Sharks

NHL odds: Sharks given second-best odds to win Stanley Cup Final

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NHL odds: Sharks given second-best odds to win Stanley Cup Final

And then there were four. 

The Sharks' 3-2 win over the Avalanche in Game 7 of their NHL playoff second-round series sent them to the Western Conference final and one step closer to the Stanley Cup. And San Jose's odds to win it all continue to increase. 

Going into their series with the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks have 12/5 odds to take home the Cup, according to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

San Jose entered the playoffs at 12/1 odds, but their never-say-die attitude is starting to be recognized. The Sharks have won two Game 7 contests this postseason, and now have captain Joe Pavelski back in the lineup

[RELATED: What to watch in Western Conference final]

The Sharks are sure to be tired, though they've already beat plenty of adversity. 

Puck drop for Game 1 of the Western Conference final is scheduled for 5 p.m. PT at SAP Center on Saturday.

Sharks' game vs. Golden Knights good barometer for division standings

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Sharks' game vs. Golden Knights good barometer for division standings

Fans probably don't want to talk about it. Or just wish it never happened. But it wasn't that long ago that the Sharks opened up their 2019-20 campaign with a home-and-home against the Golden Knights, plunging the team into a 0-2-0 hole.

Fast forward to late November and San Jose, while just recently having a six-game winning streak snapped, still is trying to dig themselves out of that hole. They find themselves, once again, facing off against their rivals from Vegas. And while the Knights have run into their own share of roadblocks through the early part of the season, they're still four points ahead of the Sharks in the Pacific Division standings.

Thursday's game is a big test for San Jose. One that can expose whether the Sharks have a chance of completely crawling out of the division cellar.

Vegas is only 3-4-2 in the month of November and went on a five-game losing skid while the Sharks were stringing wins together. They haven't been very healthy either, with everyone from Cody Eakins to Marc-Andre Fleury being sidelined with injuries through the first month and a half of the season. 

That being said, the Knights have won their last two contests, having shut out the Flames 6-0 and upending the downtrodden Maple Leafs 4-2. In the process, they have wiggled their way into third place in the Pacific Division standings.

Plus -- while fans probably hate to admit this -- the Knights have a way of getting into the Sharks' heads. Through just 10 regular-season contests between the two teams, San Jose is 3-6-1 and has given up an average of 4.1 goals per game.

While the sample size is small, it's still the largest goals-against margin the Sharks have against any team in the entire league.

Facing off against a tough Vegas team isn't the only obstacle San Jose will face on Thursday night -- they will also be missing one of their top forwards. Tomas Hertl will miss Thursday's contest at T-Mobile Arena with a lower-body injury, forcing the Sharks to shuffle up their lines and add Antti Suomela -- who has yet to play an NHL this season -- into the mix.

Losing a player like Hertl, who ranks second on the team with 21 points, will put even more pressure on San Jose when it comes to scoring against a Vegas squad that has outscored them 41-23 over the course of two-plus seasons.

Needless to say, San Jose's defense has to be significantly tighter against Vegas than it was on Tuesday night against the Oilers. Edmonton's forward attack had little problem skating through the neutral zone, and if San Jose isn't careful, they could fall into the same trap against Vegas.

[RELATED: Hertl out, Dell to start in net for Sharks vs. Vegas]

Not to mention that the Oilers got production from all four of their lines and aren't a team known for having depth at the forward position. If the Sharks had trouble containing that team, what's going to happen against a Golden Knights team that regularly rolls out four lines?

This isn't to say the Sharks have no chance of defeating the Knights on Thursday night. It is a big test, however, that can show exactly where San Jose stands this season. If the first two games of the season are any indication, Thursday's game could get ugly in a hurry.

Tomas Hertl out, Aaron Dell starts in net for Sharks vs. Golden Knights

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Tomas Hertl out, Aaron Dell starts in net for Sharks vs. Golden Knights

If the Sharks plan to bounce back Thursday against the Golden Knights, they will do so without one of their most important players.

Forward Tomas Hertl will not play Thursday when the Sharks face their rivals at T-Mobile Arena, head coach Peter DeBoer told the media.

The Czech forward has been battling minor knee soreness and left the Sharks' loss to the Edmonton Oilers early Tuesday after getting tangled and falling to the ice during the third period. He left the ice with an ankle injury.

DeBoer made sure to note Hertl is not missing Thursday's game due to a knee injury.

Losing Hertl is big for the Sharks. The 26-year-old has notched 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 22 games this season.

With Hertl out, Antti Suomela will make his season debut, centering the fourth line with Dylan Gambrell and Lukas Radil.

[RELATED: Sharks reflect on end of six-game winning streak]

Aaron Dell will get the start in net as the Sharks look to get back on the winning horse after having their winning streak snapped by the Oilers.