Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for

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Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for

ANAHEIM The Sharks re-took the Pacific Division lead with Mondays 5-1 win over Colorado, but are still no lock to make it to the postseason. If theyd been a little more successful against the Ducks, though, they might be.

The Pacific Division rivals meet for the sixth and final time tonight in Anaheim, and the Ducks have taken four of the first five, all in regulation. That includes what was a momentum-halting 5-3 win at HP Pavilion just nine days ago.

Its not too long ago, and I remember the feeling afterward. Obviously, we were not very thrilled with our performance and some of the things that happened throughout that game, Dan Boyle said on Wednesday morning at Honda Center. Its pretty fresh in our minds, but its a new day and new game, and weve got to bring a better effort.

RELATED: NHL conference standings

Todd McLellan, whose team has won three in a row, said: We talked to our guys about not letting our guard down. This is a team thats had our number, thats played better than we have, and deserved to win the games. Its something were going to have to correct tonight.

San Jose (39-27-10, 88 points) has a one-point lead over Dallas and Phoenix and a two-point edge on Los Angeles.

Were 1-4 against this team. Thats really hurt our opportunity to be a successful team this year, is just our record against Anaheim alone, McLellan said. Thats not any disrespect to them. Theyre played really well.

San Jose has just six games remaining in the regular season, four of which are on the road.

Galiardis return, Niemi starting: The Sharks will make one tweak to their lineup against the Ducks, as TJ Galiardi is returning from a six-game absence with whats believed to be a back injury. Hell likely start on a line with Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell, while Michal Handzus comes out of the lineup.
NEWS: Galiardi set to return vs. Ducks

One line McLellan certainly wont tinker with is the Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins and Daniel Winnik trio. That group has scored in three straight games and has brought tremendous hard work and energy to the ice since they were put together before the Sharks 2-1 win over Boston on March 22.

You need those guys to eat up some minutes. Theyre not only doing that, theyre putting the puck in the net, Boyle said. We need that, and theyre a very important part of our team.

McLellan said: Were getting a lot of mileage out of Desjardins line, which maybe we hadnt gotten earlier. It keeps the bigger boys fresher, it keeps them on their toes a little bit more, and I think its more of a team effort than maybe a three-line effort.

Antti Niemi will make his 16th straight start in net, opposing Jonas Hiller. Niemi is 1-3 against the Ducks this season, while Hiller is 1-1. Jeff Deslauriers picked up the win for Anaheim in the most recent matchup, making 27 saves.

Hiller is 6-9-0 in his career against the Sharks with a 2.26 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, while Niemi is 4-5-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .901 SP vs. Anaheim.

Playing spolier: Bruce Boudreau would love to help prevent the Sharks from making it to the postseason, and hopes his team uses that as motivation to keep playing hard despite its playoff chances near zero.

Were playing at home, we have a chance to derail a little bit of San Joses opportunity, so wed like to be able to do that, Boudreau said. Its motivation for us. Its the same thing against Phoenix on Saturday. If we can stop them from going anywhere, thats great.

Anaheim has had an outstanding second half of the year, but a nightmarish first half essentially buried their postseason chances by the end of December.

Teemu Selanne said: We know the situation. Obviously we still just try to play well, and get a little better taste for this season and finish strong. The first half was just too much. We put ourselves so bad behind the 8-ball; no team would come back."

Anaheim did climb to within four points of eight place in the West at one point, but is just 5-8-1 since Feb. 27.

I thought we were close. It was climbing for a long time and I thought we did pretty well, but it was too much, Selanne said.
Shut down the top guys: Selanne, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry have combined for seven goals of the 13 goals in the five games against San Jose, led by three from Perry.

Theyve given us some trouble. You have to keep the big boys off the scoresheet and theyve had some success against us, so we have to try and slow those guys down, Ryane Clowe said.

Conversely, the Sharks could use some off offense from a few of their big guns, which have been silenced in the season series. Logan Couture has just one assist in five games against Anaheim, as does Patrick Marleau.
Odds and ends: Dallas visits Edmonton while the Kings are in Calgary in other games to monitor in the Pacific tonight. The Sharks visit Phoenix tomorrow night. Joe Pavelski has five goals and one assist in his last six games. Ryan Getzlaf has a six-game point streak, with eight assists over that span. When asked today by a local writer if hes leaning one way or the other when it comes to retirement, Teemu Selanne replied: Not really. Not really.

NHL Gameday: Couture in, Schlemko out for Sharks vs Sens

NHL Gameday: Couture in, Schlemko out for Sharks vs Sens

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

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 15-9-1, 31 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Senators: 15-9-2, 32 points, 2nd Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***After undergoing a minor surgical procedure on Saturday to get a screw removed from his previously repaired ankle, Logan Couture is good go to against the Senators. Couture has eight points (6g, 2a) in his last nine games.

Defenseman David Schlemko, though, is out with an apparent leg or ankle injury after he was hurt – but later returned – against Montreal on Friday. Pete DeBoer indicated Schlemko’s injury isn’t serious.

“I came back from our weekend off and all the news was positive, so I would say he’s day-to-day,” said the coach.

Dylan DeMelo will draw in on the third pair with Brenden Dillon. Mirco Mueller was also recalled from the Barracuda.

***The Sharks resume their schedule after a rare four-day break, and will attempt to pick up where they left off. Friday’s 2-1 win over the Canadiens was their sixth in the last seven games.

