Sharks-Ducks: What to watch

October 17, 2011, 7:23 pm
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What to look for when the Sharks host the Anaheim Ducks tonight at HP Pavilion. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

Niemis debut: Goaltender Antti Niemi will be making his season debut for the Sharks tonight. Niemi has been out since having a cyst removed from behind his knee prior to training camp, so it will be interesting to see if not getting into any preseason games has an adverse effect on him.

On the other end, Jonas Hiller, who shut out the Sharks on Friday night at The Pond, played again in last nights 4-2 win against St. Louis. That could mean the Sharks will face backup Dan Ellis, but we probably wont know coach Randy Carlyles decision until game time.

Big guns: Anaheims big three of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan hadnt registered a single point through the teams first three games of the season, including Fridays win over the Sharks. That changed on Sunday against the Blues, when they combined for six points. Theyre likely feeling pretty confident headed into tonights game.

On the other side, a few of the Sharks main offensive threats are still looking for their first goal. Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau have all failed to find the net so far. Thornton has yet to register a single point.

Still, the Sharks top line of Thornton, Marleau and Joe Pavelski has had its chances.

Its just a matter of time. Were getting great looks and great chances, and probably could have scored 10 goals so far," said Thornton. "It hasnt gone in for whatever reason. As long as we stay strong defensively and dont give up very much which we havent, the goals will come.

Todd McLellan doesnt seem too worried about it, either. He does, however, want to make sure they keep up their defensive effort.

I just dont want to see them pressed to the point where they are cheating on one side of the puck and extending shifts to score, said the coach.

Maximum effort: Even though the Sharks lost 1-0 on Friday, they had the advantage in puck possession and spent plenty of time in Anaheims zone. The problem was that there were no second chance opportunities. Look for San Jose to try and be a little more aggressive along the boards and in front of the goal this time around.

We need to win more battles and be stronger, said Logan Couture. Weve been a little soft so far this year up front and on the back end.

Odds and ends: Martin Havlat is expected to return on Friday, so Torrey Mitchell will remain on the second line with Couture and Ryane Clowe, based on the morning skate. After tonight, the Sharks and Ducks wont meet again until Dec. 26. San Joses next home game isnt until Nov. 3 when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins.