Top West contenders clash in San Jose 

January, 28, 2010

After a slow start to the season, I've found a little groove with my puck prognostications over the past few weeks. Last Thursday, I went a solid 8-5 despite falling short in a pair of shootouts. Man, a 10-3 roll would have been so, so sweet!

Overall, in the past three weeks, I've piled up a more-than-respectable 22-13 mark. Believe me, after the way I started the season, I'm relieved to have turned things around. Sadly, that all could change tonight. The eight-game schedule features some tough choices. Here are my selections.

Chicago Blackhawks at San Jose Sharks

Here's the best game of the night. The top two teams in the Western Conference get together for their fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The Hawks won the first two contests, rallying for an OT win in Chicago, then routing the Sharks 7-2 in San Jose. In their last tilt, the Sharks scored a 3-2 win at United Center. This will be the seventh stop on a monster eight-game road swing for the Blackhawks. While Joel Quenneville's team has been traveling, Todd McLellan's Sharks have been resting since their 5-2 win over the visiting Sabres on Saturday. San Jose carries a five-game winning streak to the rink tonight. In that span, the Sharks have outscored their opponents 26-7. I'll take the Sharks to even the season series. San Jose wins it.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.