Pregame: Columbus Blue Jackets at San Jose Sharks


After having four solid days of rest, the Jackets take the ice once again as they visit the Shark Tank in San Jose in the first game of their tour of California. The Jackets are in their second game of a four-game road trip, while the Sharks are returning home after five games on the road.

Feb 7, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan coaches watches his team from the bench during the first period of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Jackets’ road trip didn’t start out exactly as they might have wanted. On Saturday night they lost 3-2 to the Ottawa Senators, starting their four-game road trip off with a disappointment. Now, they face a tough competitor in San Jose, a team that is already three points better in this early season.

Granted, they’ve played more games than the Jackets. The Sharks are  4-2-1 in seven games, while the Jackets are 3-2-0 in five games, putting San Jose at 1.3 points per game, and Columbus at 1.2. The Sharks haven’t been back at home since their home opener, which they won, meaning they are 1-0-0 at home so far this season. The Jackets are an even 1-1-0 on the road, beating the Sabres in their first game of the season, and then losing to Ottawa on Saturday.

So far this season, the Jackets are 1-1-0 against Western Conference opponents, having lost to Dallas and beat Calgary. The Sharks have played their last five games on a road trip through the Eastern Conference, during which they went 2-2-1, so both teams are about even this season against teams in the other conference.

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As for this game, the biggest advantage the Jackets need to capitalize on tonight is energy. They have had four days off while the Sharks have played in three different cities in the last five days, and four cities in the past week. That’s a lot of games, and a ton of travel. The Jackets have been practicing in San Jose since before the Sharks even returned from Boston, so they should be the better-rested team tonight. Hopefully they will be able to turn that into more aggressive, physical play and use that to their advantage tonight.

That being said, the Shark Tank is called that for a reason. It’s not an easy building to play in, and the fans haven’t had their team home since October 11. The crowd’s energy is something the Jackets need to be prepared for, and they’ll need to find a way to keep the Sharks from feeding off it if they want to be successful.

For all that standings are  worth this early in the season, the Jackets are not in a particularly nice place right now. They are currently tied for 6th in the Metropolitan Division with the Pens, and trail the division leading-Islanders by two points. The Isles, Caps and Rangers are all sitting at the top of the Metro with 8 points apiece, which makes tonight’s two points huge for the Jackets.

The Jackets have only played five games this season, while the Isles and Caps have played six and the Rangers have played seven, and the Islanders play their seventh game tonight. So, after tonight, the Jackets will have played the same number of games as the Caps, and still be one behind the Rangers and Islanders.

Two big points for sure. If the Jackets can pull off two points tonight and tie themselves with all three division leaders (assuming the Isles lose, that’s another story), they will still have a game in hand on two of them. Although I realize the standings aren’t of utmost importance six games into the season, it’s still nice to be sitting at the top of your division with games in hand on the competition. Never a bad thing.

On the flip side, the Jackets are tied with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for 5th-7th spot in the league, and are one point behind the New Jersey Devils for 4th. The Pens play today and the Devils play tomorrow, so worst case scenario, the Jackets could find themselves falling behind the rest of the division.

Hopefully that doesn’t happen. The Sharks are a tough opponent, and the Jackets have three tough games coming up in these next four days in California. If they can stay on track and bring home some points, they’ll be in a good place when they come home for two games next week. If all doesn’t go according to plan, they could find themselves scrambling for some much needed points when they come back to Ohio. It won’t be an easy trip through California, but it all starts tonight. Here’s hoping it starts off well. Go Jackets!