Columbus (10-23-5) vs. Sharks (21-11-4) at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.
SAN JOSE -- Thomas Greiss will make his first start tonight since Dec. 3, as the Sharks host the continually-struggling Columbus Blue Jackets. Greiss will be backed up by Antti Niemi, and not Antero Niittymaki, who has yet to play but has considered himself ready since returning from a rehab assignment two weeks ago.
For the Sharks, tonights matchup against Columbus resembles a similar scene to last night -- facing an opponent who is far more capable on the ice than the standings suggest Respectively the Anaheim Ducks are 14th in the Western Conference standings, whereas the Blue Jackets (10-23-5) are last.
Their record probably isnt of late, indicative of the way theyve played, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said of the Jackets. They are strong along the boards, a strong cycle team. Their goaltending is starting to settle in and theyre getting some work done on their special teams. So, I think weve got our hands full.
Not to mention the Sharks are also facing the brunt of their January schedule; they're playing their third game in four nights.
Im not worried about that, Dan Boyle said. Weve got to be ready to play. Were professionals, and the excuses are there. We came in late last night, back to back, they (Columbus) are here waiting for us. But we cant look at that, weve just got to win hockey games. All you have to do is look at our board (in the players lounge), its too tight, too tight. We need these points.
Considering that the Sharks still have several games in hand against every team in the top 8, the standings are tight. So are the results recently for San Jose. Nine of the last 11 contests have been decided by a single goal. I asked the McLellan how that affects his team.
We cant waste minutes, McLellan said. When you look back and you use that stat you just talked about the one-goal difference, that can come in the first minute, that can come in the first 10 minutes if you take your time wading into the game, and you waste minutes you never get the opportunity to get them back.
You want to say its a good thing, Boyle said of the close calls. But obviously youd like to create some more breathing room. You look around the league and its tight certainly for us, there hasnt been too many blowouts this year. The Tampa game was an exception, but other than that, I guess it kind of prepares you for playoffs. Thats what it usually ends up being in the playoffs.
- Tommy Wingels was recalled from the AHLs Worcester Sharks after 21 points in 29 games. McLellan on Wingels: He has played extremely well down there. Ive been told that he is one of the best players in the American League, and thats exciting to know that he can come up and be that guy that we can count on for some big shifts especially after three games in four nights. Theres a good chance we will see him tonight.
- Andrew Murray on the struggles of a Columbus team he played three seasons with: I think its surprising for everybody, and frustrating for them. You would not have thought that at the beginning of the season.
- Boyle says he was a bit surprised to be voted on so highly in the fans All-Star balloting. Boyle finished 18th among all NHL defensemen with Brent Burns right behind him at 19th.