“I know we’re recharged mentally and physically, but we’ve got to find that level again as quickly as possible and hopefully it doesn’t take too long tonight,” Pete DeBoer said.

Couture said the approach would be to, “just try and keep it simple. Stay out of the box, forecheck on them, get some shifts where we’re not caught in our own end.”

***Ottawa will be playing the second of a difficult four-game road trip. They were spanked by the Penguins on Monday, 8-5, and flew across the country on Tuesday.

If they are looking for sympathy for their schedule, they won’t get it from the Sharks’ coach.

“I find it sometimes a little comical when I hear Eastern teams complaining about travel and road trips. I read something that they were not happy with their schedule. Give me a break,” DeBoer said with a smile. “It’s what we deal with, and you do the best you can."

Ottawa is 6-4-0 on the road, while San Jose is 9-3-0 at SAP Center.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Martin Jones. The Sharks goalie has been a rock during the team’s recent upswing, and his 1.99 goals-against average for the season in good for fifth in the NHL (minimum eight games played). Since getting pulled against the Penguins on Nov. 5, Jones is 8-2-1 with a 1.46 GAA and .945 SP and two shutouts. On Monday, he was named as the NHL’s Third Star of the Week.

Senators: Erik Karlsson. Karlsson leads the Senators in scoring with 24 points (6g, 18a), surpassing Brent Burns for most in the league among defensemen. The two-time Norris Trophy winner and Ottawa captain posted four points on Monday in Pittsburgh (1g, 3a), and has nine points in his last eight games. He’s third in the league in average time on ice (27:16 per game).

PROBABLE LINES

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

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

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Senators
Mike Hoffman – Derick Brassard – Mark Stone
Ryan Dzingel – Kyle Turris – Bobby Ryan
Zack Smith – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Tom Pyatt
Buddy Robinson – Chris Kelly – Chris Neil

Andreas Englund – Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Cedi
Mark Borowiecki – Chris Wideman

Mike Condon (starter)
Andrew Hammond

INJURIES/SCRATCHES

Sharks: David Schlemko (lower body) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Senators: Marc Methot (hip), Fredrik Claesson (lower body), Curtis Lazar (concussion) are Craig Anderson (personal) are out. 

QUOTEABLE

“I think I have a lot to improve. I think I’m pretty happy the way I’m playing two ways. I think I’m responsible defensively and creating scoring chances, but just kind of not being able to get on the scoreboard enough. I want to score more.” – Joonas Donskoi

Sharks' Donskoi 'not getting frustrated' during scoring drought

Sharks' Donskoi 'not getting frustrated' during scoring drought

SAN JOSE – Throughout the Sharks’ two-month playoff run, as the team attracted a grander media horde with every round, Joonas Donskoi became more and more popular.

Who was this 24-year-old former fourth round pick of the Florida Panthers, who was such a key contributor to the Sharks’ success? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

The Finland native scored some of the Sharks’ biggest goals during that longest postseason in franchise history. In Game 5 against the Kings in the first round, Donskoi scored a third period goal that put San Jose back up to stay, after Los Angeles had stormed back from a 3-0 hole.

In the Stanley Cup Final, his overtime marker on a turnaround wrist shot in Game 3 kept the Sharks alive, and elicited perhaps the loudest cheer ever heard at SAP Center.

In total, Donskoi contributed 12 points (6g, 6a) in 24 games skating on the second line.

“It was a great run in the playoffs, a lot of great experiences,” Donskoi said.

The expectations for Donskoi were naturally raised headed into this season. Twenty goals and 50 points didn’t seem out of reach for him after the strides he took in his rookie campaign.

So far, though, those goals and points aren’t quite there. Donskoi has just two goals and six assists for eight points in 25 games, while averaging nearly 15 minutes a night. He’s also a mainstay on the second power play unit.

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer agreed with the theory that Donskoi’s profile has risen, and opponents are probably more aware of when he’s on the ice. But it’s those expectations to build on last season that may be weighing a bit on the player.

“A different type of pressure,” DeBoer called it. “When you’re a young guy coming in and no one knows you, you’re just playing and you’re not thinking about things. He knows he can be successful in this league, and there’s a different pressure with now expecting to score and put up numbers.”

Despite Donskoi’s one solitary assist in his last eight games, DeBoer has no issues with the way he is working on a nightly basis. It’s not at all comparable to the situation that arose a week and a half ago with Mikkel Boedker, who was benched for a period and then criticized by the coach for not competing hard enough.

“I know [Donskoi’s] numbers and his scoring aren’t where [he wants], but I think consistently he brings the same effort, same game, same reliability every night,” DeBoer said. “The nice thing is even when he’s not scoring, you still can count on those things. Eventually, it’s going to come.”

Donskoi has no illusions that his numbers are down and he has “a lot to improve.” At the same time, he’s not frustrated, and indicated that his production will pick up if he keeps doing what he’s been doing.

“I’m pretty happy the way I’m playing two ways. I think I’m responsible defensively and creating scoring chances, but just kind of not being able to get on the scoreboard enough. … I feel confident the way I’m still playing. I’m not getting frustrated, or anything.”

After playing exactly 100 games last season between the regular season and playoffs – he hadn’t played more than 71 games in a season in Finland before that – there’s reason to believe that the short summer and World Cup affected him, too. 

“I think the biggest thing for me [is] playing at a high level every night. I’m not there yet,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys in this locker room [that] play at a really high level every night. Those are the guys I’m trying to watch and learn [from].”