Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for

January 4, 2012, 9:19 pm
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Sharks (20-11-4) vs. Anaheim (10-21-6) at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

ANAHEIM The Sharks are feeling confident after a 3-2 shootout win over Vancouver on Monday. Theyll try to keep building upon that tonight against another team they've struggled with recently.

Anaheim, in 29th place overall in the NHL standings, has beaten San Jose all three times this season. That includes a 3-2 win less than two weeks ago at HP Pavilion.

Anaheim has basically owned us all year, Jamie McGinn said after Wednesdays morning skate at Honda Center. "Also, I think theres a lot of pride on the line. You dont want to lose every single game against a division rival.

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"With such a big rivalry at Anaheim, we know were going to have Sharks fans here tonight, and we need to get a win.

Get the first goal: The Ducks have scored first in each of the three games vs. the Sharks, which for them, is huge. Anaheim is 1-16-2 when giving up the first goal but a respectable 9-5-4 when taking a 1-0 lead.

Confidence is a huge thing in any sport or life. When you feel good about yourselves individually and collectively, things tend to go better, Todd McLellan said. When you earn that opportunity or that right to feel good as the game goes on, the likelihood of success goes way up. Playing with the lead is something we all want to do in the league.

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau liked what he saw from his club the day after Christmas at HP Pavilion. That was Anaheims only win in its last seven games (1-5-1).

The Ducks were able to maintain a slim lead, after Andrew Cogliano's goal midway through the second period held up as the game-winner.

Our work ethic against them was great. We worked hard for 60 minutes and we had a solid goaltending game, Boudreau said. You add that with the fact that we got the lead, and we never relinquished the lead. When you dont relinquish the lead when youre mentally fragile, thats a real big thing.
Limit the mistakes: The Sharks havent necessarily played terribly in their three one-goal losses to Anaheim, but key errors at inopportune times have cost them. That includes Joe Thorntons turnover that led to a Bobby Ryan breakaway goal early in the second period on Dec. 26.

We havent played poorly, we just havent been on top of those one-goal games, Thornton said.

The last time San Jose was in this building, a missed assignment by Andrew Desjardins led to a goal by the Ducks fourth line in the only marker of the game.

When you look at the opportunities that weve given them, there havent been many. When were erred, weve erred ugly, McLellan said.
Tracking Teemu: Boudreau had nothing bad to say about the Ducks leading scorer, Teemu Selanne, on Wednesday morning.

And why should he? The 41-year-old Selanne leads Anaheim with 36 points (11g, 25a) and has done nothing but impress his new head coach since Boudreau took over in late November.

When you call it a freak of nature at 41 when hes doing what hes doing, it is, Boudreau said. He still skates as well as anybody, doesnt want to miss any optional skates, doesnt take time off. Hes definitely one of a kind.

Selanne has 13 points in the 15 games Boudreau has been behind the bench.
Niemi vs. Hiller: Sharks goalie Antti Niemi will make his 13th straight start in net, opposing Anaheims Jonas Hiller.

Hiller, who has lost five of his last six decisions, has two wins against the Sharks this season with a 1.00 goals-against average and .971 save percentage. Hes 5-0-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average with two shutouts in his last six appearances against San Jose.

Niemi is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts, but 3-4 career against Anaheim.

Thomas Greiss will backup Niemi.

Odds and ends: Jason Blake is returning for Anaheim. Blake hasnt played since he was accidentally stepped on the arm by Brent Burns on Oct. 14. Colin White remains out for the Sharks with a lower body injury, and is not on the trip. The Sharks have points in eight of their last nine games (5-2-3).