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Blackhawks Vs. Sharks Preview: A Great Matchup With A Hot Sharks Team

The Chicago Blackhawks (12-6-3) open the second half of their annual Circus Trip with a matchup against the San Jose Sharks (12-5-1) on Wednesday night.

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The San Jose Sharks are red hot as of late, heading into Wednesday night's game on a three-game winning streak and sporting a 11-2-1 record since October 20th. One thing to watch is the Sharks' new 1-3 approach to penalty killing, which is illuminated by the gang at Fear The Fin:

The basic premise of the Sharks "new-look" PK is this-- San Jose stacks three bodies (one forward, two defenseman) at the blueline while a lone forward (usually the centerman, but it has varied) pressures the puck as it comes up the ice. That forward attempts to drive the puck carrier to one side or another, taking away the middle zone entry. Fairly basic stuff for any defensive alignment of course, as you always want to drive players to the outside and use the boards to your advantage, but it's something the Sharks have amplified as of late.

When this forward is pressuring the puck carrier to either the left or right side, the three players on the blueline will begin to collapse towards that side in order to force a dump-in. If the puck-pressuring forward is doing his job, he's slowing up the attack into the zone and making it harder for the opposing team to get to any puck that is dumped in. This is key, because with three players back the Sharks are able to collapse around the puck and quickly outnumber the opposing player that is trying to dig it out.

Meanwhile, the Hawks are looking for a quick bounce back after a brutal performance in 9-2 loss to Edmonton. The crew over at Second City Hockey, SB Nation's Chicago Blackhawks blog, recently took a look at the team outlook with a quarter of the season now in the books:

While it may be a struggle to try and be positive after our eyeballs bleeding through the weekend, in the end it's two games. Or it has the possibility of just being two games depending on the response. It's not the Capitals 3-7 rot at the moment, it's not the Bruins losing six in a row earlier in the year, or anything like that. The Hawks still hover around the top of the Conference even with the warts we knew were there, and that are eminently fixable. Sure, the schedule hasn't been as hard as it will be, but the Hawks racked up the number of points you'd want when the schedule is offering them for discount prices.

GAME TIME: 9:30 p.m. CST


Stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago to see if they can keep it rolling on Wednesday night against the Sharks.

Stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago for more information, and for in-depth analysis on the Chicago Blackhawks be sure to visit Second City Hockey and the San Jose Sharks blog Fear The Fin . Visit SB Nation NHL for more news and notes around the league.