In the Crease: Sharks begin stretch run against Flyers

McLellan: 'It's time to play games'

In the Crease: Sharks begin stretch run against Flyers
February 27, 2014, 8:15 am

The Sharks are out to avenge one of their worst losses this year, when the Flyers scored three third-period goals on Feb. 3. (USATSI)

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

Where they stand
Sharks: 37-16-6, 80 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference
Flyers: 30-23-6, 66 points, 3rd Metropolitan Division, 7th Eastern Conference

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks kick off the post-Olympic portion of their schedule with a three-game road trip, beginning tonight in Philadelphia. They continue to Buffalo on Friday and New Jersey on Sunday. San Jose won three of its last four games going into the break, with the lone loss coming in ugly fashion to the Flyers on Feb. 3, 5-2. The Sharks are now as healthy as they have been all season at forward, with Raffi Torres and Logan Couture set to return from injury.

Flyers: Philadelphia surged into the Olympic break with a four-game winning streak to crawl back into playoff position. The Flyers allowed just four goals against in the four wins over Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado and Calgary. Expected starter Steve Mason is 4-1 with a 1.41 goals-against average and .955 save percentage, including two shutouts, in his last five games.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Raffi Torres. The player that embodied the Sharks’ identity shift at last season’s trade deadline is set to make his season debut from a right knee injury suffered in preseason. Torres’ presence, along with Logan Couture, should give the Sharks three balanced forward lines as they start the stretch run. Torres, of course, will have to stay out of trouble, as he seems to play by a different set of rules when it comes to league discipline. If he can, and if his injured knee does not hinder his speed, he could once again be a difference maker.

Flyers: Wayne Simmonds. The former Los Angeles forward has come into his own as a dominant power forward. He’s second on the Flyers in goals with 18, just one behind Claude Giroux, and he has four points in his last four games (1g, 3a).

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.81 (T - 9th)
Goals-against per game: 2.32 (4th)
Power play: 17.2 percent (18th)
Penalty kill: 83.7 percent (8th)

Flyers
Goals per game: 2.70 (16th)
Goals-against per game: 2.75 (17th)
Power play: 19.6 percent (11th)
Penalty kill: 84.1 percent (7th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Marty Havlat
Raffi Torres – Andrew Desjardins – Tyler Kennedy
Matt Nieto – Adam Burish – Tommy Wingels

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

Alex Stalock (confirmed starter)
Antti Niemi

Flyers
Scott Hartnell – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Vinny Lecavalier – Brayden Schenn – Wayne Simmonds
Steve Downie – Sean Couturier – Matt Read
Michael Raffl – Adam Hall – Zac Rinaldo

Andrej Meszaros – Mark Streit
Braydon Coburn – Nicklas Grossmann
Erik Gustafsson – Luke Schenn

Steve Mason (confirmed starter)
Ray Emery

Injuries/Scratches

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

Flyers: Kimmo Timonen (lower body) is out.

Season/All-Time series

The Sharks will be looking to avenge perhaps their worst effort of the season, a 5-2 loss at SAP Center on Feb. 3 in which they surrendered four third period goals.

This is the Sharks’ first visit to Philadelphia since Dec. 8, 2010. All-time, the Sharks are 14-14-4 against the Flyers.

Quoteable

“It’s as much the emotional part of their (Olympic) experience as it is the physical part. … It’s who can recover from the emotional part of being a champion, or maybe losing a game that you wanted to win. But, I think the players that we sent are very mentally strong.” – Todd McLellan

Burning question

Who are you more interested to see return tonight, Logan Couture or Raffi Torres, and why? Leave your answer in the comments section below.