The Florida Panthers will face an uphill battle as they prepare for a tough matchup on the road against the San Jose Sharks at the Shark Tank on Thursday evening.
The Panthers are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference with just 74 points through 69 games this year. Meanwhile, the Sharks are in the midst of a heated race for the Pacific Division lead and the No.1-seed in the West. San Jose enters this matchup with a slim one-point lead over the Calgary Flames in the division standings after compiling 94 points through 70 contests. Can the Sharks take control of the Pacific with a victory over the Panthers on Thursday?
Barkov sets franchise record in Panthers win
Florida snapped a six-game losing streak on Friday night, taking down the Minnesota Wild 6-2 behind a record-setting night from forward Aleksander Barkov. Barkov finished with a franchise-record five assists, while MacKenzie Weegar and Mike Matheson each scored twice to help the Panthers play the role of spoiler.
Rookie goalie Sam Montembeault is expected to patrol the crease for Florida at the Shark Tank on Thursday. He comes in with a 2-0-1 record to go along with a 2.32 GAA and a .904 save percentage. The 22-year-old goaltender has fared well in his first three career NHL starts, winning each of his last two games.
The Panthers have scored 3.20 goals per game (9th in the NHL) and 3.30 goals per contest (27th in the NHL) so far this year. However, they’ve been excellent on special teams, converting on 27.1 percent of their power play chances (2nd in the NHL), while killing off 81.0 percent of their total penalties for the season (10th in the NHL).
Sharks keeping pace in the West
San Jose managed to keep pace in the Pacific Division race on Tuesday night, squeaking out another last second victory with a 5-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Joe Pavelski scored with just 3.6 seconds left and newly-acquired forward Gustav Nyquist scored twice to help the Sharks remain in first place in the Western Conference standings. Backup goaltender Aaron Dell stopped 21 of 25 shots on the night to improve to 9-6-3 on the year.
Martin Jones is scheduled to be back between the pipes for the Sharks on Thursday night. He comes in with a 34-13-5 overall record to go along with a 2,83 GAA and a .900 save percentage so far this season. Jones is undefeated during the month of March, going 5-0-0 with a .934 save percentage, while allowing three goals or less in every contest. The 29-year-old goaltender struggled in his only start of the year against the Panthers, stopping just 16 of 21 shots before getting pulled in a 6-2 loss.
The Sharks have scored 3.63 goals per game (2nd in the NHL), while converting on a healthy 24.9 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage (6th in the NHL). San Jose has also allowed 3.01 goals per contest (tied for 17th in the NHL) and killed off 81.0 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage so far this year.
- Sharks are 4-0 in their last 4 games as an underdog.
- Sharks are 6-1 in their last 7 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of less than .400.
- Sharks are 5-1 in their last 6 in the third game of a 3-in-4 situation.
- Panthers are 2-6 in their last 8 overall.
- Panthers are 2-8 in their last 10 when their opponent scores 5 goals or more in their previous game.
- Panthers are 2-9 in their last 11 Thursday games.