Sharks-Rangers: What to watch for

Sharks-Rangers: What to watch for
October 31, 2011, 5:04 pm
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NEW YORK, NY The Sharks set out on their second-longest road trip of the season nearly two weeks ago (yes, there is actually a longer trip in February), with a 1-3 mark and looking for answers. Winning five of the six upcoming games away from home would have sounded pretty sweet at the time.

Not now.

San Jose will try to go a perfect 6-0 when the New York Rangers play host at Madison Square Garden tonight.

Our overall record is not staggering, by any means, for our team, said Douglas Murray after Mondays morning skate. Were more back where we should be, and 6-4 is not good enough for us 7-3 is a lot better.

Day of rest: Most of the Sharks top minute guys stayed away from the rink on Sunday, as McLellan held a limited practice. Despite pulling out a 3-2 overtime win on Saturday against the Islanders, the Sharks didnt appear to have the energy or skating legs as they did, say, the night before in Detroit.

The match against the Islanders was the typical trap game a lesser opponent, towards the end of a long trip on a back-to-back, after beating a top rival the previous night. To their credit, the Sharks managed to pull out the victory anyway.

Tonight, expect a more revived bunch.

We have no excuses headed into tonights game, said Todd McLellan. We should be rested, and have a little more juice than we did on the Island.

It might have been more mental, if anything, said Ryane Clowe of Saturdays game. "For the most part, myself and the guys I talked to, felt pretty good. I thought we skated all right, it was just a little mental after the big win against Detroit and going on back-to-back nights. Mentally, those are the games you have to be ready for, and we were probably not our sharpest, but found a way.

Rangers hungry: The first phase of the Madison Square Garden renovation is complete, but that hasnt helped its tenant. The Rangers dropped their first two at home, and have just three wins in their first nine games.

The Sharks will see a familiar face in a blue sweater as Brad Richards signed with New York after more than three seasons in Dallas. He has three goals and five assists, tying him with Marian Gaborik for the team lead in points.

Hes a great passer and always finds a way to get it to the net, said Jason Demers about Richards. Thats something were going to have to watch. He makes their team go and is the offensive catalyst out there, so we just have to make sure we keep in him check and make sure he doesnt get those other guys going.

The Rangers are more than just two players, of course, cautions McLellan.

They are a character team, I think, he said. As soon as you start focusing on one or two of the individuals, the rest of the crew seems to sting you.

It will be a complete Ranger focus. Each team has their go-to guys and Brad and Gabby would be those two here, but they have a number of other players that Im sure are going to compete extremely hard and can make you pay if youre not aware of them.

Martin Biron is expected to start in net for the Rangers and face Antti Niemi, according to several reports and tweets this morning from New York reporters. Regular starter Henrik Lundqvist was in net for New Yorks last game on Saturday, in which they blew a three-goal third period lead to Ottawa and lost in a shootout, 5-4.

Top heavy: A quick glance at the stat sheet during this road trip tells the obvious: The Sharks offense is being led by its big guns.

Joe Pavelski (9 points) is at the top, but Joe Thornton (7 pts.), Patrick Marleau (6 pts.), Logan Couture (5 pts.), Clowe (5 pts.) and Martin Havlat (5 assists) are all enjoying personal hot streaks.

McLellan was asked if hed like to see his other lines contribute a little more on the scoreboard, and although he would, he still says theyve contributed in other ways.

Id like to see our third and fourth line produce a little bit, but for the most part, they havent been scored on. Theyve been playing their games even, he said. They play hard, have contributed on the checking side and penalty kill side, so I cant complain about their contribution to the team.

Torrey Mitchell, who spends most of his time on the third line, would like to see them put the puck in the net.

Our top two lines have obviously been carrying us for our road trip, he said. Were going to need to step up. Even the fourth line, too.

Odds and ends: Judging by the morning skate, the Sharks will ice the same lineup they used on Saturday, with the only change being Niemi in for Thomas Greiss. This is the only meeting of the season between these two teams.