2/22 sharks 2, CHICAGO 0
I like this winning thing. I might get used to it. It was nice to see a win on Wednesday, but another one last night? Is that allowed to happen? A bit of bitterness, yes, but please attribute that to the end of a long roadtrip in many cold weather cities, and this author running out of space in his suitcase, and nearing the end of a supply of clean underpants.
Evgeni Nabokov, showing signs of recovery from his injury in the always dangerous groinal area, playing a solid game and making 21 saves for his 14th win of the year, and 4th shutout of the season. Not to mention a goal and assist from the mini-slumping Joe Thornton  (previously just 1 point in the last four games), and a goal from Jonathan Cheechoo , his first in five games.
The game itself wasn't boring, but it wasn't necessarily super exciting. The play was pretty even all night long, even after Thornton (Patrick Marleau, Mark Bell) got the ball rolling for the Sharks with a laser wrister on the powerplay midway through the 1st. Bell, a 5 year Blackhawk, returned to the Windy City for the first time since being shipped to San Jose this past summer. Curtis Brown also made his first appearance at the United Center since signing with the Sharks in the off-season. Patrick Marleau also made his return, but just to the ice, as a case of food poisoning left him out of the lineup on Wednesday.
In addition to the adoration showed for Bell, another player was shown tons of support all night long. Sharks rookie Joe Pavelski, born and raised in Wisconsin, had a fan club of sorts in attendance last night, as 110 excited friends and family filled two full buses and rode 4.5 hours to see the pride of Plover, WI skating for the Teal. I had the pleasure of meeting a few of this very excited group (aunt and sister Pavelski), all of which were very proud of their Joe.
The United Center, located just north of the Hospital District (I hear they have a great nightlife) around UIC (the University of Illinois at Chicago), is a large concrete colored building made of, well, concrete. The front is adorned with simple imprinted logos of the two teams that call the United Center it's home (the NBA's Chicago Bulls and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks), and simply lit red signs showing the name of the building. In a relatively new area still, the United Center (and it's parking lots) are the only thing directly surrounding the building, a far contrast from the metro setting of the Verizon Center in DC.
The inside of the building is full of history, hanging from it's rafters and otherwise, and the atmosphere does a perfect job of making you feel like you're in a building that's been around for 100 years (it's more like 10, I think), but shows no wear (because it's only 10 years old). From the old style font of the signage around the wide concourses, to the simple layout of said walkways, to the great organ that was played all night (not as great as the one at Chicago Stadium, I was repeatedly assured), to the many banners that hang from the rafters, both Bulls and Hawks pennants of triumph.
The seating area is pretty big, as the building holds somewhere around 18,500 (a number not seen in a while, as the ownership is causing the attendance to sag for this historic franchise). With a very nice jumbotron and ribbon display, the loyal Hawks fans who make the trip out have some beautiful electronics to look at. When full, I imagine the United Center gets a rockin, I just hope for their sake it happens real soon.
The roadtrip (from hell) concludes tomorrow night in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for the second game of a double header HNiC (Hockey Night in Canada) that features a showdown between the Calgary Flames, and your San Jose Sharks (7:00 pst). The Sharks have won both games in this series, taking both 1 in Calgary (4-1 on 10/9) and in SJ (4-1 as well on 12/23). Both teams have deep playoff aspirations, and this game between two of the Western Conference's elite shouldn't disappoint.
Go Sharks (Hooray for Don Cherry)
Chief Blackhawk at Center Ice.
The three Stanley Cup Banners won by the mighty Blackhawks.
The lower bowl was mostly full, not so much upstairs. All those banners in the background are the Bulls many many banners.