Blackhawks vs. Sharks preview: Top-two teams in NHL showdown on Tuesday night

Ezra Shaw

The San Jose Sharks (7-1-1) will host the Chicago Blackhawks (7-0-2) at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night.

It will be the first of three meetings (all of which will occur in February) between the two teams this season.

Entering Tuesday night, Chicago and San Jose rank as the top-two teams in the NHL in terms of total points. With both teams collecting seven wins to this point, the Blackhawks ability to remain undefeated in regulation has given them a one point advantage over the Sharks.

San Jose earned their first regulation loss on Monday night against the Anaheim Ducks. After an unfortunate bounce enabled Anaheim to tie the game at one at the beginning of the third period, the Sharks failed to answer and ultimately fell to their Pacific Division rivals after Sheldon Souray registered the game-winning goal later in the frame.

One of the issues for San Jose on Monday night was their inability to convert on six power play chances against Anaheim despite boasting a top-five ranked unit. Entering Tuesday night, the team has successfully converted on 26 percent of their man-advantage opportunities.

While the power play was struggling, the penalty kill continued operating at an efficient rate disrupting all six of the Ducks' power play chances. The Sharks will enter Tuesday night's contest with a 87.8 percent success rate (ranked 6th) on the penalty kill.

While Chicago's power play (20.6 success rate, ranked 14th) might have a difficult time when facing the Sharks penalty kill, the Blackhawks No. 1 ranked penalty killing unit (94.4 success rate), potentially could also give the Sharks' man advantage a difficult night.

Regardless, both teams have succeeded in producing offense this year, as both rank in the top-10 in total goals scored (San Jose is ranked 2nd with 31; Chicago ranked 7th with 28) and average goals for per game (San Jose ranked 6th with 3.22; Chicago ranked 8th with 3.00).

In addition, they are both ranked in the top-10 in fewest goals against this season with San Jose allowing the fewest in the league (16) and Chicago ranked seventh (20).

With both teams excelling in several areas of the game, it seems likely that the contest has the makings of a good one.

Tuesday night's game is scheduled to begin at 10:30 p.m., ET and will be broadcast on NHLN-CA, CSN-CH and CSN-CA.

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