Will it be retribution for Antti Niemi, or will the Chicago Blackhawks pump holes through him and the San Jose Sharks?  There’s 13 games on the NHL schedule for Wednesday, November 24 – but few are as steeped in drama as the Western Conference finals rematch.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. San Jose Sharks 10:30 PM ET

Ron Barr swears that Antti Niemi is on a cold streak and the stats agree. A total of 8 pucks have found their way past Niemi in his last two starts, but David Pollak at Working the Corners reports that head coach Todd McLellan believes Niemi has earned the right to start.

“… Niemi has looked forward to having the opportunity… and he’s earned that right.”

Let’s see what Ron Barr has to say about Chicago:

“Chicago plays a tough “in your face” style of hockey. Their defense bodychecks with the best of them and all four of their forward lines forecheck the opposition into making mistakes in their own zone.  The raucous fans at Chicago Stadium help make them one of the toughest home teams in the NHL.  Jonathan Toews is one of the NHL’s brightest young stars.  He skates like the wind and scores some of the most amazing goals you will ever see.  Jonathan is a fierce competitor who won’t be pushed around by the other team. Use him in all game situations and don’t hold him back when the game turns rough.  Duncan Keith is one of the best all round defensemen in the league.  He’s won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top blueliner and is one of the toughest players in the league.  He’s also got a rocket of a shot from the point that terrifies goalies.  Use him on the point when you’ve got the man advantage and make sure he’s out there in all key defensive situations.  Brent Seabrook is a workhorse on defense who usually forms a dynamic duo on defense with Duncan Keith. He’s a good skater and a big guy who lays on some of the hardest bodychecks in the league. Use him to kill penalties and to set up Keith for an accurate one-timer.”

The Sharks are no slouches

“The Sharks must rely on strong goaltending and closechecking to be competitive.  They’re tough at home where the crowd is always pumped up.  There are some good young players on this team along with a few older guys who know how to get the job done.  Joe Thornton is a 13 year veteran who sets up a lot of scoring chances for his teammates. He averaged a point per game for the Sharks in 2010-11.  Patrick Marleau can handle a heavy workload so use him on offense to set up goals and on defense to shadow the opponent’s top scorer.  Dan Boyle is one of the league’s best offensive defensemen whose shot seems like it is fired out of a cannon. He’s also wizard with the puck who finds the open man extraordinarily well.  Make sure Dan is on the point during a power play and try to get him the puck for a one-timer.  Douglas Murray is a rock solid “stay at home” defenseman who works hard on every shift.  He is a 6 year NHL veteran who likes to knock opposing players around.   Antti Niemi can be a real acrobat.  He had by far the best goals against mark of any of the Blackhawks’ 3 goalies in 2009-10.   Joe Pavelski is a tricky 5 year veteran who had his best year ever in 2008-09 with 59 points. He’s a quick skater who can connect with the open man. Logan Couture is one of the young stars the Sharks are banking on.”

Our Prediction: Chicago is entering tonight’s game as the favourite, but we can never underestimate vengeance.  The Sharks will be out for blood, Niemi, too.  This is the first meeting between these teams since Chicago swept San Jose in the 2010 Western Conference final.  Still, we’re going with the Blackhawks tonight – the Sharks must come to the realization that Antti Niemi is just a mook, and no good.

Blackhawks, 4-2.  The ghost of Niklas Hjalmarsson strikes tonight!

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