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The Florida Panthers host the San Jose Sharks on Sunday afternoon in a matchup of two teams separated by one point but in much different positions in their respective divisions. Florida is a distant second place in the Atlantic Division, while San Jose sits in sixth place in a loaded Pacific Division. Both teams allow 3.27 goals per game, but Florida's offense scores at a far higher rate than San Jose (3.44 to 2.80 goals per game).
Florida is in the midst of a season long nine straight games on home ice. The Panthers topped Columbus 4-1 on Saturday night as goalie Sergei Bobrovsky saved 33 of 34 shots against his former team. Florida ranks fifth in the league in scoring. Offense has been a struggle for San Jose, who was shutout most of Saturday night in a 7-1 loss to Tampa Bay. The six goal margin of defeat marked the Sharks' worst loss this season. The Sharks are nearing the end of a stretch playing five of six games on the road.
Sharks look to ignite struggling offenseThe San Jose Sharks are in a tough stretch right now having faced four potential playoff teams successively (Arizona, Washington, Carolina, and Tampa Bay). That doesn't excuse their off from not showing up as is what happened on Friday when San Jose didn't score until down 5-0 late in the third period. It's unfair to put too much pressure on one guy, but Evander Kane's scoring drought (one goal in the last 12 games) is clearly the leading factor in San Jose's offense struggles. Tomas Hertl is dealing with an undisclosed injury which helps explain why he hasn't scored in seven straight games. Logan Couture, the Sharks' top points man, is carrying the team recently with four goals in the last five games though he too was shutout on Friday.
Defense remains a source of weakness for the Sharks as well. Goalie Martin Jones boasts an .892 save percentage, well below his career average. Jones allowed five goals the other night against Washington, then came in as back-up Friday night and gave up four more scores. His confidence has to be hurting right now. The six-year veteran did put together a couple great performances in late November, saving 33 shots against the Kings in back-to-back games and then saving 21 of 23 shots in a win over Arizona.
Panthers hope to stay in win columnDespite the Florida Panthers sitting in second place in the Atlantic with a decent record, they've actually lost three more games at home than they've won. They'll look to flip around those numbers as the year goes on. Florida picked up a big win over Columbus on Saturday night thanks to the goal tending of Sergei Bobrovsky against his former team. Bobrovsky told reporters after the game: "It's kind of weird to face your former teammates trying to score on you. It's a different feeling definitely but I'm so happy to get the two points." He is expected to start again on Sunday.
Florida's offense is led by a trio of productive forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Brett Connolly, and Jonathan Huberdeau. Barkov provided two assists and Connolly notched a goal on Saturday. Huberdeau contributed a goal and an assist against the Minnesota Wild on December 3. Mike Hoffman also scored a goal and added an assist on Saturday. The Panthers rank eighth in the league in power play percentage (22.8).
Panthers are 3-8 in their last 11 games playing on zero days rest.
- Sharks are 11-4 in their last 15 overall.
- Sharks are 4-1 in their last five road games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The San Jose Sharks are due for a breakout performance after scoring two or fewer goals in each of their last three games. Evander Kane can't find the back of the net lately, but don't be surprised if he breaks his scoring drought on Sunday. The Sharks are in for a favorable goalie matchup between Jones and Bobrovsky. Jones has won his last two road starts, while Bobrovsky has allowed three or more goals in three of his last four outings.
Prediction: San Jose Sharks
Full-Game Total Pick
Both starting goalies have save percentages in the .880s or .890s which is a sign that this one is trending over. Bobrovsky and Jones are each capable in their own right but for whatever reason haven't produced consistently strong outings this. At least one team seems like to score four goals. The over is 13-3 in the Sharks' last 16 games playing on zero days rest and the over is 5-0 in the Panthers' last five vs. Pacific Division opponents.