NHL Gameday: Sharks host top team, goals figure to be hard to come by

NHL Gameday: Sharks host top team, goals figure to be hard to come by

Programming note – Sharks-Canadiens coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 14-9-1, 29 points, 1st Pacific Division
Canadiens: 16-5-2, 34 points, 1st Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***It’s a battle of first place teams at SAP Center, as the Sharks lead the Pacific Division and the Canadiens are atop the overall league standings. The Sharks are in the midst of playing eight of 10 at home, and bring a 5-1-0 mark in their last six games into tonight.

The Sharks will wrap up a stretch of 10 games in 18 days before they get a chance to rest before Wednesday’s home game with Ottawa.

“It’s been a lot of hockey. It will be nice to get a couple days after this to relax and recover a little bit,” Joe Thornton said. “We know we don’t play for another five days, so to get this win would be huge for us.”

Montreal is playing the third of a five-game road trip. It began with a 2-1 overtime win in Detroit last Saturday, and was followed by a 2-1 loss in Anaheim on Tuesday.

***The undisputed best goalie in the world will be in net for Montreal, as Carey Price (13-2-1, 1.68 GAA, .947 SP) will face the Sharks for the first time since March 21, 2015. He’s 2-4-1 in his career against San Jose, with a 2.70 GAA and .924 SP.

Goals figure to be hard to come by. The Sharks lead the league with just 2.08 goals allowed per game, while Montreal is third (2.13).

“We have to be prepared to win 2-1 here tonight,” Pete DeBoer said. “That has to be the mindset. If we can get more than that, we’ll take it.”

Martin Jones will go for the Sharks. In his last 10 games, he’s 7-2-1 with a 1.50 GAA and .942 SP with a pair of shutouts. 

***Tommy Wingels, who has missed the last three games with a lower body injury, will be a game-time decision. If he doesn’t play, expect Micheal Haley to remain in on the fourth line.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Logan Couture. The Sharks’ center is heating up, and has at least one point in six of the Sharks’ last eight games (6g, 2a). He’s tied with Brent Burns for the team lead in goals with nine, and led the way in San Jose’s 4-1 win on Wednesday night in Los Angeles with two goals and one assist.

Canadiens: Shea Weber. The defenseman has had an immediate impact in his first season in Montreal, with 18 points (8g, 10a) and an NHL-best plus-18 rating. Arguably the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy, Weber will be seeing the Sharks for the first time since his miserable performance in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals with Nashville.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi
Melker Karlsson – Ryan Carpenter – Tommy Wingels

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Canadiens
Paul Byron – Alex Galchenyuk – Alex Radulov
Max Pacioretty – Tomas Plekanec – Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen – David Desharnais – Andrew Shaw
Torrey Mitchell – Phillip Danault – Brian Flynn

Alexei Emelin – Shea Weber
Andrei Markov – Jeff Petry
Mark Barberio – Greg Pateryn

Carey Price (starter)
Al Montoya

INJURIES

Sharks: Tommy Wingels (lower body) is questionable. Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) is out.

Canadiens: Nathan Beaulieu (neck) and Charles Hudon (fractured sternum) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I’m biased but I think [our defense corps] is one of the top back ends in the league. They do a great job moving the puck, play well defensively, and I’m sure it’s tough for other teams to score on us.” – Logan Couture

Three takeaways: Carpenter making the most of his chance with Sharks

Three takeaways: Carpenter making the most of his chance with Sharks

LOS ANGELES – The Sharks jumped out to a first period lead and were never in any real danger after that in a 4-1 win at Staples Center on Wednesday. Three takeaways from the victory over their biggest rival…

1 – Having the Kings’ number

The circumstances were all in the Kings’ favor – they were more rested, one of the best NHL teams at home this season, and entered on a five-game winning streak – but the Sharks managed to beat them fairly handily, even if the game was probably a little closer than the 4-1 final would indicate.

Including the 2016 playoffs, the Sharks have won their last six games at Staples Center. What’s the secret to that success?

“I don’t know if there’s a secret,” Pete DeBoer said. “The one thing about any time we play L.A. is there is no speeches needed. We know it’s going to be a hard game, we know it’s going to be a hard-fought game. Our guys have been responding to that challenge. [Martin Jones] has been excellent, too. That’s a big part of it.”

2 – Jones no worse for wear

The Sharks goalie was starting on back-to-back days for the first time this season, and continued his recent run of success. He’ll likely play on Friday against the Canadiens before he and his Sharks teammates get a rare weekend off with no games or practices scheduled.

“I felt fine,” Jones said after the game. “I thought the guys did a really good job keeping it simple tonight. We got pucks deep, and we worked them low.”

Jones and the Sharks’ defenders have been outstanding during their 5-1-0 stretch, allowing just eight goals in their last six games. The Sharks goalie got a major assist in the second period from Brent Burns, who dove into the goal crease to keep Trevor Lewis from cutting the lead to 3-2 when Lewis had Jones beat.

