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Preview/Lines #24: Blackwood’s Back in New Jersey, Playing His Best Hockey for Sharks

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

The cliché is, you always want to play against your old team to show them that they made a mistake letting you go.

Mackenzie Blackwood, however, went against that stereotype this morning.

This past summer, the San Jose Sharks acquired Blackwood from the New Jersey Devils for a 2023 sixth-round pick.

But instead of taking on the Devils in the second game of the back-to-back today, the Sharks’ coaching staff opted to start Blackwood against the Boston Bruins yesterday. Instead, Kaapo Kahkonen will face Blackwood’s old team.

“They asked me about a month ago, whether or not I wanted to play in this [game against the Devils], and I said, I don’t care,” Blackwood shared today. “I kind of forgot about it, and then it just kind of snuck up on the schedule. Doesn’t really matter to me that much. A game’s a game, right? I just treated it as just another one on the schedule.”

To each his own. It would make sense if Blackwood was foaming at the mouth to get revenge on the Devils. But in an emotionally up-and-down position like goaltending, it also makes sense for him to not get too high or low for any game.

More importantly, Blackwood is playing like he did in his early years in New Jersey, which was highlighted by a sixth-place finish in the Calder Trophy running in 2020. Over the last two seasons, however, he’s been beset by a variety of injuries.

While Blackwood’s current .903 Save % appears pedestrian, that’s more about workload than anything. Only Jonas Johansson (576) has faced more shots than Blackwood’s 556 in the NHL. And according to Natural Stat Trick, Blackwood has contended with more High-Danger Shots (185) than any other netminder in the league.

And he’s weathered the storm. Blackwood is fifth in the NHL with 10 Quality Starts (defined as a game where the goalie earns a Goals Saved Above Expected of at least one) and third with three Steals (defined as when the number of goals a goalie saves above expected makes the difference in the outcome), per SPORTLOGiQ.

He’s been the San Jose Sharks’ best player this year.

Blackwood pointed to better health for his revival.

“It’s a little bit different now than my first couple years because I know a lot more,” he said. “But physically, I feel the same as I did then. It’s more reminiscent of that.”

San Jose Sharks (5-16-2)

Kahkonen will get the start.

Givani Smith is a game-time decision after suffering a mid-body injury yesterday.

“A bunch of guys,” Quinn noted, “are questionable for tonight”

New Jersey Devils (11-9-1)

Devils Game Preview: New Jersey Hosts Familiar Faces in Sharks

Where to Watch

Puck drop between the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils is 4 PM PT at Prudential Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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