Alas, that nice Ranger connection we had with the Sharks is gone. Manny Malhotra used San Jose to revive his career and get a good-money gig with Vancouver this summer. Jed Ortmeyer (Jed!) got hurt last spring, underwent double hernia surgery, became a UFA and was not even invited back to Shark camp. Those heartless bastards.
Familiar Foes: The big three will be back - Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and speed racer Dany Heatley. Dan Boyle bounced right back from scoring on his own team during the playoffs and continues to quarterback their attack. Joe Pavelski rose to prominence during that futile playoff run and turned it into a big contract - whether he can keep it going will be key. Devin Setoguchi also has plenty to prove - he needs to show he can find consistency. Pickles Vlasic, Douglas Murray and deadline acquisition Nic Wallin will provide consistency on defense in front of a new netminder.
N00bz: That new netminder will be either Antti Niemi or Antero Niittymaki, San Jose's two biggest signings. You kinda feel bad for Niitty as he was all set to take the gig when Doug Wilson picked up Niemi after the Hawks let him go. Niitty was red hot last fall and was (stupidly) passed over by Team Finland, sending him back to earth; he will be pushed hard by the Cup-winning, younger Finn Niemi. Red Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja insanely spurned Detroit and is in Shark camp on a tryout - he will face some tough competition to break in from streaky offensive youngster Jason Demers and old reliable Kent Huskins. No one replaced bruiser Brad Staubitz but the tough Jamal Mayers was added to take Jed's job so he will stand up for his teammates while taking regular shifts alongside Scotty Nichol.
Last Year: Monday, October 19th 7-3 Sharks win.
This Year: Saturday, March 12th in San Jose.
What They Mean To Blue: Not too much. The Rangers play Anaheim three days prior, so they will have plenty of time to enjoy some fun in the sun before facing the Sharks. Even without Nabokov in net, San Jose should still compete in the West, meaning a loss by the Blueshirts won't be the shocking end of the world. No matter the result, after that game the farthest the Rangers will have to travel will be Pittsburgh.