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Game 19, Preview and Open Thread: Into The Shark Tank, Philadelphia Flyers at San Jose Sharks

Philadelphia Flyers (12-5-1, 25 pts) at San Jose Sharks (14-5-4, 32 pts)
HP Pavilion - 10:00 PM ET - San Jose, CA
TV: CSN Philly HD, NHL Network US HD
Radio: 610 WIP, XM 205
This is the open game thread.
Behind Enemy Lines: Fear The Fin, Battle of California

The Flyers continue one of the hardest stretches of their season tonight as their West Coast swing takes them into San Jose, California to take on the Sharks. As was the case on Thursday in Los Angeles, tonight's game will not be an easy task for the Flyers. San Jose boasts the league's best record and they're also without a regulation loss at home this season, going 6-0-2. They're also 6-1-3 in their last ten.

So why should we expect anything different than the 4-1 beating the Sharks put on our boys last month in Philadelphia? Well, for starters, Ray Emery is in goal tonight, and he's a much better goalie then the Sharks saw in Brian Boucher on October 25. Secondly, the Sharks faced a Flyers team that was struggling on defense at the time. In fact, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon were on the ice for all four SJ goals that night, which provides a nice little window in how they were playing at the time.

They've picked things up since then, and so have the Flyers overall. Since losing consecutive games to the Sharks and the Capitals two nights later in DC, the orange and black are 6-1, and they've scored two goals for every one allowed. They've shown in that stretch that they're the team we thought they were at the beginning of the season, with a prolific offense and a shutdown defense. Add in consistent goaltending and you've got a team that has a good shot at handing San Jose their first home loss of the season.

As for the Sharks, they're coming off a road trip in which they went 1-1-1. After losing their most recent game to Nashville on Tuesday night, San Jose has had plenty of time to rest and prepare their game plan for the Flyers. That's why it'll be important for our boys to set the tone early and get the Sharks off that plan.

San Jose has the second best offense in the league. They've scored 76 goals so far this season -- compared to the Flyers 65 -- but seemingly out of respect for the Flyers' D, coach Todd McLellan has opted to throw his three best scorers on one line tonight. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley will start the game for them tonight, and it'll likely be up to Chris Pronger and Matt Carle to stop them.

That could be the story line of the game right there. McLellan has said that he won't keep that line together if it means the other three have to struggle. But could you imagine seeing Pronger, who is HATED in San Jose, and Carle, who used to play for the Sharks, going head-to-head against a line all night that has a combined 834 NHL goals? I hope it happens.

After the jump, we've got a few questions to answer tonight, and of course another late night open thread. Join us, won't you?

Questions To Answer

  1. How long does SJ keep the Thornton-Marleau-Heatley line together, and if it's together for a while, can the Flyers shut them down? If not, can the Flyers keep those players off the score sheet anyway?
  2. The Flyers put 38 shots on Thomas Greiss last month but could only put one by him. Tonight, it's a much daunting task in net with Evgeni Nabokov. How do they fare?
  3. Philly escaped LA with a win despite putting in a less-than-complete effort. Can they earn a win with a full 60 minute effort tonight?
  4. How badly does Pronger, who knocked the Sharks out of the playoffs in the first round at HP Pavilion last April, get booed by the San Jose faithful?

Tonight's game is on Comcast SportsNet and 610 WIP locally. You won't find it on NHL Center Ice in the States because it's on NHL Network. As always, join us here for the late-night conversation and LET'S GO FLYERS!