goals [tied for seventh in the league] and 31 points [tied for ninth in the league]).

Especially since they are playing at home, I expect the Sens to be able to win tonight’s matchup.

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