In the Crease: Sharks vs. Blackhawks

McLellan: 'We have two goaltenders we can rely on'

In the Crease: Sharks vs. Blackhawks
November 17, 2013, 6:45 am
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Tommy Wingels has eight points in his last nine games and two goals and an assist in five career games vs. Chicago. (AP)

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

[RELATED: Thornton leading the way as Sharks extend winning streak]

Where they stand
Sharks: 13-2-5, 31 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference
Blackhawks: 13-3-4, 30 points, 1st Central Division, 4th Western Conference

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 3.50 (T – 1st)
Goals-against per game: 2.05 (4th)
Power play: 21.1 percent (9th)
Penalty kill: 83.0 percent (15th)

Blackhawks
Goals per game: 3.50 (T – 1st)
Goals-against per game: 2.90 (23rd)
Power play: 21.4 percent (8th)
Penalty kill: 72.9 percent (29th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Patrick Marleau– Logan Couture – James Sheppard
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Tommy Wingels
John McCarthy – Joe Pavelski – Tyler Kennedy
Matt Nieto – Andrew Desjardins – Mike Brown

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

Antti Niemi (likely starter)
Alex Stalock

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

Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy – Michal Roszival

Corey Crawford (likely starter)
Nikolai Khabibulin

Last game

Sharks: Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau scored and Joe Thornton had two assists in the Sharks’ third straight win, 3-1 in Edmonton on Friday. Alex Stalock had 30 saves and has won all three of his starts. San Jose is 3-0-1 on its current road trip, which concludes today.

Blackhawks: Chicago’s four-game winning streak was snapped with its worst loss of the season, 7-2 in Nashville on Saturday night. The Blackhawks were 7-0-1 in their last eight games before the loss. Patrick Kane and Brandon Pirri scored in the loss, and Nikolai Khabibulin made six saves on eight shots before leaving with an injury. Corey Crawford allowed five goals on 22 shots in relief.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Tommy Wingels. Perhaps the most underrated Sharks player so far this season, Wingels has eight points in his last nine games and has been far and away the best replacement for Brent Burns on Joe Thornton’s line. Wingels could be extra motivated in Chicago in front of friends and family, as the local product hails from nearby Evanston, Ill. He has two goals and an assist in five career games vs. Chicago.

Blackhawks: Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks’ sniper has nine points in the last six games (4g, 5a), and has goals in six of the last eight. Kane leads Chicago with 20 points, and has 19 points in 22 career games against San Jose.

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Raffi Torres (right ACL surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery), and Brent Burns (upper body) are out.

Blackhawks: Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) is doubtful. Marian Hossa (lower body) is questionable. Michal Handzus (upper body), Michael Kostka (lower body) Brad Mills (lower body) are out. 

Season/All-Time series

This is the first of three Sharks-Blackhawks games in 2013-14. San Jose returns to United Center on Jan. 5, while Chicago makes its only visit to the Bay Area on Feb. 1.

All-time, the Sharks are 42-28-5-7 against the Blackhawks, but Chicago won all three of the matchups in the season series in 2013.

Quoteable

“I work every day to be a better goalie, so I should be a better goalie. I think I’ve got lots of experience since then, so I would say so.” – Antti Niemi, on being a better goalie than when he won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010

Burning question

How do the Sharks match up against the defending Stanley Cup champs? Leave your answer in the comments section below.