“It was a great play by Lewis and a great play by Burnzie to keep it out there,” Jones said.

DeBoer said: “Burnzie has been playing great. I thought he was very good tonight. … I thought [Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun] shutting down [Jeff] Carter, and Burnzie and [Paul Martin] – I thought our whole defense corps really played well.”

3 – Carpenter showing he belongs

It was another strong outing from 25-year-old Ryan Carpenter, who scored his first NHL goal, had two shots, three hits, and was 5-for-12 in the faceoff circle in 11:38 of ice time.

DeBoer said the Sharks’ fourth line, primarily with Carpenter centering Micheal Haley and either Melker Karlsson or Kevin Labanc, “might have been our best line tonight. They were excellent.”

Carpenter is making the most if his chance to show he’s a full time NHL player.

“Try to take just a simple approach, one day at a time,” he said. “The Sharks are so deep, they’ve got so many established, proven forwards, that any chance you’re in the lineup you’ve got to take advantage of it. Trying to do that. Any time Pete puts me in, I’m going to go all out.”

Rewind: Sharks 'finding their stride' in latest win over L.A.

Rewind: Sharks 'finding their stride' in latest win over L.A.

LOS ANGELES – Not only was Los Angeles the much more rested team headed into Wednesday’s game with the Sharks, having not played in four days while San Jose was on a back-to-back, the Kings were also the hottest team in hockey. They brought a five-game winning streak into the meeting with their biggest rival, the longest active streak in the league.

There were no illusions on the San Jose side that this was going to be a tough one. 

The Sharks, though, have been playing pretty well lately, too. After a 4-1 win, now they can perhaps lay claim to being the hottest in the league, having won five of their last six while opening up a three-point lead on the rest of the Pacific Division.

Three points from Logan Couture, two goals from rookie forwards and another strong outing by goalie Martin Jones against his old mates were the keys to Wednesday’s victory.

“I feel our game right now, we’re finding our stride,” said Couture, who posted two goals and one assist. “Inconsistent at the start, but I think we’re playing some of our better hockey right now.”

The Kings had the early territorial edge, even after Kevin Labanc’s second career goal on a two-on-one with Couture staked San Jose a lead at 3:32. The Sharks remained committed in their defensive end, though, keeping the Kings to the outside, and waited to pounce again.

They did, late in the first. A nice shift by the second line of Joel Ward, Joonas Donskoi and Couture was capped off by Couture’s marker at 19:05, while Mikkel Boedker nicely sprung Ryan Carpenter on a two-on-one for the rookie’s first NHL goal just 30 seconds later.

Getting goals from Labanc and Carpenter, who was filling in for an injured Chris Tierney at the time of his goal, was especially welcomed (Tierney returned to start the second).

“We needed some contributions tonight,” DeBoer said. “It’s a tough situation, back-to-back, playing last night at home, L.A. is rested. You look at their home record (9-2-0 before Wednesday). We knew this was going to be a really tough game, and we challenged the group to have contributions from everybody.”

Playing in just his fourth career game, Carpenter was overjoyed to see his shot beat Peter Budaj. He has helped to generate a goal in two of the last three games, screening Jonathan Bernier on Dylan DeMelo’s score on Saturday against Anaheim.

“You never know if you’re going to score one or not, so it’s nice to get one,” Carpenter said. “Now you don’t have to think about it anymore.”

Couture praised both rookies.

“[Labanc] has done a great job. [On his goal] I knew if he got it to him he was going to bury it, he’s got a great shot. [Carpenter] has played well. In the games that he’s played he hasn’t been rewarded on the scoresheet, so it was nice to see him [score a goal] tonight.”

Brent Burns said: “They’ve been playing great. Big, strong kids. It’s huge when they chip in. It’s a big part [of the game]. We need that.”

Although they scored three in the first period, the third period was perhaps the Sharks’ most impressive. Despite playing against Arizona the night before, they had the energy to keep the Kings from recording a single shot on goal for the first 12-plus minutes while holding a 3-1 edge. 

Couture’s empty netter from the other side of the rink was the final nail in the Kings’ coffin after Jones made some timely saves in the later minutes.

DeBoer said: “I loved our third period with the lead. I thought we really locked things down, and that’s how we want to play.”

The Sharks are no strangers to blowing leads to the Kings, of course, and Couture recalled Game 5 of last year’s first round playoff series when the Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to see the Kings storm back to tie it. Perhaps that prior experience brought a little extra drive and focus for those final 20 minutes.

“We’ve played these guys enough to know that they can change things pretty quickly,” Couture said.

On Wednesday, though, the Kings were never able to recover from the early deficit. The Sharks have allowed just eight goals in their last six games, and shut down a Los Angeles team that had averaged 3.40 goals-per game during their five-game winning streak.

“They still got a few looks and Jonesy was there, but I think every time we got on the ice against [Anze] Kopitar or [Jeff] Carter, it was a real commitment by all five guys on the ice to defend, and defend hard,” DeBoer said. “I thought we did a good job.”