Sharks-Flames: What to watch for

January 24, 2012, 9:49 pm
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CALGARY Its the last game before the NHL All-Star break, and the Sharks want to end the ceremonial first half of the season with a good taste in their mouths. Of course, so do 29 other NHL teams, including Calgary, which hosts San Jose on Tuesday night at the Saddledome.

The Sharks and Flames are going in opposite directions. San Jose has lost three straight, including four of five, while Calgary is 5-1-1 in its last seven.

San Joses lone win over that span came via shootout over the Flames at HP Pavilion on Jan. 17.

Burns out: The Sharks will be without Brent Burns after the defenseman suffered a right leg injury in Mondays 2-1 shootout loss to Edmonton. Burns and the team may have dodged a bullet, though, as head coach Todd McLellan told Calgary reporters this morning that the injury is not expected to sideline Burns long term.

Burns absence could mean Jim Vandermeers return to the lineup. McLellan hinted before the trip that Vandermeer, who hasnt played since Dec. 6 and was out with a left hand injury, could play in one of the teams games before the All-Star break.

Jason Demers returned to the lineup after a two-game absence in place of Justin Braun last night in Edmonton.

In the crease: Antti Niemi will presumably make his return to the net tonight after sitting out in favor of Thomas Greiss last night. Niemi has had off nights in his last two appearances, losing to Ottawa at home and in Vancouver on Saturday.

Facing Calgary could get him back on track. In eight career games against the Flames, Niemi is 7-1-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.

For Calgary, Miikka Kiprusoff will get the start. In 27 career appearances against the Sharks, hes 13-11-3 with a 2.86 GAA and .907 save percentage.

Strong seconds: The second period has been San Joses best this season, while Calgary has struggled in the middle frame. The Sharks are a league best 21 in the second, while Calgary is -15, tied for 27th in the league.

The Flames are a 7 in the first compared with the Sharks -7 mark, and in the third, San Jose is a 5 while Calgary is a -5.

The Sharks 32 third period goals against are the third fewest in the NHL, behind only St. Louis (31) and Boston (also 31).

Odds and ends: The Sharks have not had a four-game winless streak this season. San Joses 23 shots by defensemen last night in Edmonton was a team record. Dan Boyle led the way with nine. This is the Sharks fifth straight game against a Canadian team. San Jose is 5-10-1 in its last 16 games in Calgary. The Sharks lead the league in shots per game with 34.7. San Jose is 4-4-4 in its last 12 road games. In their last seven games, the Flames have outscored the opposition 19-12. Calgary is 13-6-2 at home but 10-14-4 on the road.