It's a back-to-back game affair for the Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks tonight. The sides of that back-to-back aspect are different though. San Jose lost last night in Anaheim, getting blacked 1-0 at Honda Center. The Lightning, on the other hand, will be playing tomorrow at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles against the Kings (who are playing this afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins).
Back-to-backs are annoying, but a degree of security comes when you know your opponent has been taxed by their own back-to-back. That doesn't mean they won't have anything left in their gas tank for the flip-side game, and in the case of the Sharks they may just as well ant to show they're not going to be shut out again. Effort will be there.
Yet there's another aspect of back-to-back tonight... An aspect you don't hear about all too often at the NHL level (or at least it doesn't get into the press and coverage of the game): the doubleheader aspect. SAP Center is hosting another game today as their AHL team, the San Jose Barracudas, take on the Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton's AHL affiliate) on the same ice sheet that the Bolts and Sharks will square off on at 7:30 west-coast-time. Both of those teams are .500 clubs, literally, as San Jose is 8-8-0 and Bakersfield is 9-9-0.
Tampa Bay and San Jose on the other hand, the Sharks are three games above that grade (14-11-0) while the Lightning is technically two games below it (12-11-3 - that third column represents loses that happened outside of regulation) and technically a game above it. Both teams have seven players with double-digit point totals for the season but the Sharks are clearly more top heavy: Joe Pavelski, Joel Ward and Brent Burns have all reached 20 points for the season while Patrick Marleau is at 19.
Steven Stamkos is the only player on the Lightning roster anywhere near 20 points (19) with the next closest being Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov (13).
The Lightning have played more tight games than the Sharks this season (15 as compared to 9) but the record leaves something to be desired in those 1-goal games (7-5-3) while San Jose has a solid win percentage (6-3-0).
Martin Jones only faced 21 shots on goal last night in the Sharks loss to the Ducks, so don't be surprised if he gets another go-around in net. At the same time, Jones has already started 21 games for San Jose (12-8-0, a 2.17 GAA and .923 save percentage), at one point you have to give the man a little rest to keep him sharp (Ben Bishop would agree with that statement). Jones backup is Alex Stalock and his numbers aren't as impressive as Jones (2.88 GAA, .896 save percentage) giving another reason why you should expect Jones in net again.
The Bolts are still on the mend and as of this writing the news if Tyler Johnson or Cedric Paquette will be playing has not come out. In fact, it's another aspect of the double-header at SAP that I hadn't heard anything about in the last day or so: If the morning skates will be taking place at SAP Center or a practice rink? Really, it's also a moot point, ain't it? Better question: are you staying up for this one? How about tomorrow against the Kings? And do you expect the Lightning to stay up for both games too?