Sharks-Avs: What to watch for

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Sharks-Avs: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Monday nights Sharks-Avalanche game at HP Pavilion will have a bit of a different feel as the clubs are meeting for the first time since swapping forwards at the trade deadline, but the objective doesnt change.

The ninth-place Sharks (38-27-10) can greatly increase their already improving playoff chances with a win over 10th-place Colorado (40-31-6). Each team has 86 points, but the Avs have played two more games than San Jose.

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In fact, San Jose could all but kill Colorado's chances with a regulation victory. That should add extra incentive, according to Ryane Clowe.

As much as you can try to bury teams out of this race, the better for us, Clowe said. Obviously, it would be great for us if we beat them tonight and it will hurt their chances, big time. Thats pretty high motivation that we should use tonight.

This is a great chance, the fact that we have a couple games in hand and if we can beat them tonight it kind of separates us, so that would be good.

San Jose could even re-take the Pacific Division lead if everything goes its way. The Dallas Stars visit Calgary and the Los Angeles Kings are in Vancouver in other Monday night action around the league.
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Its an important game for us. We need to take that jump and not fall behind, Joe Pavelski said. We want to keep moving forward.

San Jose is 5-2-1 in its last eight games.

We need everyone in the locker room to play well, and bring to the table what they can bring. I think thats the biggest thing, is weve had more team efforts lately, Pavelski said.

McGinn returns: Jamie McGinn already has eight goals and four assists in his first 13 games with Colorado, and has found good chemistry while playing the wing alongside Paul Stastny. In 61 games with the Sharks, McGinn had 12 goals and 12 assists.

Todd McLellan isnt surprised at McGinns success.

Hes a hell of a player. Hes had a career-type year. He is scoring goals, and hes given an opportunity to play a few more minutes there with a young team, said the coach.

He went there, established himself, and hes a confident player right now. And thats Jamie McGinn. We all liked him when he was here, and our job now is to go beat him when hes over there.

Daniel Winnik, meanwhile, has two big goals in the last two games.

Emotions will probably be running high with those players. It was tough seeing a guy go like Ginner, but its been great having the guys step in and theyve brought a lot to our team, Pavelski said.

Lineup the same: The Sharks are expected to ice the same lineup against the Avalanche that played in wins over Boston and Phoenix. That means Winnik will play with Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels, while Michal Handzus is between Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell.

Which one of those lines is the third, and which is the fourth? The Desjardins line, assumed to be the fourth line before the Phoenix game, played more minutes than the Handzus line on Saturday and was very effective.

As a coach you have a memory of last game, and you have to reward that group for doing what they did well, McLellan said. Its on a night-to-night basis. Theyre going to have to go out and establish themselves again.

I expect Zeus line to be much better than they were last game. Its good to have that healthy competition. There is no three, there is no four. Its just two lines that will get some ice time and whoever is playing well, is going to play.

On defense, Colin White and Jim Vandermeer are expected to be the healthy scratches again. TJ Galiardi wont get a chance to play against his former team, as hes still out with an upper body injury.

In the crease: Antti Niemi will make his 15th straight start in net for the Sharks, opposed by Semyon Varlamov.

Niemi is 1-0-1 in two games against Colorado this season, allowing seven goals in 123 minutes (3.39 goals-against average, .883 save percentage).

Varlamov hasnt been any better against the Sharks this season, going 1-1-0 while allowing eight goals in 123 minutes (3.88 GAA, .875 SP), although he recorded the overtime win on Dec. 13, 4-3.

Varlamov is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts.

The Sharks are 2-0-1 against Colorado this season, including a 5-4 win at home on Dec. 15.

Colorado still in the mix: Despite losses in their last two games, the Avalanche are 7-2-2 in their last 11. Mondays game in San Jose is the start of a three-game road trip, with stops on Vancouver and Calgary before a two-game homestand closes out their season.

A lot of speed, balanced scoring and a lot of scoring from different people, very good power play, McLellan said, when asked about the Avs. Varlamov has played extremely well over the last 10 or 15 games, and looks very confident in the net.

I think the game is going to have some tempo to it, and were going to have to be prepared to play that way.
Odds and ends: Patrick Marleau leads all scorers in the season series with five points (4g, 1a) including a hat trick on Nov. 20 in Denver. Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson will return after a five-game absence.

