Sharks-Senators: What to watch for

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Sharks-Senators: What to watch for

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SAN JOSE Since the calendar turned to 2012, the Sharks and Ottawa Senators have been among the two hottest teams in hockey. In fact, both are 7-1-1 since the New Year began.

The Sharks were expected to be in prime playoff position, as they continue to lead the Pacific Division, but the Senators? Not so much. Ottawa finished in 13th place last season, just two points out of dead last in the Eastern Conference. Now, they find themselves in fifth place in the conference, and are surging with a 9-1-1 mark in their last 11 overall.

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Theyre arguably the biggest surprise. Especially in the east, for sure, Dan Boyle said. They went from being one of the worst teams to one of the best right now. Theyre coming in hot, and we expect a pretty fast-paced game.

Theyre all the way up to the fifth spot in the east, so theyve been playing well. Its going to be a good test for us, Joe Thornton said.

The Senators play a fairly wide-open style. They are seventh in the league with an even 3.0 goals-per game, led by Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and defenseman Erik Karlsson, but allow 3.08 per-game, 27th in the NHL.

Familiar coaches: Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Sens bench boss Paul MacLean spent three seasons together as assistants in the Detroit Red Wings organization from 2005-06 through 2007-08. McLellan left to coach the Sharks, while MacLean took over the Senators this summer after three more seasons with the Red Wings.

Hes done such a good job in instilling a system and getting the players to believe in it, McLellan said of MacLeans Senators. I think when you watch the pre-scout its pretty evident. Obviously, spending time with him and Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, I have a good idea of how they want to play, and you can see it. I think thats a sign of a coach doing a tremendous job.

Both coaches see similarities not just between the Sharks and Senators, but the Red Wings, too.

It looks like theyre having fun playing the game. It looks like they have in identity, McLellan said. They are a very dynamic offensive team when they are on the entries. Their defense it up on the rush. Very much like a Red Wing team.

There are similarities between all three teams, Id say, but each person also brings their own little tweak or own thing that they might think is a little bit more important, MacLean said.

Top lines: Injuries to Ryane Clowe and Marty Havlat leave the Sharks down two of their top six forwards, and based upon his game on Tuesday night against Calgary and rushes in practice on Wednesday, Tommy Wingels will remain on the teams top line with Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

Hes a pretty calm guy in general, and it didnt really phase him, Thornton said of the rookie Wingels being on his line. Hopefully we get some chemistry, and get er going.

That leaves a second line of Logan Couture-Patrick Marleau-Benn Ferriero; a third line of Michal Handzus-Jamie McGinn-Torrey Mitchell; and a likely fourth line of Andrew Murray-Brad Winchester and Andrew Desjardins, who is returning from a two game absence due to a head injury.

Rare meeting: This is the one and only time the Sharks and Senators will see each other this season. The previous time they played, over a year ago on Dec. 10, 2010, was a memorable one, though.

Couture scored twice for the first two-goal game of his career; Antti Niemi recorded his first shutout with the Sharks; and Justin Braun tallied his first career NHL goal in a 4-0 San Jose win at Ottawa.

This is Ottawas first visit to HP Pavilion since Dec. 1, 2009.
Niemi vs. Anderson: Niemi will get the call in net for the Sharks, facing Ottawas Craig Anderson.

In his last 26 starts, Niemi 16-6-4 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. Last years shutout was the only time hes faced Ottawa in his career.

Anderson has not fared well against San Jose. In eight career games, hes 2-6-0 with a 3.42 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Anderson will be making his sixth straight start, and has not allowed more than two goals and has a .960 save percentage over that span, though.

Odds and ends: Ottawa allows the second-most shots per game in the league, at 32.1. The Sharks lead the NHL in that category with 34.6. The Senators have 67 third period goals most in the NHL. Ottawa is third in the league with 14.5 penalty minutes per game. Erik Karlsson leads all NHL defensemen with 44 points, 10 more than Brian Campbell. Jason Spezza leads Ottawa with 48 points (20g ,28a). San Jose is 5-1-1 against Canadian teams this season. The Sharks have won their last five meetings overall with the Sens.

Sharks 'competed our asses off' in rewarding win over Kings

Sharks 'competed our asses off' in rewarding win over Kings

LOS ANGELES – It’s only mid-January, but the Sharks have already concluded the five-game season series with their biggest rival. That could be a good thing, as Sharks-Kings games are rarely for the faint of heart. 

“I’m glad to be done with them. If we don’t see them again, I’ll be alright with that,” Pete DeBoer quipped.

On the other hand, Wednesday’s latest and final head-to-head matchup resulted in perhaps the Sharks’ most rewarding win of the season, 3-2 at Staples Center. 

San Jose got contributions from up and down its lineup. Despite being without several key players (including Logan Couture, who missed the game due to illness), the Sharks worked hard and smart all over the ice and put some distance between themselves and Los Angeles, which is fighting to remain in playoff position.

“It was a good feeling in this [dressing] room when we came in here [after the game],” said Joe Pavelski, who scored one of the Sharks’ three goals. “Just felt like you put a complete effort out there.”

