Sharks-Bruins: What to watch for

March 22, 2012, 7:44 pm
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SAN JOSE Any good feelings from the Sharks exciting 3-2 overtime win last Saturday against Detroit are long gone.

After San Jose looked to be coming out of its six-week funk, beating the Red Wings to improve to 3-0-1 in its last four, the Sharks suffered a pair of discouraging regulation losses to Anaheim on Monday and Los Angeles on Tuesday.

I thought wed continue that momentum and play well, and we didnt, Logan Couture said.

After a day off for the regulars on Wednesday, the Sharks (36-27-10, 82 points) will try to get things going in the right direction again tonight at HP Pavilion against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. San Jose enters the evening in 10th place in the Western Conference, two points behind the eighth place Kings (Phoenix is in ninth, also with 84 points).

RATTO: Sharks' hearts and minds will decide playoff berth

Couture said: Were trying to remain as positive as can be. Weve got a big test tonight. I know Im excited. Any time you play a team that just won the Stanley Cup, you have to get up for it.

We need to play our best game of the year and build off of that, Patrick Marleau said.
Handzus returning; Wingels too? Sharks center Michal Handzus will return tonight after missing the last six games with a lower body injury.

Obviously its an exciting time right now. Its fun to play in these games, its like playoff hockey, Handzus said.

It hasnt been the most pleasant of seasons for the offseason addition, as Handzus was a healthy scratch in three of the seven games before he was hurt.

I havent played well enough, too, before so Im looking forward to getting back in and playing better, he said.

Rookie Tommy Wingels, whos been out with an upper body injury for the last five games, could also return, although neither he nor coach Todd McLellan would confirm it.

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Look for Jason Demers to return to the lineup, too, possibly in place of Justin Braun. Nathan Horton (concussion), Rich Peverley (knee) and Tuukka Rask (groin) remain out for the Bruins.
Havlat surging: The Sharks have welcomed Marty Havlat back to the lineup, as the winger has four goals in four games after missing 39 with a partially torn hamstring. He has six points (4g, 2a) in his last three games.

Hes very creative out there with the way he passes and where he places pucks, said linemate Patrick Marleau. He protects the puck well, he sees the ice very well, and knows when to go fast and when to go slow. Thats something very special in a player.

Havlat had just two goals in his first 26 games with San Jose before he was hurt on Dec. 17.

Bruins streaking: The Boston Bruins (42-27-3, 87 points) had a difficult two-month stretch after a dominant early part of the season. The club has won its last three, though, including an 8-0 thrashing of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.

Stanley Cup Champs for a reason, coming off a real good win, McLellan said. Playing probably better over the last week to 10 days than they were earlier in the year. They went through their funk as well, as all teams do. Theyre gearing up for their playoff run, so well have our hands full.

Theyre a complete team, right from the goaltender on out, said former Bruins captain Joe Thornton. Theyre flying high off that 8-0 win last game. Wed like to score early, get some confidence, and get ready to roll from there.

In one of the more entertaining games this season, the Sharks won at TD Garden on Oct. 22, 4-2. Benn Ferriero scored the game-winner midway through the third period, breaking a 2-2 tie at the second intermission.

Marleau said: You take some confidence from the previous game. You know that theyre going to bring their game tonight and have lots of firepower. They play a great system game, so were going to have to do the same.
McLellan looking for some clutch hitting: The Sharks head coach used a baseball analogy to describe what hes looking for from his team as it continues its trudge through the second half of the season.

When youre up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, the walk is great. Its kind of the safe play, but Id like to see somebody hit the ball. Well take a single, well take a double, and those are the kind of players we want right now.

If you have too much on your shoulders you might get to first, but youre going to walk. For lack of a better analogy, I like baseball, so thats what Im going to use right now.

Whats been the problem over the last two games?

I feel at times its a nervousness that holds us back. We have to go out there and play free. Its not about one or two individuals carrying the weight of the team on the shoulders, its about distributing it evenly. The 25 minute guys have to take as much on as the seven minute guys. When you do that, the team plays well.
Niemi vs. Thomas: Antti Niemi will make his 13th straight start in net for the Sharks. Hes 4-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in four career games against Boston, and made 37 saves in the win on Oct. 22.

Tim Thomas goes for the Bruins, as capable backup Rask remains out with a groin injury. Thomas is 2-3-0 with a 2.02 GAA and .928 SP career against the Sharks.

Former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco is Thomas backup. He was signed as a free agent on March 5 after Rask went down.