Rangers-Sharks: In the Crease

Kevin and Brodie: Hertl raising expectations; Stuart returns

Rangers-Sharks: In the Crease
October 8, 2013, 9:45 am
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Keep an eye on Marc-Edouard Vlasic tonight, Sharks fans. (USATSI)

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

Where they stand
Sharks: 2-0-0, 1st Pacific Division, 3rd Western Conference
Rangers: 1-1-0, 4th Metropolitan Division, 9th Eastern Conference

Vitals
Sharks
Goals per game: 4.00 (T, 3rd) 
Goals-against per game: 1.00 (T, 2nd) 
Power play: 16.7 percent (T, 14th) 
Penalty kill: 85.7 percent (T, 10th)

Rangers
Goals per game: 2.00 (T, 21st)
Goals-against per game: 2.50 (T, 10th)
Power play: 14.3 percent (T, 18th)
Penalty kill: 80.0 percent (T, 17th)

[RELATED: Rangers set for rare visit]

Probable lines
Sharks
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns 
Tyler Kennedy – Logan Couture – Patrick Marleau 
Matt Nieto – Joe Pavelski – Tommy Wingels 
James Sheppard – Andrew Desjardins – John McCarthy

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

Antti Niemi 
Alex Stalock

[RELATED: Stuart set to make Sharks season debut]

Rangers
Brad Richards – Derek Stepan – Rick Nash
Benoit Pouliot – Derick Brassard – Mats Zuccarello
Taylor Pyatt – Brian Boyle – Ryan Callahan
Derek Dorsett – Dominic Moore – Arron Asham

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Michael Del Zotto
Anton Stralman – John Moore

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Keep an eye on…
Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks’ veteran defenseman earned the primary assist on two of the team’s first three goals on Saturday against Phoenix, and is tied with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl for the team lead in points with three. He had just seven points in 48 games last season.

Rangers: Ryan Callahan. The Rangers’ captain made his season debut on Monday in Los Angeles, his first game since offseason shoulder surgery. He’s had success against the Sharks, too, with five goals (and seven points) in five career games vs. San Jose.

Last game
Sharks: Tomas Hertl scored the first two goals of his NHL career, giving the Sharks an early 2-0 lead, and the team cruised to a 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at SAP Center on Saturday night. Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture (empty net) also had goals, and San Jose was 2-for-4 on the power play. Antti Niemi allowed a single goal for the second straight game in improving to 2-0.

Rangers: Brad Richards scored twice and Ryan McDonagh added a strange shorthanded goal in the Rangers’ 3-1 win in Los Angeles on Monday. Richards’ goals were his first of the season, while McDonagh was the beneficiary of a huge misplay by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in the third period. Rick Nash had two assists, while Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves.

[RELATED: Sharks hope to establish game early vs. Rangers] 

Injuries
Sharks: Raffi Torres (right ACL surgery), Marty Havlat (offseason pelvic surgery), and Adam Burish (lower body) are out.

Rangers: Carl Hagelin (left shoulder surgery) is out.

Season series
This is the first of two games between the Sharks and Rangers, who won’t play again until March 16, 2014 at Madison Square Garden. This is the first game between the two teams since Oct. 31, 2011 in New York.

San Jose is just 6-18-3-2 all-time against the Rangers, but since the 1999-2000 season, the Sharks have gone 6-5-1-2 against New York.

Quoteable
“It’s huge, any time you can just roll the lines and throw three sets of D out there, it’s going to conserve a lot of energy through the lineup. That allows you to maintain the forecheck, and do what we want to do in our system to be successful.” Matt Irwin, on the Sharks’ ability to roll four lines and three defense pairs

Burning question
Which Eastern Conference team are you most looking forward to seeing at SAP Center this season, and why?