Anaheim (9-19-6) vs. Sharks (19-10-3)
at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE The two-day Christmas break could probably have come at a better time for the Sharks.
The team was on a roll after winning its fourth straight game on Friday night, extending the Sharks point streak to six consecutive games (4-0-2). The Sharks, along with every other team in the league, had Saturday and Sunday completely off from hockey.
Theyll try to recapture that momentum tonight at home against the Anaheim Ducks after a 2-1 shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.
Its just about re-establishing our game and the intensity level. Thats the big one, we dont want to waste minutes and want to have a good start, said Joe Pavelski. Just get right back into the flow of things.
The players know these two days are coming up, and as soon as youre done that last game they turn everything off -- which they should. Theyve earned the right to do that, said Todd McLellan. Then, you have to think about all the goodies over Christmas that everybody seems to consume.
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"Physically, it will take a little while for them to adjust, I believe. Most players will tell you one day off is fine, but two days off it takes a little bit longer to get the engine going.
One advantage the Sharks should have over the Ducks is that they didnt have to fly in on the morning of a game, as Anaheim did today -- a rarity for NHL road teams, which are typically required to be in the cities in which they are playing the night before the game.
Other than the two-day break, its just another normal game day for the Sharks. The same can't be said for Anaheim.
Its always nice because you can have a typical game day. You dont have to travel and play on the same day, said Pavelski.
Patrick Marleau said: Im glad Im not the team flying, but I think were all pretty much in the same boat. Everybodys had two days off coming in, and you have to get back in that mindset right away of a hard hockey game.
McLellan, though, pointed out some advantages to being the road team tonight.
Id maybe prefer to be on the road. I think theres too many distractions at home right now, said the coach. Everybody goes home to the Christmas tree again, and there are still toys to be put together and leftovers to finish off. Being on the road and being in a hotel away from everything is sometimes a nice thing.
Still a perfect homestand: The Sharks will try and remain perfect on their six-game stretch at HP Pavilion after winning the first four. San Jose has won three one-goal games over Colorado, Edmonton and Los Angeles in a shootout, as well as a convincing 7-2 victory against a bad Tampa Bay team.
How have they been able to do it?
Were had some pretty good games, I think. Good starts, which were kind of a problem early in the season, said Dan Boyle. Were finding ways to win. Whether it was Tampa, winning 7-2, or grinding it out until the very last second in the L.A. win the other night.
The four-game winning streak comes after the team returned from a 0-1-2 road trip. McLellan saw signs of improvement even then, despite the losses.
We played well enough to win those games, but didnt. Its the old saying that youre coming out of it, but still losing, he said. Weve carried that over here to the homestand.
It cant end now because of a break. It feels like a long time ago since we played, but we have to continue on. Were in no position to give ourselves permission for an extended vacation.
Rivals reunited: The Ducks have just nine wins this season, but two of those came over the Sharks in October. Jonas Hiller shut them out in the Sharks second game of the season, 1-0, on Oct. 14 at Honda Center and won 3-2 at HP Pavilion just three nights later.
That may have been the high point of their season, though. Since that win at HP Pavilion, the Ducks have won just five games and replaced head coach Randy Carlyle with Bruce Boudreau. They also bring a 0-9-4 losing streak on the road into tonights matchup, having not won away from home since Oct. 27 in Minnesota.
Although its been months since theyve seen Anaheim, the Sharks remember those early matchups against their in-state rivals.
It was a little while back, but I just remember that we lost. At the end of the day thats what we all remember, said Boyle. Although theyre struggling in the standings, they seem to get up and get ready to play us all the time so we have to be ready.
McLellan isnt worrying as much about what adjustments the Ducks have made since their coaching change, as he is his own club after the two-day layoff.
Systematically Im sure there are some minor changes that theyve been able to implement that well have to watch out for, but this is probably a game and Im sure Boudreau will tell you this, too you just have to try and establish your own game for at least the first 20 minutes and worry about the other team after that.
Roster update: Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi will make his 14th start in the last 15 games, and will be backed up by Thomas Greiss. Antero Niittymaki will not dress.
In his last 17 stars, Niemi is 11-4-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. In six career games against Anaheim, hes 3-3-0 with a 2.19 GAA and .905 SP.
Jonas Hiller is expected to start for the Ducks. In 14 career regular season games against the Sharks, Hiller is 5-8-0 with a 2.21 GAA and .933 SP.
Sharks defensemen Jim Vandermeer (hand) and Douglas Murray (hand) remain on injured reserve.
Odds and ends: The Ducks are 2-6-2 under Bruce Boudreau. The Sharks lead the NHL in shots per game with 34.5. The Sharks are tied with St. Louis for fewest goals allowed 5-on-5 (42). San Jose has killed off nine of the last 10 power plays against. The Ducks are 1-14-2 when their opponent scores first.