In the Crease: Sinking Sharks host surging Stars

In the Crease: Sinking Sharks host surging Stars
February 5, 2014, 10:00 am
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Tyler Seguin leads the Stars with 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists). (USATSI)

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

Where they stand
Sharks: 35-16-6, 76 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference
Stars: 26-21-9, 61 points, 5th Central Division, 10th Western Conference

The latest

Sharks: In arguably their worst game of the season, the Sharks lost 5-2 at home to Philadelphia on Monday. The Flyers scored three times in the first four minutes of the third period to take a 4-2 lead en route to the win. Antti Niemi was pulled for the fifth time this season after allowing four goals on 23 shots. San Jose has lost four of its last five games, all in regulation, headed into its final two games before the Olympic break.

Stars: Dallas beat the Coyotes in Phoenix last night, 3-1. Shawn Horcoff, Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt (empty net) scored the goals, while Kari Lehtonen picked up the win in net with 27 saves. Dallas, 5-1-1 in its last seven, wraps up a three-game road trip tonight and hosts the Coyotes on Saturday in its final game before the break.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Patrick Marleau. Marleau is again showing why he has the reputation of a very good-but-not-great player, as he’s been fairly invisible most nights since losing linemate Logan Couture. Marleau has not only struggled to get on the scoresheet with just one assist in his last five games, but he has a -6 rating over that span. It may be fair to wonder if making the Olympic team and getting that new three-year contract has adversely affected his performance.

Stars: Jamie Benn. Dallas’ leading goal-scorer, Benn had one goal in five straight games, and 10 points in his last six, before he was kept off of the board on Tuesday in Phoenix. The 24-year-old has 18 points in 24 career games against the Sharks. Dallas is 7-2-0 when Benn has at least two points.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 2.82 (8th)
Goals-against per game: 2.35 (T - 4th)
Power play: 17.9 percent (18th)
Penalty kill: 83.1 percent (10th)

Stars
Goals per game: 2.82 (10th)
Goals-against per game: 2.80 (18th)
Power play: 15.6 percent (23rd)
Penalty kill: 80.7 percent (19th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Matt Nieto – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Joe Pavelski – Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard – Bracken Kearns – Marty Havlat
Mike Brown - Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle
Scott Hannan – Brad Stuart

Alex Stalock (confirmed starter)
Antti Niemi

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

Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Brenden Dillon – Jordie Benn
Kevin Connauton – Sergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen
Dan Ellis

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery), Raffi Torres (right knee surgery), Logan Couture (right hand), Jason Demers (groin), and Tyler Kennedy (lower body) are out. Adam Burish (back surgery) is probable.

Stars: Stephane Robidas (broken leg) is out.

Season/All-Time series

This is the third and final meeting of the season between the Sharks and Stars, and each team brings a 1-0-1 record into the rubber match. San Jose lost in a shootout on Oct. 17 in Dallas, 4-3 (its first loss of the season), and the Stars repaid the favor on Dec. 21 at SAP Center, 3-2 in a shootout.

Ray Whitney leads Dallas with one goal and two assists against the Sharks. Joe Pavelski and Tyler Kennedy each have a goal and an assist.

The Sharks are 49-46-5-12 all-time against the Minnesota/Dallas franchise, including a 17-6-6 mark since the start of the 2008-09 season.

Quoteable

“It always comes down to being detailed and having that intensity, and we lost it at key times, and they put the puck in the net.” – Patrick Marleau, on the 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Monday

Burning question

When healthy, which six Sharks defensemen should be in the lineup? Leave your answer in the comments section below.