SAN JOSE – It’s been nearly three months since the Sharks and Ducks have lined up on opposite sides of one another. According to Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, Thursday’s meeting for first place in the Pacific Division is a new beginning, of sorts.
“The games have been so distant and so long ago, that I don’t think you can pull a lot of that into tonight’s match. Teams have changed, trends within the teams have changed as well,” McLellan said.
His former minor league roommate and good friend Bruce Boudreau isn’t buying it.
“Todd’s not telling you the truth, he knows exactly how we play. I know him too well,” Boudreau said. “It’s not a clean slate. I guarantee he watches every game we play, and I watch every game they play. We pretty well know what’s going to happen, other than the outcome.”
[IN THE CREASE: Sharks host Ducks with first place on the line]
The Ducks’ head coach offered up his thoughts on how the Sharks differ from their other rival in California, the Los Angeles Kings. He brought up a hot topic around the team of late, as Joe Pavelski remains on the top line wing rather than the third line center role, which is where many (including yours truly) think he needs to be in order for the Sharks to effectively match up with the best teams in the Western Conference.
“I think LA is more of a harder team as far as bigger and more physical, whereas these guys play physical but they’re a better skating team, and have more depth in their scoring,” Boudreau said.
“If they ever get completely healthy and have Pavelski back on the third line, that’s pretty deep. They’re as deep as any team in the NHL.”
Several Sharks have already said Thursday’s game is the biggest of the season to this point. Boudreau hopes his team embraces the opportunity to strengthen it’s tenuous hold on first place in the division.
“I would think it would be as close to a playoff game as you’re going to get until the playoffs, or until we play them the next time,” he said. “I think it’s an exciting game for both teams. You don’t get into this kind of game too often, until you’re reached the playoffs. They’re very tough in their building, and it’s going to be a real good test for our team.”
Ryan Getzlaf said: “They’re trying to win our division the same way we are. They’re going to have to go through us at some point to do that. These games are very important, and we’re treating it like a playoff game tonight.”
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The Ducks will go with Frederik Andreson in net, rather than Jonas Hiller. The rookie stopped 37 of 38 Kings shots in a 2-1 Ducks win in his most recent appearance on March 15, and his 2.22 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 22 games are better numbers than Hiller's (2.40 GAA, .914 SP).
Anaheim has recalled forwards Emerson Etem and Rickard Rikell from the AHL. Matt Beleskey (illness) and Nick Bonino (foot) will not play. Etem is expected to dress, and the Ducks have one other unnamed player that Boudreau deemed as questionable.