In the Crease: Sharks hope to end Chicago blues

Highlights: Sharks give up four straight, fall to Avs

In the Crease: Sharks hope to end Chicago blues
January 5, 2014, 9:45 am
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We know we’re going to have to win in this building probably, win in LA. These are the buildings on the road that you’ve got to win in, and you’ve got to learn to win in.
Joe Pavelski, after the Sharks lost 5-1 in Chicago on Nov. 17

Programming note 
Sharks-Blackhawks coverage gets underway at 5 p.m. on NBC Sports Network

Where they stand
Sharks: 26-10-6, 58 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference
Blackhawks: 29-7-8, 66 points, 1st Central Division, 1st Western Conference

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 3.17 (4th)
Goals-against per game: 2.48 (11th)
Power play: 19.0 percent (11th)
Penalty kill: 82.1 percent (14th)

Blackhawks
Goals per game: 3.66 (1st)
Goals-against per game: 2.64 (13th)
Power play: 24.3 percent (3rd)
Penalty kill: 76.7 percent (28th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Matt Nieto
James Sheppard – Andrews Desjardins – Bracken Kearns
Freddie Hamilton – John McCarthy – Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart – Justin Braun
Scott Hannan – Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Blackhawks
Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad – Michal Handzus – Patrick Kane
Kris Versteeg – Andrew Shaw – Bryan Bickell
Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger – Ben Smith

Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Johnny Oduya
Nick Leddy – Sheldon Brookbank

Corey Crawford
Antti Raanta

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks stormed back from a 4-0 deficit on Saturday in Colorado, but fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture scored in the loss, as the Sharks fell to 2-7-0 in their last nine on the road and 11-9-3 overall. Antti Niemi was pulled for the second time in the last three games, after allowing three of the four Colorado goals in 26 minutes.

[RELATED: Late effort not enough as Sharks lose another road game]

Blackhawks: Chicago scored four times in the third period in New Jersey on Friday and went on to beat the Devils, 5-3. Patrick Sharp led the Blackhawks with three goals. Chicago is 6-0-3 in its last nine, and has not lost in regulation since Dec. 14 at Toronto.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Logan Couture. The Sharks’ center has a career best four-game goal-scoring streak, and recently notched his 100th career NHL goal and 200th career point. He hasn’t done much against the Blackhawks, though, with just one goal in 14 games and a -6 rating. That may have to change if San Jose hopes to have any chance on Sunday.

Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp. Another Olympic hopeful, like Couture, Sharp is playing the best hockey of his career and is second in the NHL in goals with 25. The 32-year-old has two hat tricks in his last five games, including Friday in New Jersey. His two-goal, one-assist effort, including a penalty shot conversion, paced Chicago in its 5-1 win over the Sharks on Nov. 17.

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery), Marty Havlat (lower body), Raffi Torres (right knee surgery), and Adam Burish (back surgery) are out. Tommy Wingels (upper body) and Tyler Kennedy (flu) are doubtful.

Blackhawks: Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) is out.

Season/All-Time series

Chicago beat the Sharks on Nov. 17 at United Center, 5-1. The teams meet once more in San Jose on Feb. 1.

The Sharks are 42-29-5-7 all-time vs. Chicago, but 0-5-1 in their last six visits to the Windy City.

Quoteable

“We know we’re going to have to win in this building probably, win in LA. These are the buildings on the road that you’ve got to win in, and you’ve got to learn to win in.” – Joe Pavelski, after the Sharks lost 5-1 in Chicago on Nov. 17

Burning question

Can the Sharks, when healthy, match up with the Blackhawks?

Leave your answer in the comments section below.