White Flag Waiving Blackhawks Likely to be Punchless in San Jose

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 5:45 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 5:45 PM UTC

The Blackhawks and Sharks have different goals for the rest of the season as they meet for the only team this year in San Jose on Thursday night.

[/]{"component":"video", "type":"youtube", "url":"https://www.youtube.com/embed/sAD77BVmi4A", "videoSize":"Large" }[/]Chicago Blackhawks (62 points) at San Jose Sharks (77 points)Free NHL Pick: UnderBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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A Blackhawks-Sharks matchup would normally be a marquee game on the NHL schedule any night of the week, and this 10:30 p.m. ET puck drop will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network. However, these are two teams with very different motivations the rest of the season. It’s Chicago’s only visit to San Jose.

Very odd scheduling by the NHL as these Western Conference rivals didn’t play once this season until last Friday. The Blackhawks won that in Chicago, 3-1. Jean-Francois Berube made his first start in a Blackhawks uniform and had 42 saves. He hadn't started in the NHL since Feb. 19, 2017, as a member of the New York Islanders. Nick Schmaltz was the No. 1 star with a goal and assist, and Anthony Duclair had two assists. Berube hasn’t played since (Hawks have had just one game). Timo Meier had the lone Sharks goal with 7:51 left, and Martin Jones had 33 saves.

I don’t take much from that game as the Sharks played the night before in Nashville and it was their third game in four nights.

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Sharks All-In, Hawks Thinking Next Season

For the first time this decade, the Blackhawks were sellers ahead of the trade deadline, and they shipped out defenseman Michal Kempny and young wingers Ryan Hartman and Tommy Wingels for prospects and/or draft picks. Hartman going to division rival Nashville was the surprise. Just 23, Hartman was considered part of the team’s future -- he was a 2013 first-round pick and grew up in the Chicago area -- after 19 goals as a rookie last season. He had eight goals and 17 assists in 57 games in 2017-18.

Captain Jonathan Toews wasn’t happy with the trade, but the Hawks were widely lauded for what they got back from the Predators, which were first- and fourth-round picks in this year’s draft, plus 6-foot-5, 214-pound Swedish prospect forward Victor Ejdsell. Embattled GM Stan Bowman has said there likely will be some young players called up from the AHL for auditions in the coming weeks.

Bowman is under scrutiny because the Hawks were the West’s top seed in last year’s playoffs but dominated in a first-round sweep vs. the Predators. Chicago will now miss the postseason for the first time since 2008. Chicago started a four-game road trip with a 3-2 loss in Columbus on Saturday, so at least the team will be well-rested.

The Sharks were considered big winners from Monday’s trade deadline as they landed talented but occasionally knuckle-headed winger Evander Kane from Buffalo for two draft picks and a prospect. Kane was the fourth overall pick of the 2009 draft who is still only 26. Mega-talented guy who had 20 goals and 20 assists for the Sabres this year, but he has had some off-ice problems and isn’t exactly known as a great locker-room guy. Kane has never played in a postseason game, either, in his nine NHL seasons.

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Great first game with the @SanJoseSharks Big thanks to the fans for the warm welcome! pic.twitter.com/zYJpyqhpav

— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) February 28, 2018

Kane, a free agent this summer, made his San Jose debut Tuesday in a 5-2 home win over Edmonton that ended the Sharks’ three-game losing streak (all on the road). Kane made an instant impact with two assists during San Jose’s four-goal second period. Kane also had two shots on goal and was plus-2 in 16:34 of ice time. Joe Pavelski had a goal with three assists and was the No. 1 star. Jones had 24 saves; he struggled in January but was 6-4-1 with a 2.08 GAA and .932 SV with three shutouts in February. Jones has clearly taken the No. 1 spot back from Aaron Dell.

Don’t expect a power-play goal from the Hawks here as they are 29th with the man advantage, while San Jose ranks No. 1 on the penalty kill. Jones is playing great in net, and the Hawks scored more than three goals just once in February. The ‘under’ has hit in Chicago’s past four games overall and in the past five in this series. This ain’t rocket science: Bet the ‘under’ for Thursday’s NHL pick.

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