At this point in the regular season there really is not much mystery as to where the San Jose Sharks are going to end up in the standings.
They know they are going to the playoffs, and barring what would have to be a pretty significant collapse down the stretch, are more than likely going to win the Pacific Division crown. Their priority now is to simply stay healthy to be ready for the start of the postseason so they can make another run at the Stanley Cup.
Part of that is a desire to make sure starting goalie Martin Jones gets enough rest down the stretch, similar to the way he did a season ago when James Reimer started eight of the team’s final 20 regular season games.
Backup Aaron Dell has already started three of the Sharks’ first seven games this month, and he is going to get another one on Thursday night when the team hosts the St. Louis Blues.
Dell has been magnificent in his backup role this season and carries a .938 save percentage on the season into Thursday’s game. The Sharks are also riding a five-game point streak with him in the lineup (4-0-1) with Dell recording at least .939 save percentage in each game during that stretch, never allowing more than two goals in any of those games. He has allowed more than two goals just three of his 15 appearances this season and never more than three.
The Blues, entering the game having won five of their past six, have not announced their starter. Jake Allen played on Wednesday night in their loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
Elsewhere on Thursday night…
— Cory Schneider gets the night off for the New Jersey Devils when Keith Kinkaid gets the start against the Philadelphia Flyers. No official word yet from the Flyers, but Steve Mason just recorded a shutout on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
— Thomas Greiss had a nice bounce back game for the New York Islanders on Tuesday, stopping 30 of 32 shots, and gets the call again on Thursday night when they host the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets will counter with Connor Hellebuyck.
— Pekka Rinne looks to break out of his recent funk on Thursday night when he goes against the Washington Capitals. Rinne has given up at least three goals in nine of his past 11 starts, including six starts where he has given up four goals. Braden Holtby goes for the Capitals.
— Eddie Lack is back in net for the Carolina Hurricanes when they host the Minnesota Wild. It is expected that Devan Dubnyk will get the night off for the Wild, which means Darcy Kuemper would be in net.
— With Roberto Luongo still sidelined, James Reimer starts for the Florida Panthers as they try to cling to whatever remains of their playoff hopes against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets have yet to announce their starter.
— It will be Frederik Andersen vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy in a massive game in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
— Craig Anderson remains sidelined with a lower body injury so Mike Condon goes for the Ottawa Senators when they host the Chicago Blackhawks. No word yet from the Blackhawks.
— Tuukka Rask is net for the Boston Bruins as they try to complete the Alberta sweep when they visit the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers will start Cam Talbot, because they always start Cam Talbot.
— Kari Lehtonen tries to stop the bleeding for the Stars defense when they visit Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks.
— After recording a shutout in his previous start Mike Smith returns to the Arizona Coyotes net on Thursday when they host the Detroit Red Wings. No word yet from the Red Wings on their starter.
— Jonathan Quick starts for the Kings as they try to get closer to a playoff spot against the Buffalo Sabres. Robin Lehner goes for the Sabres.