Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for

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Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Detroit Red Wings werent very pleased after their 2-1 loss on Tuesday in St. Louis. The Sharks didnt like their mental approach to Saturdays 3-0 shutout loss to Phoenix.

One of them still wont be content after tonight, when the rival clubs meet for the second time this season and first at HP Pavilion.

Neither of us played the game we wanted to in our last outing, said Todd McLellan. Somebodys going to fix it tonight, and somebody wont.

One thing the Sharks would like to do, especially at home, is score the first goal. In eight home games this season, San Jose has jumped out to a 1-0 lead just twice. Overall, the Sharks are 5-0 when they open the scoring.

Saturdays loss to Phoenix was a good example why it's a focus for the Sharks. After taking an early lead, the Coyotes were able to clog up the neutral zone and not take as many chances offensively, while playing in front of a strong goaltender that plays the puck well in Mike Smith.

Something we need to work on is our starts, said Logan Couture. We find ourselves behind too often, especially here at home. Its a tough rink to play in for other teams, so we have to start getting the first goal.

The stats, maybe more this year than any other year, bear fruit to scoring first and playing with a lead, said McLellan. We saw the other day how a team can quickly get a one or two goal lead, clamp down and play good defensively. The goaltending is superior, and its hard to come back in that situation.

The Sharks were able to score first against the Red Wings on October 28 on a Ryane Clowe power play goal, when they beat Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, 4-2.

Keep Wings' PP frustrated: The Red Wings have not won a road game since Oct. 15, although, to be fair, they have played just four games away from home in that span.

Still, a win at raucous HP Pavilion could be just what they need to put their early road struggles behind them.

As a player you circle these games in your mind. You feel the rivalry, especially with these guys playing them the last two years in the playoffs and us beating them, said Couture. Im sure in that dressing room they really want to beat us, and the feeling is mutual.

One big reason the Red Wings have only won two of six road games is the power play. When they arent at Joe Louis Arena, they have converted just two of 24 chances with a man advantage. Thats tied for 28th in the NHL.

Overall, the Red Wings' power play is just 14.3 percent, or 21st in the league.

It will come to life, I just hope that happens later on in the week and not tonight, said McLellan.

Conversely, the Sharks much-maligned penalty kill has been better its last two outings, killing off three chances apiece against Phoenix on Saturday and Minnesota last Thursday.

According to Michal Handzus, the penalty-killers are succeeding due to more play as a unit and not as many breakdowns, he said.

Like McLellan, Handzus isnt looking at the Red Wings lackluster power play stats.

They are very dangerous, it doesnt really matter what happened before, he said. They have great players and two good units. We have to worry about ourselves. The last two games weve been better, and we want to build on that.
Defensive changes: As mentioned in an earlier Sharks Talk post, Jason Demers will be inserted back into the lineup in place of Justin Braun. Demers hasnt played since Oct. 31 in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

RELATED: Demers nervous, but ready to return

For the Red Wings, they are still dealing with a broken cheekbone injury to Ian White, who did not make the trip. The recently recalled Brendan Smith, all of 22 years old, will play in his first NHL game and hes had plenty of time to watch San Jose as an observer.

I really enjoy watching the Sharks. They are such a great team, said Smith. Just knowing a little more of their tendencies and stuff is going to help me defensively and offensively.

Hitting the reset button: The Sharks had plenty of time to stew over their loss against Phoenix on Saturday, but it also gave them a welcome break in the schedule with four days off between games.

A veteran like Dan Boyle, who had a game to forget against the Coyotes with a -3 rating and turnover leading directly to a goal against, was glad to get some practice time and some rest.

For me, it was a reset button, said Boyle. We went through a pretty good streak and then had a pretty bad game against Phoenix. It was time to press the reset button here and start over.

Odds and ends: Joe Thorntons two goals led the way in the 4-2 win in Detroit on Oct. 28. The Red Wings had won four straight before losing to the Blues on Tuesday, in what was the first of a four-game road trip. The Sharks conclude a six-game homestand tonight, and are 3-1-1 through the first five. Patrick Marleau has five points in the last three games. Along with White, the Red wings will be without Todd Bertuzzi, who is on IR with a sinus infection that has caused dizziness.

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

Programming note – Sharks-Avalanche coverage starts today at 6:00 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 29-16-2, 60 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Avalanche: 13-29-2, 28 points, 7th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Tonight’s game is the second of a home-and-home for the Sharks and Avalanche, after San Jose’s 3-2 win in overtime at SAP Center on Saturday, and the final game of the season series. David Schlemko got the deciding score 1:18 into the extra frame, as the Sharks improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight against Colorado.

