In the Crease: Sharks visit last place Sabres

Highlights: Sharks explode out of break

In the Crease: Sharks visit last place Sabres
February 28, 2014, 9:15 am
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Buffalo took the first game of the season series in a controversial shootout after Tommy Wingels’ goal was not seen. (USATSI)

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

Where they stand
Sharks: 38-16-6, 82 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference
Sabres: 17-34-8, 42 points, 7th Atlantic Division, 16th Eastern Conference

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks kicked off the post-Olympic stretch run with a dominant 7-3 win in Philadelphia. Joe Pavelski’s hat trick led the way, and Logan Couture and Raffi Torres each scored twice in their returns from injury. San Jose completes a three-game road trip in New Jersey on Sunday, and has 12 of its final 20 games at home. Overall, the Sharks have won four of their last five and are now within five points of division-leading Anaheim.

Sabres: Buffalo, still last overall in the NHL, posted back-to-back wins over Carolina and Boston in its first two games after the break. Thursday’s 5-4 win over the Bruins came courtesy of a Matt D’Agostini overtime goal. There is speculation that this could be goalie Ryan Miller’s last ever start in Buffalo, as the goalie is the subject of rampant trade rumors.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Logan Couture. The 24-year-old returned from missing 16 games with a hand injury, and managed to score twice in the win over the Flyers. Although he admitted he didn’t feel great after playing for the first time since Jan. 5, his presence undoubtedly helped jumpstart an offense that was sputtering before the break, with just nine goals in seven games.

Sabres: Christian Ehrhoff. The former Sharks defenseman has four points in the last three games, nine points in his last nine, and scored twice against Carolina on Wednesday. The 31-year-old defenseman leads the Sabres with more than 24 minutes of average ice time, but has never scored a goal in nine career games against San Jose.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.88 (7th)
Goals-against per game: 2.33 (T - 4th)
Power play: 17.3 percent (19th)
Penalty kill: 84.2 percent (6th)

Sabres
Goals per game: 1.90 (30th)
Goals-against per game: 2.95 (24th)
Power play: 14.6 percent (25th)
Penalty kill: 81.8 percent (14th)

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


Antti Niemi (likely starter)

Alex Stalock

Sabres
Matt Moulson – Ville Leino – Drew Stafford
Steve Ott – Cody Hodgson – Matt D’Agostini
Marcus Foligno – Brian Flynn – Zemgus Girgensons
Cody McCormick – Zenon Konopka – Matt Ellis

Alexander Sulzer – Christian Ehrhoff
Tyler Myers – Mike Weber
Jamie McBain – Henrik Tallinder

Ryan Miller (confirmed starter)
Jhonas Enroth

Injuries/Scratches

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

Sabres: Tyler Ennis (soreness) is questionable.

Season/All-Time series

Buffalo took the first game of the season series in a shootout in controversial fashion on Nov. 5, 5-4. In overtime, the referees did not see Tommy Wingels’ goal, costing the Sharks an extra point in the standings.

The Sharks are just 7-17-2 all time against the Sabres, with four ties.

Joe Thornton made his debut with the Sharks in Buffalo on Dec. 2, 2005. San Jose won 5-0, its first-ever win there.

Quoteable

“He gets a couple tips, he just gets his stick on everything. He’s always around the net. He has a knack for scoring goals and tonight was no different.” – Joe Thornton, after linemate Joe Pavelski’s three-goal performance on Thursday night

Burning question

Who should play on the wing of Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau? Leave your answer in the comments section below.