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Bruins in final game before week of rest

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Bruins in final game before week of rest

Programming note – Sharks-Bruins coverage starts today at 5:30 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 35-18-6, 76 points, 1st Pacific Division
Bruins: 29-23-6, 64 points, 4th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks will be playing their second of a back-to-back, and final game before the bye week, in a rare matinee start time at SAP Center against Boston. Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona was just San Jose’s second in its last seven games, although they have points in six of those (2-1-4). San Jose is 4-2-4 since reeling off six straight wins from Jan. 16 – 24, and has a four-point lead on Edmonton for first place in the Pacific Division.

***Boston will be playing for the first time since its bye week, which may not have come at a good time. The Bruins reeled off three straight wins after changing coaches from Claude Julien to interim Bruce Cassidy, the first of which came against the Sharks at TD Garden on Feb. 9. The Bruins haven’t played since last Sunday, a 4-0 home win over Montreal.

***Joe Thornton brings a five-game point streak into tonight’s game (2g, 4a). He sits two assists shy of becoming the 13th player in NHL history to reach 1000 assists.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Melker Karlsson. The fourth line winger was the star of last night’s game in Arizona, posting one goal and two assists, and getting credit for the game-winning goal. Karlsson, second on the Sharks in shorthanded time on ice per game, has two goals and three points in three career games against the Bruins.

Bruins: Patrice Bergeron. The three-time Selke Trophy winner posted four points (1g, 3a) against the Sharks in Boston 10 days ago, and is third on the team in scoring with 33 points (14g, 19a). The 31-year-old is just one assist shy of 400 for his career, and is eighth on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Kevin Labanc – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Nikolay Goldobin – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell

Bruins
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes
Peter Cehlarik – David Krejci – David Pasternak
Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes
Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask
Anton Khudobin

INJURIES

Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body) and Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) are out.

Bruins: Austin Czarnik (lower body) is out.

QUOTEABLE

“He’s having an MVP season. He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.” – Pete DeBoer on Brent Burns after Saturday’s Sharks win in Arizona, in which Burns had two goals

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

For the first time in five tries this season the Sharks managed to secure a regulation win over the last place Coyotes, 4-1 at Gila River Arena on Saturday. They keep their four-point lead over Edmonton, and are assured of going into the bye week in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Here are our three takeaways from the win…

1 – Burns turns the tide…again

For the second time in a week, Brent Burns changed the momentum of a game with his deadly wrist shot. The Sharks were on their heels early – Arizona had a 16-9 shot advantage in the first period, perhaps jolted be a pregame ceremony – but Burns’ shot through traffic staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead and they were on their way.

“We kind of weathered their storm early,” Joe Pavelski told reporters. “There was a lot of energy in the building.”

It was similar to a game in New Jersey last Sunday, when Burns had a pair of second period goals, erasing a 1-0 deficit and putting his team on the track to victory.

According to Elias, Burns – who added a third period power play goal, too – is the first defenseman to score 18 goals on the road since Paul Coffey’s 22 in 1983-84. His 26 goals equal his total from last season, tying his franchise record.

“He’s having an MVP season,” Pete DeBoer told reporters. “He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.”

Burns remains in third in the league in scoring with 63 points, four points behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.

2 – Dell gets the job done…again

Getting his second start in a week, Aaron Dell made a new season high (and, thus, career high) with 36 saves. His best stop was early in the second period on Radim Vrbata, when he managed to snag a pin-balling puck from crossing the line, keeping the Sharks ahead 2-0. Had that one trickled over, the Coyotes might have been able to seize the momentum.

“I think I had it the whole time,” Dell told reporters. “I kind of saw it for a second and then when I turned back I was able to find it and scoop it underneath me.”

DeBoer said: “He’s been good every time we’ve put him in there.”

Dell, whose goals-against average is down to 1.95, outplayed Sharks nemesis Mike Smith, who had stopped 121 of 127 San Jose shots in three games this season.

“We got to Smitty in the first period, which was great,” Pavelski said. “We kind of know what he’s done to us the past few games, stopping a lot of pucks. … That was a big key for us.”

3 – Fourth line magic

Through two periods, the Sharks’ top two lines had generated a total of three shots on goal – one each from Joe Thornton, Kevin Labanc and Patrick Marleau.

Fortunately for the big guys, the fourth line was there to pick up the slack. Melker Karlsson posted three points (1g, 2a), Micheal Haley had one goal and one assist, and the fourth line generated all three of San Jose’s goals through 40 minutes.

One goal from the fourth line is a bonus. Three is virtually unheard of. 

“They showed up and played the right way,” DeBoer said. “Right from the drop of the puck they put pucks behind the other teams defense, they had good support, they created a lot of chances, and got rewarded for it. I think Dell and them were the difference in the game early through the first half, until we got going a little bit.”