NEWARK, NJ Between Martin Havlats season debut, Colin Whites return to New Jersey, and Joe Thorntons 1000th NHL game, the Sharks should be plenty motivated to end their three-game losing streak tonight against the Devils.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the team should be motivated enough, though, even without all the storylines.
White and Thornton shouldnt be the motivators for our team, said McLellan. It should be getting a win and playing properly for a full 60 minutes. Weve played well in a lot of the games, but not for a full 60. Weve made some errors that have cost us.
Still, there is no shortage of things to look for when the puck drops at the Prudential Center in the only meeting between these two clubs this season.
Havlat watch: Sharks fans have been waiting patiently for Martin Havlat to make his season debut. Hes now recovered from his shoulder surgery and should immediately bring more speed and skill to San Joses offense.
And they need it. The Sharks have just five even strength goals this season, while Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture have yet to find the back of the net in any capacity.
Couture is one player who could immediately benefit from Havlats return. Now that hes one of the focal points of the Sharks offense, Couture has had trouble dealing with the extra attention from top opposing defenders. Havlat is slotted to play in the right wing with Couture and Ryane Clowe.
I think well be quicker on the forecheck, get the pucks first in scrums, and Havlats got an explosive first couple of steps where he can find the loose pucks, said Couture. And, his hands are pretty special. Hes a gifted player. Hopefully we can find some chemistry right away and play well tonight.
Another season debut: We touched on this yesterday, but forward Benn Ferriero will see his first NHL game of the season tonight. Ferriero took line rushes again today with Michal Handzus and Torrey Mitchell on the designated third line, but if the Sharks fail to create much offense early on, McLellan could move Ferriero even higher in the lineup.
We need some production from lines one, two and three, and we think that he could move up a line if he had to or two lines, if he had to, said McLellan.
Containing Kovalchuk: Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk has gotten off to a strong start, registering four points in the first four games. He also leads the league in ice time among forwards with more than 27 minutes a game.
The Russian sniper had a goal and an assist against the Sharks the last time these two teams met on Feb. 11 of last season, breaking a 1-1 tie late in the third period.
Whites return: Sharks defenseman Colin White spent the first 10 years of his career in New Jersey, and therefore had never seen the visiting locker room at the Prudential Center. White has gotten off to a so-so start with the Sharks, but hell be on the ice tonight when they try to pick up victory 2.
Its a little different, White said of being at his former home in a different colored jersey.
Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will start in goal for San Jose. Johan Hedberg will be in net for New Jersey, with Martin Brodeur out with a bruised shoulder. Its the third time the Sharks will be facing a backup. The Devils havent played since last Saturday, when they beat Nashville in a shootout.