The Sharks have won four straight, while Colorado, just 2-14-1 in its last 17, has lost five in a row. The Avs have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.

***Colorado will reportedly give rookie Spencer Martin his second straight start after he made 27 saves in his NHL debut against the Sharks on Saturday. 

Martin Jones is tied for third in the NHL with 24 wins, and is 5-1-0 in his last six starts.

***Four of the Sharks’ last six games have been decided by one goal, including three in a row. San Jose is 16-10-2 in one-goal games – the second most one-goal wins in the league, and the most one-goal losses in regulation.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Kevin Labanc. The Sharks rookie has hit a bit of a wall since bursting onto the scene, going without a goal for the last 10 games. Coach Pete DeBoer said recently that he had a talk with the rookie about maintaining a high level of play, and Labanc has been more noticeable in his last two games, recording an assist in each. The 21-year-old has 14 points (7g, 7a) in 34 games this season.

Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon. No forward was more effective for Colorado on Saturday against the Sharks than MacKinnon, their lone All-Star, who recorded a game-high seven shots and set up the tying goal in the third period. The first pick in the 2013 draft has 10 points (7g, 3a) in 10 career games when opposing San Jose, and is Colorado’s leading scorer with 32 points (11g, 21a).

PROBABLE LINES

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

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones 
Aaron Dell

Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen – Nathan Mackinnon – Mikhail Grigorenko
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Matt Nieto
Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen – John Mitchell – Joe Colborne

Francois Beauchemin – Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin – Nikita Zadorov
Patrick Wiercioch – Eric Gelinas

Spencer Martin (starter)
Calvin Pickard

INJURIES

Sharks: Micheal Haley (lower body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Avalanche: Tyson Barrie (lower body) and Rene Bourque (lower body) are day-to-day. Semyon Varlamov (groin) and Erik Johnson (broken fibula) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I felt we did a pretty good job in our end, [but] we probably played there a little too much. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to coming out of our end or through the neutral zone. There’s going to be games like that and it’s good to find a way to win.” – David Schlemko, after Saturday’s win

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

SAN JOSE – It took overtime for the Sharks to surpass the worst team in the NHL, but the points are valuable any way they come in the second half. Here are our three takeaways from the 3-2 victory on Saturday night…

1 – Top guys struggle, but depth comes through

It wasn’t a very good night for the captain’s line, which was particularly sloppy on Colorado’s tying goal in the third period. Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic weren’t much better, as the former was caught out of position a couple times, and the latter was tagged with six giveaways.

But those guys have been playing the bulk of the minutes lately, so they’re allowed to have an off night. At least, that’s how Pete DeBoer saw it.

“We've ridden our big guys pretty hard,” DeBoer said. “They played some tough minutes with some of the opponents we played this week, in L.A. and on and on. Tonight's a night you're looking for your depth guys to step up and give you some energy, and I thought we got that."

The Sharks’ fourth line was probably its best from start to finish, including Melker Karlsson’s goal, from Ryan Carpenter.

“[Tomas] Hertl's missed 30 games, so we needed somebody to come in and help us out in that area, and he's done that,” DeBoer said of Carpenter.

2 – Making it too easy on Martin

Spencer Martin was making his NHL debut in difficult circumstances, playing in front of what has been an incredibly loose team in its own end against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. But, the Sharks made it easy on him most of the night.

Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon, who had a tremendous game, told the Denver Post that he thought Colorado was the better team.

“Tonight, we outplayed them,” he said. “We outplayed the team that went to the (Stanley Cup) Finals last year, and there were some bright spots for us. We have to climb out of this hole and have a good last 30, 40 games here and go into next season feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

They’ll get another chance against the Sharks on Monday at Pepsi Center as the teams conclude their two-game season series. San Jose will try and give the Colorado goalie, whoever it is, a more difficult time.

“When we’re on our game, we’re making it tough with grind time and traffic at the net, some chances,” Joe Pavelski said. “Tonight we didn’t have as many as we could have had. We’ll try to find a little bit more for next game.”

Schlemko said: “We just didn’t have as much grind time in the o-zone as we usually do. If you’re not playing in their end you’re usually playing in your end.”

3 – Ward gets another on the power play

Joel Ward’s resurgence continues, as the forward again found a way to contribute on the scoresheet. His first period power play goal was one of the easier scores he’ll have, on a nice setup by Joe Thornton.

“[Thornton] had it behind the net and came around the side, and sent it to me on the far side, so it went in,” Ward said.

The 36-year-old Ward has nine points (3g, 6a) in his last 13 games. To put that in perspective, the last time he was a healthy scratch on Dec. 20, he had just nine points in 31 games on the season.