Editor's note: The video above is analysis following the Sharks' loss to the Blackhawks on Nov. 25.
CHICAGO -– Joel Ward didn’t have the pleasure of playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions the last time San Jose visited Chicago on Dec. 20. The forward was still suffering the aftereffects of getting checked hard into the boards in a game in Ottawa two nights earlier.
Ward will be in on Tuesday, though, as will Logan Couture and Melker Karlsson, who were also both out for the last game here. A fully healthy Sharks roster will get another crack at beating the Blackhawks, who have won three straight and are again a concrete contender for another championship.
Chicago has won the first two games of the season series, including a 4-3 overtime triumph in that most recent meeting.
“Obviously a fun atmosphere to play in here. Good barn,” Ward said. “It was pretty crappy I missed the last one. Hopefully tonight I can come in and help the squad win a game here.”
The Sharks have dropped two of their first three on a four-game road trip headed into Tuesday night. Saturday’s 6-2 loss in Nashville didn’t go very well, as the Sharks lost by four goals for the first time since Dec. 1 versus Pittsburgh (5-1).
San Jose has not lost consecutive games since Jan. 2-7, going 9-2-2 in its last 13.
“We know the importance of this game,” Pete DeBoer said. “No one was happy we lost last game. I think we’re a smart enough group to recognize what went wrong, and not to overreact. At the same time, we’re going to have to be better tonight in order to win.”
The Blackhawks, who will be opening a four-game homestand, are coming in hot. They have won three road games coming out of the All-Star break, and have a seven-game winning streak at United Center.
They could be missing a key piece in hotshot rookie Artemi Panarin, who missed the morning skate due to an illness and is questionable for the game, but there is plenty of firepower up and down the roster regardless.
DeBoer said: “They’ve been very good lately. I think these are the type of games that are easy to prepare for because the guys know if they don’t show up and aren’t ready to play a complete game, you can get embarrassed in here.”
“That’s pretty accurate,” Ward agreed. “They’ve got a good squad and a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net. … Their history speaks for itself the last couple years. For us, it’s a good challenge for our group to come in here and try to win a big game.”
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The Sharks have surrendered shorthanded goals at inopportune times in two of their last three games, both losses to Nashville and Anaheim. DeBoer doesn’t sense any oncoming long-term issues, though.
“We’re aware of it. It’s something we definitely talk about,” he said. “The biggest thing is to get it on track quickly before it gets out of control, and I don’t see it as an issue that’s out of control.”
Conversely, the Blackhawks have scored three shorties in their last two games. They are 16-for-18 on the PK in their last six games, so they’re actually a plus-one when shorthanded over that span.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville spoke about the important of shutting down the Sharks power play, which has remains third in the NHL (22.1 percent).
“We always find that San Jose’s power play is a big part of their team,” Quenneville said. “It ignites their offense, and they’ve got two good units. The top unit is as good as any unit in the league. There are a lot of different looks that they give you.
“We had some individual effort in the shorthanded situations that have led to goals, but it’s not our thought process. It’s, 'let’s kill it first.' Especially against this team, let’s stay out of the box.”
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Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and Chicago GM Stan Bowman were spotted chatting in the stands at United Center for most of the duration of Chicago’s morning skate. The pair has a history, as Bowman acquired Michal Handzus in 2013 and Andrew Desjardins last year, with both helping the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup.
The NHL trade deadline is on Feb. 29.