Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 11/30/11

Due to playing the least number of games in the West, the San Jose Sharks enter December outside of the top eight in the conference. That is about to change. With a home-laden slate awaiting them in December, San Jose is a team to watch this month.

The Sharks have shown stretches of brilliance this season, but have yet to put together a long stretch of dominance. For the most part, they have been as advertised thus far. And even though they currently sit in ninth in the West, the Sharks have played at least two less games than every other team in the conference. Moreover, they are just two points behind division-leading Phoenix.

Todd McLellan and company are 6-4-1 at home in 2010-11, which isn’t exactly great for a team known to be tough to beat on home ice. In December, the Sharks will play 10 games at HP Pavilion, compared to the three they’ll play on the road. The three road games are bookended by four- and six-game home stands, respectively.

As a result to the home-laden schedule, the Sharks will only have one back-to-back. That means Antti Niemi, who had a 2.12 GAA and .935 save percentage in November, will see a lot of crease time.

Given that they are notoriously a great home team, San Jose’s upcoming schedule should spell trouble for the rest of the West. Here is a look at their December slate:

The Shark Tank is considered one of the toughest buildings – if not the toughest – for opponents to play in. It has become a black hole of sorts for some teams, including a few of the Sharks’ home opponents this month. Minnesota has only won once in their last 10 trips to San Jose. Colorado has only won twice in their last 12 trips. Montreal has not won in San Jose since Nov. 23, 1999. Florida also hasn’t fared well historically in the Bay Area (3-6-2).

Aside from the home games, the three road contests San Jose will play in – at St. Louis, Chicago and Colorado in succession – are places they have experienced road success at in recent years. McLellan's gang is a combined 9-5-5 in those three arenas since the start of the 2008-09 season.

More importantly than these trends, the Sharks played better in November (7-3-1) than they did in October (6-4-0). It may have been a marginal difference as far as the records go, but the Sharks were playing great hockey prior to a loss to Vancouver on Saturday. If the offense can get more consistency out of the likes of Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and even Dan Boyle, look out for the Sharks in December.

Boston went 12-0-1 in November; I don’t see the Sharks being that good, but a similar record should be in the cards given the way their schedule shapes up favorably this month.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Graph: ESPN.com
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