In the Crease: Sharks go for sixth straight vs. Rangers

In the Crease: Sharks go for sixth straight vs. Rangers
March 15, 2014, 8:30 pm
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Logan Couture has nine points (4g, 5a) in nine games since the Olympic break. (AP)

Programming note 
Sharks-Rangers coverage gets underway on Comcast SportsNet California at 12:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live

Where they stand
Sharks: 44-17-7, 95 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 3rd Western Conference
Rangers: 36-28-4, 76 points, 2nd Metropolitan Division, 6th Eastern Conference

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks have won five straight, and wrap up a three-game road trip Sunday. On Friday Matt Nieto, Joe Thornton, Jason Demers and Marty Havlat scored in a 4-3 win over the Islanders, giving the Sharks a 9-1-1 record in their last 11 games. After Sunday the Sharks have 13 games left, including eight at home.

Rangers: New York is one of several teams seeking a playoff spot in a crowded Metropolitan Division, and is coming off of a 4-2 win in Winnipeg on Friday. The Rangers are 20-10-2 in their last 32 games, but just 16-15-4 this season at home. The Rangers have not allowed a power play goal against in their last seven games.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Logan Couture. As if there was any doubt of Couture’s importance to the team, the Sharks center has nine points (4g, 5a) in nine games since returning from a fractured hand after the Olympic break. Couture has never shied away from the bright lights, and could relish the rare opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden. He has two goals and one assist in three career games against the Rangers.

Rangers: Martin St. Louis. The trade deadline acquisition made his Rangers debut on March 5, and has just two assists in six games since switching sweaters. The former Lightning captain had four goals against the Sharks while still with Tampa Bay in a game on Jan. 18, though, and has 25 points (12g, 13a) in his last 26 games.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.98 (7th)
Goals-against per game: 2.35 (4th)
Power play: 16.0 percent (23rd)
Penalty kill: 84.4 percent (7th)

Rangers
Goals per game: 2.54 (19th)
Goals-against per game: 2.46 (7th)
Power play: 19.6 percent (11th)
Penalty kill: 84.6 percent (6th)

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 – Tyler Kennedy

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

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Rangers
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin – Brad Richards – Martin St. Louis
Benoit Pouliot – Derick Brassard – Mats Zuccarello
Brian Boyle – Dominic Moore – Dan Carcillo

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Anton Stralman – Marc Staal
John Moore – Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist
Cam Talbot

Injuries/Scratches

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

Rangers: None.

Season/All-Time series

The Sharks thumped New York on Oct. 8 in their third game of the season, 9-2 at SAP Center, behind four goals from rookie Tomas Hertl.

This is the first time the Sharks have played at Madison Square Garden since Oct. 31, 2011, a 5-2 Rangers win.

All-time, the Sharks are 7-18-2 with three ties against the Rangers.

Quoteable

“I don’t know what the retribution would be. We had a real good night. Anything that we did went our way and basically anything they did didn’t go their way. That’s just the way the game was. There was no intent at all to run up the score.” – Todd McLellan, when asked if the Rangers might seek retribution for losing 9-2 to the Sharks in October

Burning question

Who has been the Sharks’ best player since the end of the Olympic break? Leave your answer in the comments section below.