Chicago Blackhawks @ San Jose Sharks – SAP Center at San Jose at 03:30

Chicago travel to Northern California as they face San Jose at the SAP Center. Following the All-Star weekend we now get down to the final straight of the regular season.

Trying to find combinations in Chicago

You could say that the the All-Star break could have been a blessing in disguise for Chicago. Prior to the break the Blackhawks lost their last 2 games in a very unconvincing manner. The Hawks capitulated in both games as they squandered leads against Tampa Bay and Winnipeg by conceding 4 and 3 goals without reply in the third period respectively.

The second line of Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anismov has been the most productive for Chicago. The trio are first, second and third respectively in points for The Blackhawks. Kane – who won the Art Ross last year and pretty much all other hardware that he was eligible for is sixth in points in the NHL with 49.

The American is 10 points adrift of leader Connor McDavid and has a productive 0.96 points per game. On the other hand his long time partner in crime and captain Jonathan Toews is not having the most offensive of campaigns. Toews has struggled for points this year and has 28 points in 42 games.In the centre’s defence he has been playing with the ageless Marian Hossa, who is still going strong at 38. The first line left wing wing position is still a concern for head coach Joel Quenneville. There could be a fresh face in the Windy City come the trade deadline.

Business as usual for The Sharks

The San Jose Sharks sit atop of the Pacific Division with a 31-17-2 record. Pre-break, San Jose were in very good form with 6 wins (consecutively) in 8 games. They’ll be hoping to get a stranglehold on the hugely divided division. Last year’s Stanley Cup finalists have gone about their business in an unassuming manner as they hope to reach the lofty heights of last season.

The nucleus of the franchise has been pivotal to the team’s success. Brent Burns could even be in contention for the Hart. The defenceman is having his most prolific season to date as he has 51 points (21G, 30A) in 50 games. His numbers are even better than Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, who is widely regarded as the best offensive defenceman in the game. Both Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture have contributed healthily as well.

Prediction

Over the past 4 years or so, The Blackhawks have had the upper hand over The Sharks, winning 9 of their last 14 encounters. This fixture also produces a lot of goals with an average of 5.8 per match in their last 52 meetings. I’m expecting a fast start to this one.

Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 1.5 goals in the first period at 2.05

Prices correct at time of writing

By @The_Drewse

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