Saturday matinee with division-leading Sharks, Canucks

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Saturday matinee with division-leading Sharks, Canucks

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Let Comcast SportsNet California fully prepare you for the Sharks and Canucks with Sharks Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m.
SHARKS (26-13-5)VANCOUVER (28-15-4)Coverage at 12:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California

While the playoff race is just heating up for most NHL clubs, matchups between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks have already had the intensity of a postseason series.The division leaders face off for the fourth and final time in the regular season Saturday when the Sharks visit Vancouver.The three previous meetings resulted in 3-2 scores with the Canucks (28-15-4) winning twice - once in overtime. San Jose (26-13-5) took the most recent one in a shootout Jan. 2 in Vancouver.

Including last season's Western Conference finals, Vancouver is still 5-0-2 in its last seven home games against the Sharks.The Canucks' eight-point lead over Colorado in the Northwest is the largest of the NHL's division leaders, but they'll be looking to avoid losing three straight for the first time since April 19-24 during last season's West quarterfinal series against Chicago.Following Sunday's 4-2 loss to Anaheim in the opener of a six-game homestand, the Canucks fell 3-2 in a shootout to Los Angeles on Tuesday. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault indicated his team is having trouble making decisions."Right now, a lot of times, the play we're making is not the right play," he said. "We spend more time in our zone, we give the other team momentum, we give the other team scoring chances, and we need to do a better job of that."It's not just our defense, but it's our forwards and our D's."Having Henrik Sedin back on the scoresheet could help the Canucks erase any on-ice apprehension. Sedin, who's among the league leaders with 52 points, will try to avoid being held scoreless in three straight regular-season games for the first time since Feb. 26-March 3.He has 19 assists and 22 points in his last 14 meetings with the Sharks.Roberto Luongo has yielded six goals in losing the Canucks' last two games, matching the total allowed over his previous four contests. But he's 6-1-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average versus the Sharks since the start of last season, including Vancouver's five-game victory in the postseason.The Sharks are beginning a three-game road trip through western Canada prior to the All-Star break after falling 4-1 to Ottawa on Thursday - just their third regulation loss in 18 contests.San Jose has a one-point lead and four games in hand over second-place Los Angeles in the Pacific, and is starting to separate itself from Dallas and Phoenix."It should be a good test for us before the break," captain Joe Thornton said of playing in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary in a four-day span.Thornton has struggled in recent trips to Rogers Arena, posting a goal and three assists in his last seven games there, including postseason play. Patrick Marleau, who has one goal in his last five games overall, comes into this contest on a four-game point streak in Vancouver with three goals and an assist.Antti Niemi, who made 27 saves in the Sharks' win at Vancouver earlier this month, has alternated wins and losses in four road games since then. Niemi has yielded a combined one goal in wins at Anaheim and Winnipeg, but was beaten for eight in losses at Minnesota and Chicago.Since joining the Sharks in September 2010, Niemi is 2-4-0 with a 3.31 GAA in six games at Vancouver with three losses coming in postseason play.

Logan Couture undergoes surgical procedure on ankle

Logan Couture undergoes surgical procedure on ankle

SAN JOSE – Logan Couture underwent what appears to be minor surgical procedure on Saturday, but could play in the Sharks’ home game with Ottawa on Wednesday.

Couture, who suffered a fractured fibula at the ankle on Oct. 15, 2015 that required surgery, had one of six screws removed after it started bothering him during a game in Tampa Bay on Nov. 12, 2016.

“It was irritating when I put my skate on,” he said. “It wasn’t anything structural, it was just from having the skate on that area and irritation was building up. Figured we had a little break here and could take it out, and hopefully it feels better.”


Couture said the procedure took approximately 10 minutes, and he was “in and out of the hospital within a couple hours.” It was performed by Sharks team physician Dr. Mark Davies, the chief of orthopedic surgery at Kaiser San Jose.

The 28-year-old center, who has eight points (6g, 2a) in his last nine games, has not skated since Friday’s game against Montreal, taking Monday and Tuesday off from practice.

“I tried to put my skate on today and it just was still a little sore,” he said. “We’ll see in the next couple weeks. I’m sure it’s going to feel a lot better once it settles down, but it should be good to go tomorrow.”

Couture missed 23 games when he was originally injured in an off-day practice early last season in Newark, NJ.
 

Tierney rose to the challenge after comments in Sharks-Blues series

Tierney rose to the challenge after comments in Sharks-Blues series

Prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Final last May, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was asked to respond to Sharks coach Pete DeBoer’s decision to keep Patrick Marleau on the second line wing, rather than skate him as the third line center.

“We don't like that match. [Marleau] should stay on the second line,” Hitchcock said on May 17, eliciting laughter from the media. “I'm not telling Pete how to coach. … Just telling him we don't like that match.”

Whether Hitchcock was being truthful or not is up for interpretation, but the comment could have been viewed as an insult to Chris Tierney, who was in just his second NHL season. Tierney, mind you, was the guy that was centering the third line rather than Marleau, and in a series in which the pundits said the Blues were the deeper team up front, there was a lot riding on Tierney’s ability to handle the role.

On the latest Sharks Insider Podcast, Tierney recalled those public comments from the Blues’ legendary coach.

“You see it on Twitter, [in] media clippings, and whatnot. I think when something like that is said…the way I see it is, you want to prove them wrong. Not stick it to them, but show that, ‘OK, I’m going to show you’ kind of thing. 

“I think it just fuels the opposing players when something like that gets said, so I just take it as I just want to prove I can play. I knew I could play against those guys, and I think Pete trusted me enough that I could play against those guys.”

Over the final five games of the series, Tierney posted two goals, one assist and a plus-three rating, while a few of St. Louis’ most dangerous scorers went cold. As it turned out, the Sharks were the deeper – and better – team.

The playoff run gave Tierney, who had 5 goals and 4 assists in 24 games, a big boost in confidence.

“I thought I was going to be a little more nervous going into the playoffs than I was, but once you get playing it kind of feels like you’re just playing another game. … I think I just got more confident every series that I could go up against [Anze] Kopitar, or [Ryan] Johansen, or [Alex] Steen, [Jori] Lehtera or [Vladimir] Tarasenko.”

Tierney gets into several other topics in the podcast, including that he didn't think there was any way he would end up in San Jose after his draft interview.

“I had a meeting with the Sharks. ... I didn’t think it went very well," he said. "They were pretty hard on a lot of guys, though. I don’t know if that’s the way they interviewed back then, but I didn’t think it was going very well. I kind of crossed them off the list.”