In the Crease: Sharks begin final East Coast swing

In the Crease: Sharks begin final East Coast swing
March 13, 2014, 10:15 am

Patrick Marleau scored in the Sharks' 3-2 win over Columbus in the last game before the Olympic break. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Blue Jackets coverage gets underway on Comcast SportsNet California at 3:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live

Where they stand
Sharks: 42-17-7, 89 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference
Blue Jackets: 34-26-5, 73 points, 3rd Metropolitan Division, 7th Eastern Conference

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks have won three in a row, and have a chance to draw even with Pacific Division-leading Anaheim tonight in Columbus. Overall, San Jose is 7-1-1 in its last nine games, and has beaten Pittsburgh, Montreal and Toronto by a combined 15-5 score during the winning streak. Antti Niemi has recorded all three wins in net. The Sharks kick off a road trip tonight that continues against the Islanders on Friday and Rangers on Sunday.

[RELATED: NHL standings]

Blue Jackets: Columbus has clawed into playoff position with a 16-6-1 mark in its last 23 games, including 5-1-0 in its last six. The Blue Jackets have won 10 of their last 12 games at Nationwide Arena (10-2-0), including a five-game winning streak. They are coming off of a 4-1 win against Detroit on Tuesday behind 39 saves by reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Jason Demers. The defenseman has six points, all assists, in the eight games since the Olympic break. Demers was seen on the top power play unit against Toronto in place of Dan Boyle, and could get a longer look there as the Sharks’ power play is mired in a brutal 2-for-54 stretch. Demers’ 30 points this season (3g, 27a) is a career high, and leads all Sharks blueliners.

Blue Jackets: Nathan Horton. The offseason addition’s debut was delayed due to a shoulder injury, but Horton has provided 15 points (4g, 11a) in 25 games since coming into the active lineup on Jan. 2. Horton, who signed as a free agent after spending the last three seasons with Boston, has two goals and two assists in seven career games vs. San Jose.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.97 (7th)
Goals-against per game: 2.33 (4th)
Power play: 16.0 percent (23rd)
Penalty kill: 84.2 percent (6th)

Blue Jackets
Goals per game: 2.86 (8th)
Goals-against per game: 2.74 (17th)
Power play: 18.6 percent (16th)
Penalty kill: 82.1 percent (14th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Matt Nieto
Marty Havlat – James Sheppard – Tommy Wingels
Adam Burish – Andrew Desjardins – Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Jason Demers
Scott Hannan – Justin Braun
Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle


Alex Stalock
Antti Niemi


Blue Jackets
Nick Foligno – Ryan Johansen – Boone Jenner
Matt Calvert – Brandon Dubinsky – Nathan Horton
Cam Atkinson – Mark Letestu – R.J. Umberger
Corey Tropp – Derek MacKenzie – Matt Frattin

Jock Johnson – David Savard
Nikita Nikitin – James Wisniewski
Nick Schultz – Dalton Prout

Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery) and Brad Stuart (upper body) are out. Raffi Torres (right knee) is doubtful.

Blue Jackets: Jared Boll (left ankle), Fedor Tyutin (sprained ankle), Ryan Murray (knee surgery), Jack Skille (upper body) are out. Artem Anisimov (personal) is doubtufl. Blake Comeau is suspended.

Season/All-Time series

San Jose and Columbus met in the last game before the Olympic break for both teams, a 3-2 Sharks win on Feb. 7 at SAP Center. John McCarthy, Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels scored for the Sharks.

The Sharks have lost their last three games at Nationwide Arena, all in regulation, by a combined score of 16-5.

All-time, San Jose is 31-13-4 against the Blue Jackets.

Quoteable

“It feels good right now. We go on the road for three [games in four [nights]; tough scheduling, but we'll deal with it." – Marc-Edouard Vlasic, after Tuesday’s win over Toronto

Burning question

How will the Pacific Division standings end up? Leave your answer in the comments section below.