Sharks Look to Clinch Season Series vs. Pacific Division Rival Flames

Thursday, March 15, 2018 5:08 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 15, 2018 5:08 PM UTC

The Sharks are trying to finish second in the Pacific Division, while the Flames are simply hoping to make the postseason. They meet in a big game in Calgary on Friday night.

San Jose Sharks (85 points) at Calgary Flames (80 points)Free NHL Pick: Under 5.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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Six games on the NHL schedule Friday, and arguably the most important from a playoff perspective is the Sharks’ final visit of the season to Calgary with a puck drop of 9 p.m. ET. San Jose would win the season series with a victory, which could prove a crucial tiebreaker. The teams play again March 24 in San Jose.

On Dec. 14, the Sharks won 3-2 in Calgary as Joonas Donskoi netted the winner with 2:48 left in the third. It was off a rebound of a Joe Thornton shot. Thornton remains out injured currently due to a knee issue. Aaron Dell made 32 stops in the win, while Mike Smith turned away 26 in the loss.

Exactly two weeks later, the Sharks beat the visiting Flames 3-2 in a shootout. Wouldn’t you know it, but the rookie Donskoi scored the winner in the shootout. Timo Meier had tied it at 12:00 of the third. Martin Jones made 32 saves for San Jose, while it was No. 2 David Rittich in net for Calgary.

Last year, the Flames were 2-0 at home vs. the Sharks, Calgary’s first series sweep at the Saddledome since 2006. They haven’t gone winless at home vs. San Jose since 2002. The home team is 5-1 in the past six overall.

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West Is Jumbled Mess

Good luck projecting the full Western Conference playoff field. About all we know right now is that Nashville will win the Central Division and probably be the West’s top seed, Winnipeg will finish second in the Central and make the postseason for just the second time since the move from Atlanta, and Vegas will take the Pacific Division, ending the Ducks’ five-year reign atop that. Oh, and the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers, the two preseason West favorites, will be sitting home in mid-April.

The Sharks and Flames, meanwhile, could each finish as high as second in the Pacific or miss out on the playoffs entirely. I rather doubt San Jose misses, but Calgary is in danger, and that minus-8 season goal differential is a huge warning sign. A huge problem for the Flames this season has been a 15-16-4 record at the Saddledome compared to an excellent 20-10-6 mark on the road.

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We're big fans of this highlight pack, just sayin' 😎 #EDMvsCGY

— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 14, 2018

Calgary just got back No. 1 goaltender and All-Star Mike Smith from a month injury absence and the team is 1-1 in his two starts since. Smith wasn’t sharp last Sunday in a 5-2 home loss to the Islanders but was back in form Tuesday in a 1-0 win over Edmonton. He had 28 saves for his fourth shutout of the season, and the Flames ended a seven-game losing streak against their provincial rival. Johnny Gaudreau had the lone goal and has seven points in a five-game points streak. The Flames had recorded just a single regulation win in their past 11 at home overall.

Winger Matthew Tkachuk missed the game with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day; the Flames need Tkachuk, who is second on the team in goals (24) and third in points (49). Another winger, Kris Versteeg, could return to the ice Friday for the first time since Nov. 24. He had been on IR due to a hip injury that required surgery but has been activated.

San Jose has won three of four and started a three-game trip through Canada with a 4-3 OT win in Edmonton on Wednesday. Tomas Hertl had two goals, including the game-winner 2:40 into overtime. Hertl entered with just two total points in his previous 10 outings. Jones made his ninth straight start in net and has won back-to-back games for the first time since mid-February. Keep in mind that the Sharks are in Vancouver on Saturday, so Jones figures to get one of these two games off. Dell is perhaps the league’s best backup, however.

A good argument can be made for both teams winning, so bet the ‘under’ for a Friday NHL pick. It has hit in six of the past eight meetings overall and in four of Calgary’s past five at home – plus, Smith looks back in form. The ‘under’ is 7-2-1 in the Sharks’ past 10 on the road.

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