In the Crease: Sharks move on without Hertl, host Stars

In the Crease: Sharks move on without Hertl, host Stars
December 21, 2013, 12:00 pm
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The Sharks desperately need Logan Couture to break out of his scoring slump, as the center has no goals in his last eight games. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Stars coverage gets underway at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet California

Where they stand
Sharks: 21-8-6, 48 points, 3rd Pacific Division, 5th Western Conference
Stars: 17-12-5, 39 points, 5th Central Division, 10th Western Conference

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 3.14 (4th)
Goals-against per game: 2.37 (T - 10th)
Power play: 17.9 percent (15th)
Penalty kill: 83.0 percent (14th)

Stars
Goals per game: 2.82 (9th)
Goals-against per game: 2.91 (24th)
Power play: 11.4 percent (29th)
Penalty kill: 81.4 percent (19th)

[RELATED: Sharks GM Wilson prepared to lose Hertl for a long time]

Probable lines

Sharks
Forwards – TBD

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart – Jason Demers

Alex Stalock (confirmed starter)
Antti Niemi

Stars
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ray Whitney
Erik Cole – Rich Peverly – Colton Sceviour
Shawn Horcoff – Vern Fiddler – Alex Chiasson

Alex Goligoski – Brenden Dillon
Jordie Benn – Sergei Gonchar
Kevin Connauton – Cameron Gaunce

Kari Lehtonen
Dan Ellis

The latest

Sharks: Tomas Hertl was injured and the Sharks lost a 4-1 decision to the Kings on Thursday night in Los Angeles. San Jose is just 2-5-1 in last seven games. Patrick Marleau, playing in his 1200th career NHL game, scored the only goal for the Sharks late in the third period when the game was well out of reach. Antti Niemi took the loss, allowing all four goals in starting for the 14th time in the last 15 games.

Stars: Dallas won its second straight game on Thursday, 4-1 at home over Vancouver. Erik Cole led the Stars with one goal and two assists, while Rich Peverly and Tyler Seguin added a pair of helpers. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen recorded his 100th career win with Dallas, making 27 saves. Dallas has won three of its last four in regulation (3-1-0).

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Logan Couture. The Sharks desperately need Couture to break out of his scoring slump, as the center has no goals in his last eight games and just two in his last 17. Couture had six shots miss the net against the Kings, including a couple glorious chances, adding to his recent frustrations. In 19 career games against the Stars, Couture has nine goals and four assists.

Stars: Valeri Nichushkin. The Stars' 2013 first round draft pick (10th overall), Nichushkin is tied for third in the NHL in rookie scoring and is third on his team with 18 points. Playing alongside Tyler Seguin on the top line, the 18-year-old Russian has 10 points (4g, 6a) in his last nine games.

Injuries/Scratches

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

Stars: Stephane Robidas (broken leg), Trevor Daley (sprained left ankle) and Aaron Rome (lower body) are out.

Season/All-Time series

The Stars won the previous game between these two teams, 4-3 in a shootout in Dallas on Oct. 17. It was the Sharks’ first loss of the season, after they had won their first six. San Jose hosts the Stars again on Feb. 5.

The Sharks are 48-46-5-12 all-time against the Minnesota/Dallas franchise.

Quoteable

“I think [Antti Niemi] is like some others on our team, some go-to guys that have to step up and bring their A-game a little bit more. He knows that, we know that, his teammates know it. But, we’re talking about one individual that wears the pads. There are some others that didn’t have a very good night tonight, as well.” – Todd McLellan, after the 4-1 loss in LA on Thursday

Burning question

How will Tomas Hertl’s long-term injury affect the Sharks?

Leave your answer in the comments section below.