SAN JOSE – When the Sharks play the Canucks on Thursday at Rogers Arena, it will be the first of five meetings between the teams before the end of the season. Put another way, approximately 16 percent of San Jose’s remaining schedule is against Vancouver in a weird quirk to the final two-and-a-half months.
Although the Canucks aren’t having a spectacular season at 23-21-6, good for sixth place in the Pacific, it’s much better than what was expected by many at the start of the year. They’ve been particularly strong at home, where three of the five games with the Sharks will take place, boasting a 17-6-3 mark (they are just 6-15-3 on the road).
“We’re anticipating a really good team [Thursday],” Pete DeBoer said. “They’re very good at home, they’re desperate, they’re in the middle of the playoff picture. They’re coming down to decision day on whether they’re going to be in or out in the next month.
“We’re going to see a very good team playing in a tough rink to win in. We’re expecting that, and we know we’re going to have to play a good game.”
Another note regarding the Sharks’ schedule is that they won’t see another team that’s currently in the top 11 in the league standings (either points-wise or percentage-wise) until March 5 when they visit Minnesota.
San Jose used to struggle with weaker teams in the past, but under DeBoer, that really hasn’t been an issue. This season, the Sharks are 15-5-1 against teams that sit out of playoff position as of the first day of February. That includes 12 wins in their last 13.
“We recognize that we have to treat every game the same,” DeBoer said. “I think we know the importance of the points, and separating ourselves and solidifying a playoff spot.”
“You’re not going to win all those games, obviously, but I know we’ll be prepared and we’ll be in the right mindset.”
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Sharks defenseman Brent Burns was honored by the league as its Third Star of the Month for January. Burns posted 18 points (6g, 12a) in 14 games, including six multi-point efforts. He continues to lead the NHL in scoring among defenseman with 53 points – 12 more than Erik Karlsson, and just six behind Connor McDavid for the overall league lead.
He’s also getting plenty of love from Las Vegas, too. According to Bovada, Burns is the heavy favorite to win the Norris Trophy (1-to-3 odds), and has the fourth-best odds to win the Hart Trophy (10-to-1).
Only McDavid (6-to-5), Sidney Crosby (9-to-5) and Evgeni Malkin (7-to-1) have better odds than Burns for the league’s MVP award.
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Joonas Donskoi remains out with an upper body injury, and won’t go with the team to Vancouver. He has missed six of the last nine games, and DeBoer confirmed that his latest injury – on a hit from Colorado’s Andreas Martinsen on Jan. 23 – is an aggravation of a previous injury suffered on Jan. 11 at Calgary.