SAN JOSE Its been nearly a month since the San Jose Sharks won back-to-back games. After beating the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, theyll try and do just that for the first time since Jan. 31-Feb. 2 when they host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at HP Pavilion.
They may have to do it without their leading goal-scorer again, too. Logan Couture appeared on the ice with his teammates when the morning skate began, but came off much earlier than normal. Officially, hes a game-time decision. Couture missed his first game of the year on Tuesday with a lower body injury, believed to be a knee, that he sustained on Sunday in Minnesota.
The Sharks will, however, be getting at least one piece back. Dominic Moore played in just one complete game for the Sharks since he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has missed the last four games after blocking a shot in Columbus on Feb. 21.
You come to a new team you want to contribute right away. Its frustrating to not be able to, so Im looking forward to getting back at, Moore said.
Moore is expected to center a third line with Tommy Wingels and TJ Galiardi, with Andrew Desjardins likely coming out of the lineup.
Hes a good option for us to put into our forward group tonight. We look forward to seeing him play, said Jay Woodcroft, once again filling in for an injured Todd McLellan.
Defenseman Douglas Murray (fractured Adams apple) remains out.
New shutdown line? With Daniel Winnik in the fold, he, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski did an admirable job on Tuesday shutting down one of the most dynamic players in the NHL in the Flyers Claude Giroux. Philadelphia entered the game as the highest scoring team in the league, but left with a zero on the board in a 1-0 defeat.
Its a safe assumption that the new linemates will be on the ice against Buffalos Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville as the Sharks will get their desired matchups at home.
All three of those guys bring a lot to the table. Its not just offense, Woodcroft said. Pav is a real ethereal-type intelligent player that can play both ends. Patty obviously is a horse in the middle, and can wear other teams out with his speed and his size through the middle. With Winnik, hes a big body, checking type guy that when were controlling the puck in the offensive zone, its to our advantage.
Last game, that was one of those things we talked about before the game, was to play those guys hard, Marleau said of the matchup with Philly. I think everybody as a team did a good job, and played well defensively.
Goalie matchup: Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller made 43 saves in a 2-0 win over Anaheim last night, and could get the back-to-back assignment tonight Buffalo seeks to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Sabres did not skate at HP Pavilion on Thursday morning.
Antti Niemi is in net for the Sharks, and will be making just his second career appearance against Buffalo. On Dec. 9, 2010, Niemi allowed five goals in a 6-3 Sharks loss.
Miller, who has played in 17 straight games, is 5-1-1 against the Sharks in his career with a 2.24 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Backup Jonas Enroth has never faced San Jose.
More on the Sabres: Buffalo is 4-0-2 in its last six games, climbing to within five points of eighth place in the East. The Sabres are still in 12th place, though, and a longshot to make it to the postseason.
That doesnt mean they arent dangerous, and have some talented weapons in their lineup.
Moore said: Theyre a very strong defensive team and have one of the best goalies in the league. Weve got to continue to play good defensively and wait for our chances.
They have some dimensions on their back end with guys like Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff. Then up front, they are very skilled, Woodcroft said. They have a good power play and can make you pay for mistakes. Our game management, puck management, controlling our controllables is going to be huge tonight.
McLellan still sidelined: Coach Todd McLellan will remain out of action tonight, still feeling the effects of getting whacked with a stick in the head on Sunday in Minnesota.
Woodcraft and Matt Shaw continue to man the bench, although McLellan is still involved in the game-planning process.
Hes going to come back when he feels comfortable behind the bench, Joe Thornton said. Im sure the lights still give him problems, and the sound. A lot of guys in here have been through concussions and you never know how long theyre going to last. We just hope he gets back quick.
Hes getting better. Thats the primary concern of not only Matt and myself, but the whole organization to get Todd better, Woodcroft said.
Odds and ends: This is the only meeting between the Sharks and Sabres this year. Buffalo has won the last three. Joe Thornton has six goals and 15 assists in his last 15 games, and was named as the Sharks player of the month. Buffalo is 17-6-4-1 all-time against the Sharks. San Jose is 11-4-1 against the Eastern Conference. The Sharks lead the NHL in shots per game with 34.4. Buffalo is 4-1-0 against the Pacific Division, but 12-16-1 on the road.