The Philadelphia Flyers make their first visit to the Bay Area in nearly two years Monday, February 3. That still does not account for having last won there in the 1900s, and the pictured personnel matchups suggest the San Jose Sharks will triumph again.
Ironically after such a time apart, the teams meet again in Philadelphia at the end of the month. That is also good news for San Jose, coming in riding a 13-game winning streak in this matchup overall and without even a road loss since 2000.
This is odd given both teams have had similar success. They are two of the three teams to have three conference finals appearances over the last nine years. Yet unlike the Detroit Red Wings, neither has won a Stanley Cup.
The timing of this game could not be better for the Flyers, however. The Sharks have been without the versatile (volatile?) Raffi Torres and penalty-killer Adam Burish all season. They have recently lost their best player, Logan Couture, after Tomas Hertl also went down while leading the team in goals.
Two more players are also day-to-day. Matt Tennyson was recalled to San Jose as insurance with Jason Demers unavailable with a lower-body injury that CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz reported Sunday was neither knee- nor ankle-related. Tyler Kennedy is questionable with a lower-body injury of his own, and it is more likely the lineup will remain intact from Saturday's win.
It seems the injuries are catching up to the Sharks. They just broke a three-game losing streak and have scored just four regulation goals in their last five games. That should add urgency for a team that knows it cannot take anyone for granted with its injury-riddled roster.
Moreover, the Flyers are only 2-4-1 in their last seven games and will be without Kimmo Timonen Monday. Even in the weak Metropolitan Division, they would not earn a wild card berth with the 10th-best record in the Eastern Conference. (To show how the Western Conference superiority is concentrated at the top, their record is also behind nine teams outside the Eastern Time Zone.)
Meanwhile, San Jose has the best home record in the NHL since the last time these teams played and a better overall record than every Eastern Conference team but the Pittsburgh Penguins. Four Western Conference teams are better, but having home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is already a near-certainty.
If the Sharks won this matchup in seasons when the teams were comparable, they should win when they are simply better.