Sharks-Bruins: What to watch for

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Sharks-Bruins: What to watch for

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.

RELATED: Wingels nominated for Masterton

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.

NHL Gameday: Sharks make first visit to Duck Pond

NHL Gameday: Sharks make first visit to Duck Pond

Programming note – Sharks-Ducks coverage starts today at 6:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 15-10-1, 31 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Ducks: 13-9-5, 31 points, 4th Pacific Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks and Ducks have split the first two meetings of the season, both in San Jose. On Oct. 25, Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s overtime goal was the difference in a 2-1 win. The Ducks responded on Nov. 26, beating San Jose, 3-2, and are 4-0-1 in the last five head-to-head matchups. 

“They’re close, they’re hard fought battles,” Joel Ward said. “It’s obviously a lot of similarities of big bodies, teams that get on the forecheck, and got good special teams, as well.”

***Martin Jones will face Jonathan Bernier in goal. For Bernier, it will be his first game since giving up eight goals at Calgary on Dec. 4 in an 8-3 Flames win.

Does Pete DeBoer think that game might linger with Bernier?

“I’m more worried about the reverse,” said the Sharks coach. “I think usually good pros bounce back with great efforts after games like that. That’s what I’m expecting.”

Logic says that Aaron Dell will start the Sharks’ home game against Carolina on Saturday in the second of a back-to-back, but DeBoer would not confirm that was the plan.

***DeBoer wouldn’t offer much in regards to his lineup against Anaheim, either, although defensemen David Schlemko and Mirco Mueller, and forward Matt Nieto stayed on the ice late, indicating they probably won’t play.

Schlemko is battling a right ankle injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s game against Ottawa. Mueller was recalled on Friday morning.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Dylan DeMelo. The defenseman will play his fourth game of the season with Schlemko likely still out, after he was a healthy scratch for the first 19 games of the season. The 23-year-old has one goal, coming against the Ducks on Nov. 26, and an even rating while averaging 13:35 of ice time per game.

Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks captain scored the game-winning goal on the power play in the most recent meeting with the Sharks, and has nine points (1g, 8a) in his last 11 games. Getzlaf is tied for second in the NHL with 20 assists.

PROBABLE LINES

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

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Ducks
Rickard Rakell – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Nick Ritchie – Antoine Vermette – Ondrej Kase
Joe Cramarossa – Stefan Noesen – Logan Shaw

Cam Fowler – Sami Vatanen
Hampus Lundholm – Josh Manson
Shea Theodore – Kevin Bieksa

Jonathan Bernier (starter)
John Gibson

INJURIES/SCRATCHES

Sharks: David Schlemko (right ankle) is doubtful. Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) is out.

Ducks: Rickard Rakell (upper body) is questionable. Nic Kerdiles (concussion), Nate Thompson (Achilles surgery), Simon Despres (concussion) and Clayton Stoner (lower body) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“We know this is going to be a dogfight right to the end. We’re setting in and prepared for that.” – Pete DeBoer, on the Pacific Division race

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

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USATSI

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

SAN JOSE – Struggling to score goals lately with two or fewer in eight of their last 11 games, the Sharks may soon turn to their biggest prospect to try and give the offense a boost.

Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick from the 2015 draft, is tearing up the American Hockey League lately with the Barracuda. He scored four goals (and registered 15 shots) in two games in San Antonio over the weekend, has eight points (5g, 3a) in his last four games, and leads the Barracuda with eight goals.

On Thursday, Pete DeBoer was asked what he’s heard about Meier lately and how close he may be.

“Good things, and real close,” DeBoer said. “I think he would have been even a consideration [Wednesday], but he came down I think with the flu. 

“You feel for him because we’re looking to bring some guys in, and he obviously had a great weekend. He’s one of quite a few guys down there that we feel real comfortable can come in here and are going to help us before the year ends, for sure.”

It’s the second time an illness has affected Meier’s status, as he came down with mononucleosis early in training camp and missed a month of action. He did, however, return to Barracuda practice this week.

One month ago, Barracuda coach Roy Sommer told CSN that Meier had to make some adjustments coming out of juniors. 

“He’s just has to simplify his game,” Sommer said on Nov. 9. “I think he’s just trying to do too much. He’s got to be north-south, and [forget] this circling and trying to put pucks through people. … It’s not going to work.”

Apparently, Meier has figured it out. On Tuesday, Sommer told The Gackle Report: “He’s getting better every game. At the start, I was going, oh man, he’s all over the map, circling and not using his teammates. But shoot, now he just keeps producing.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time with him on video and he picks stuff up.”

The 2015 draft has already produced several players that are regular contributors for their respective clubs, led by Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Jack Eichel (Buffalo), Mitch Marner (Toronto) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). 

Meier is the only player among the top 11 picks that year that has yet to play an NHL game, while 17 of 30 of the players overall chosen in the first round have played at least one NHL game.