In the Crease: Sharks look to keep rolling in December

Sharks kick off four-game road trip in Toronto

In the Crease: Sharks look to keep rolling in December
December 3, 2013, 6:15 am
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The Sharks went 8-2-3 in the month of November, finishing with five straight wins. (USATSI)

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

Where they stand
Sharks: 18-3-5, 41 points, 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference
Maple Leafs: 14-10-3, 31 points, 5th Atlantic Division, 6th Eastern Conference

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 3.42 (2nd)
Goals-against per game: 2.15 (5th)
Power play: 18.8 percent (14th)
Penalty kill: 84.2 percent (12th)

Maple Leafs
Goals per game: 2.67 (15th)
Goals-against per game: 2.63 (16th)
Power play: 23.2 percent (5th)
Penalty kill: 78.6 percent (25th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Tommy Wingels
Marty Havlat – Joe Pavelski – Tyler Kennedy
John McCarthy – Andrew Desjardins – Mike Brown

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

Antti Niemi (confirmed starter)
Alex Stalock

Maple Leafs
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond – Peter Holland – Nikolai Kulemin
Carter Ashton – Trevor Smith – David Clarkson
Frazer McLaren – Jerred Smithson – Colton Orr

Dion Phaneuf – Carl Gunnarsson
Jake Gardiner – Mark Fraser
Paul Ranger – Morgan Rielly

James Reimer (confirmed starter)
Jonathan Bernier

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks are coming off of a five-game homestand in which they went a perfect 5-0-0. On Saturday, the Sharks surrendered a two-goal third period lead to Anaheim but won in a shootout, 4-3. Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist and Joe Pavelski was the only player to score in the tiebreaker. Antti Niemi started and won all five games of the homestand. San Jose begins a four-game road trip tonight, continuing on to Pittsburgh, Carolina and Minnesota.

Maple Leafs: Toronto enters tonight losers of its last four games (0-2-2), including a 4-2 defeat in Montreal on Saturday night. The last three of those losses came on the road, but the Maple Leafs are 9-4-0 at home, where they play four of their next five games.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Logan Couture. The Sharks center is second on the team in scoring with 27 points (9g, 18a), and has recorded a goal and six assists in his last five games. He ended a seven-game goalless streak with a marker against Anaheim on Sunday. The Toronto-area native will be playing the Maple Leafs for just the third time in his career.

Maple Leafs: James van Riemsdyk. The Toronto winger, who was stolen from Philadelphia in exchange for plodding defenseman Luke Schenn in the summer of 2012, has four points (3g, 1a) in his last three games while playing on the Leafs’ first line. The New Jersey native’s 20 points is second on the team, behind only linemate Phil Kessel’s 24 points.

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Raffi Torres (right ACL surgery) and Adam Burish (back surgery) are out.

Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri (personal), Dave Bolland (left ankle) and Joffrey Lupul (groin) are out. Cody Franson (lower body) is questionable.

Season/All-Time series

The Sharks are just 14-20-5-0 all-time against Toronto, but 5-1-0 in the last six. In their last visit to the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 23, 2012, the Sharks won 2-1 behind a pair of goals from Patrick Marleau.

The Maple Leafs visit San Jose on March 11.

Quoteable

“I’ve only played there once, and a lot of people I know, obviously, are Leafs fans. I’m excited to head back there.” – Logan Couture, on playing in Toronto

Burning question

Which game on the Sharks’ road trip are you looking forward to the most – Toronto, Pittsburgh, Carolina or Minnesota – and why?

Leave your answer in the comments section below.