PROGRAMMING NOTE: Sharks (23-11-5, 51 points) at the Winnipeg Jets (20-17-5, 45 points). Coverage begins tonight at 5:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California, and the puck drops at 5:30.
WINNIPEG The Sharks have heard all the chatter surrounding Winnipegs MTS Centre, specifically how loud it gets and how difficult it can be to play here.
Theyll get to experience it first-hand for the first and only time this season tonight when they take on the Jets.
Weve heard from other teams and other players this building is a lot of fun, and pretty loud, and an exciting building to play in, Dan Boyle said.
Its always nice to come back to Canada, to your hockey roots, if you will, for a lot of players. The weather outside we dont experience that in California so youre back into hockey weather, Todd McLellan said, referring to the -2 degrees Fahrenheit temperature outside the building.
San Jose got a chance to practice on the MTS Centre ice on Wednesday, and held an optional sate on Thursday morning in which the majority of the players were on the ice.
That could help them adjust better to some unfamiliar surroundings, according to Jamie McGinn.
Its just hockey. Im sure thats why we had practice yesterday and the pregame skate this morning, to get used to things. Its an NHL ice surface, people have been playing on it all year, McGinn said.
Early energy: McLellan would like to see his club come storming out of the gates on Thursday night, especially after a lackluster effort through the first two periods of Tuesdays 5-4 shootout loss to Minnesota.
The Jets are playing at home for the first time since New Years Eve, and after a 1-3 road trip that concluded with a 5-3 loss at Boston on Tuesday.
Well probably talk about a 10 minute game and a 50 minute game, McLellan said. Knowing that theyre coming off a road trip, playing in front of their own fans, I understand that the energy in the building is second to none. Well have to be on our toes very early, so Id expect a strong start for them, but also for our team.
Ryane Clowe was among the Sharks players dissatisfied with Tuesdays loss, which ended a four-game winning streak.
Its not so much frustrating as it was disappointing. You need to have the coach come in and light a fire under your ass between periods and get you going, he said. We turned it up and completely dominated the third period once we got going. Thats the disappointing part.
Were focused tonight being more competitive and more of a gritty team. Well be better.
More from the grinders: The Sharks had strong games from several of their top players on Tuesday, with multiple-point games from Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle. Leading goal-scorer Logan Couture also scored in the third period.
It was the effort from the third and fourth liners, though, that has had the coach in an ornery mood for the past two days.
If you look at the third and fourth lines, I didnt think we started well last game. I can put the onus on myself, and I didnt think I had a very strong first period but got better as the game went on, McGinn said. I think tonight one of the main focuses is going to be starting strong and making sure Todd has confidence in us right away.
It wasnt just McGinn.
We were actually quite disappointed with a number of our players, McLellan repeated this morning. We didnt get the effort that we needed. Well look, first of all, to individuals to improve their input into the game, and after that a strong defensive effort and rely on our opportunities at the other end to get us to three goals.
McLellan didnt say if there would be any lineup changes, and it was hard to tell at the optional morning skate.
Niemi vs. Pavelec: Antti Niemi will face Winnipegs Ondrej Pavalec in goal tonight.
Niemi, who has just one regulation loss in his last 12 starts, is 1-1 with a 3.90 goals-against average and .855 save percentage against the JetsThrashers, while Pavelec has never started against the Sharks.
Niemi allowed four goals for the second time in just 23 games in the loss to Minnesota on Tuesday, including a pair of stoppable shots that beat him to the glove side.
Odds and ends: Ryane Clowe will wear a full cage for about a week after going face-first into the boards during the second period in Minnesota. The Sharks have points in 12 of their last 13 games (8-1-4). Patrick Marleau has a six-game scoring streak (3g, 6a). The Jets Evander Kane has just two assists in the last five games. Blake Wheeler has 11 points in the last nine games. Dustin Byfuglien remains out for Winnipeg with a knee injury. The Sharks are 9-1-1- with two ties all-time against WinnipegAtlanta.