NHL on NBCSN: ‘Hawks host Sharks in Western battle

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the San Jose Sharks at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

You can’t ask for much more out of a Sunday night game than what Chicago and San Jose will bring tonight.

The Blackhawks have earned points in nine straight games going 6-0-3 over that stretch. Patrick Sharp has been the focus of their success of late as he tries to get Hockey Canada’s attention for a spot on their Olympic team. Sharp has two hat tricks in five games and has climbed to second in the NHL in goals with 25, trailing only Alex Ovechkin.

Don’t suppose he’d fit in nicely with Jonathan Toews in Sochi, would he?

With Sharp second in the league in goals and Patrick Kane second in points (behind Sidney Crosby), the Blackhawks’ offense is one to be feared. They’re tops in the league in goals and have four players with more than 40 points (Sharp, Kane, Toews, and Duncan Keith). When you mix in Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad and their 15 goals apiece, it’s a daunting task to slow them down.

If there’s a team that can hang with them offensively, it’s the Sharks.

San Jose is fourth in goals scored and they have one of the premiere playmakers in the game in Joe Thornton. His 42 assists are tops in the NHL and he comes into tonight’s game on a seven-game point streak in which he’s got no goals and 11 assists during.

Guys like Patrick Marleau (19 goals), Joe Pavelski (18 goals), and Logan Couture (14 goals) have been reaping the benefits of Thornton’s passing to lead the Sharks. You can throw rookie Tomas Hertl and his 15 goals into the mix as well, but he’s out with an injured knee.

All these prolific offenses do is put the onus on Chicago’s Corey Crawford and San Jose’s Antti Niemi to be at their best to try and slow things down. Crawford is still angling for a spot on Team Canada and Niemi will likely be on Team Finland for the Olympics, but you couldn’t ask for a better way to audition than to slow down each team’s high-powered offense.