Sharks at Blue Jackets: Lines, gamethread, and where to watch
MATT DUCHENE ALERT!
The National Hockey League (NHL) trade deadline is on Monday, which means we’re in for an exciting storm of general managers (GMs) swapping fifth-round picks for Jack Johnsons and 25-year-old “prospects.” Fun. Before we get ahead of ourselves, an actual big-name trade happened just yesterday. The Ottawa Senators sent center Matt Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a couple of prospects and two picks. That wouldn’t normally be pertinent to a game preview, but here the Sharks are, in Columbus, ready to lay down the law against none other than newly minted Blue Jacket Duchene.
Duchene is an important addition. The Blue Jackets’ 5-on-5 expected goal has been trending up — way up — in their last five or so games. Duchene, this season, has had a positive, if not otherworldly impact on even-strength expected goals (Evolving Hockey) this season. Duchene certainly represents an improvement over Columbus’ other depth centers, Boone Jenner and Alexander Wennberg (who was a healthy scratch last night against Ottawa) in that facet of the game. The Jackets’ new pivot is also an excellent neutral zone contributor, making the prospect of Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson skating on his wings even more terrifying.
Jackets’ coach John Tortorella has opted to split up the big Seth Jones and Zach Werenski defense pair and doesn’t seem to employ much line-matching at home lately. We can only surmise, then, that Duchene and company will see plenty of Logan Couture and that Pierre-Luc Dubois will face off against Tomas Hertl’s trio of marauders. This should leave Joe Thornton with plenty of time against Boone Jenner, who offers offense by the boatload but for whom defense doesn’t seem obligatory.
Finally, Joonas Korpisalo should man the nets for Columbus after Sergei Bobrovsky did so last night. Korpisalo ranks 48th of 50 goalies who have played at least 20 games this season, when measuring by goals allowed relative to expected on unblocked shots (MoneyPuck). He ranks 70th out of 77 goalies who have faced at least 100 unblocked shots this season (Evolving Wild). San Jose should be able to capitalize on the chances they create.
San Jose lost 4-1 at home to the Blue Jackets in early November, just after the initial splitting of Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Where to watch
Puck drop is at 2 p.m. Pacific/5 p.m. Eastern from Nationwide Arena. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports California in the Bay Area and Fox Sports Ohio in the Columbus area. Radio call will be on 98.5 KFOX or through the Sharks app.
Meet back here for the liveblog and gamethread!