DeBoer said: “A little bit of a thin lineup, and I thought we competed our asses off. Played hard. This isn’t an easy building to win in. They play a physical game. We stood in there, and I thought played a real complete game.”

Special teams was key, as the Sharks got a power play goal from Pavelski and held the Kings to no goals and just one power play shot on four chances. Martin Jones was his typical solid self, even throwing in a highlight reel save on Dwight King in the third period to preserve the one-goal. Brent Burns continued to dominate, getting yet another goal in the first period (his 19th), and Joe Thornton notched a pair of assists.

And, the fourth line got in on the action, too. Micheal Haley was one of the team’s best forwards of the evening, beautifully setting up Tommy Wingels on a two-on-one, who gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish with less than five minutes to go in the first period.

“Just tried to make an early pass so [Wingels] had enough time to have a good look, and he made a great shot,” Haley said.

DeBoer said: “Big goal from those guys.”

Defensively, Los Angeles was held to just 24 shots, as the Sharks kept the Kings’ stars at bay. That includes Jeff Carter, who was the best player on the ice in the most recent meeting on Jan. 3, and has been far and away Los Angeles’ most valuable player this season.

“He’s a world class player and he’s having a world class season,” DeBoer said of Carter. “He’s dangerous every time he’s on the ice.”

The Sharks played a committed and detailed game in their own end, though, not giving Carter or anyone else much room to operate in their offensive zone. Los Angeles’ scoring chances were few and far between.

Last week, the Sharks failed to put some distance between themselves and another division rival nipping on their heels, the Flames. They didn’t want that to happen again with the Kings, who could have pulled to within four points of San Jose with a regulation win.

Instead, the Kings are now eight points back of San Jose after losing three of the five meetings. And they don’t have any more of those four-point games left on the schedule.

“You always want to win a season series,” Pavelski said. “It was just important because I think we all know it was pretty tight in the standings. It goes [to] four or eight [points], you know?”

Haley said: “We want to make that distance farther and farther. They’re always in the back of our head.”

Instant Replay: Complete effort helps Sharks take down rival Kings

Instant Replay: Complete effort helps Sharks take down rival Kings

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES – Brent Burns, Tommy Wingels and Joe Pavelski scored goals, and a brilliant performance by the penalty killers keyed a Sharks win over the Kings on Wednesday at Staples Center, 3-2.

The Sharks finished the season 3-1-1 against the Kings, and have won four of their last six overall (4-2-0). Los Angeles concluded a seven-game homestand with a 3-4-0 mark, dropping eight points behind San Jose in the Pacific Division.

After trading early scores, San Jose scored twice to jump out to a 3-1 lead.

Wingels gave the Sharks their second lead of the night at 15:42 of the first period, burying a Micheal Haley pass on a two-on-one rush.

Then, on a second period power play, Joel Ward redirected a Joe Thornton shot wide, but Pavelski grabbed it off of the end boards and bounced it in off of Peter Budaj at the 10-minute mark.

Los Angeles got one back at 15:19. Kyle Clifford stepped out of the penalty box making it a three-on-two, and after Martin Jones stopped Clifford try from the slot, the puck squirted to Marian Gaborik who easily directed it into the open net.

The Kings’ nearly tied it with about 14:20 to go, but Jones made a brilliant stop on Dwight King’s rebound try, lunging at the shot with his right pad.

Los Angeles failed on four power play chances, getting just one shot in nearly eight minutes.

The Sharks were without Logan Couture for the first time this season. According to coach Pete DeBoer, Couture remained in San Jose due to an illness. Patrick Marleau centered the second line, while Melker Karlsson took Marleau’s place on the Thornton-Pavelski line.

The teams traded first period goals. Burns’ wrister from high in the zone deflected off of Anze Kopitar’s stick and high over Budaj at 3:31, but Los Angeles responded on Tanner Pearson’s redirection of Derek Forbort’s floater at 5:46.

According to Elias, Burns is the first defenseman to have at least 19 goals through the first 45 games of the season since Paul Coffey had 22 in 1985-86.

Thornton notched two assists, moving into 24th all-time on the NHL’s scoring list with 1,370 points, passing Johnny Bucyk.

Special teams

In a game that featured an abundance of questionable calls, the Sharks went 1-for-4 while remaining perfect on the PK. San Jose has one power play goal in three of its last four games (3-for-13).

The Kings had one power play goal in each of the first four head-to-head meetings before Wednesday.

In goal

Jones improved to 6-2-2 against his former team, making 22 stops. He was starting for the eighth time in the last nine.

Budaj allowed three goals on 27 shots. He continues to get the bulk of the work with Jonathan Quick still out from a groin injury suffered on opening night in San Jose.

Lineup

In Couture’s place, Ryan Carpenter played for the first time since Nov. 30, when he scored his first NHL goal at Staples Center. Barclay Goodrow and Tim Heed, recalled on Tuesday, were scratched.

Kopitar played for the Kings after missing Monday’s game with an illness.

Up next

The Sharks will battle the Lightning at home in the second of two meetings on Thursday. On Nov. 12, San Jose beat Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena, 3-1. In the second of back-to-backs, the Sharks are 4-3-0 this season.