SAN JOSE One advantage the Sharks will have tonight as they prepare to face the Tampa Bay Lightning is that by playing at home, San Jose will get the last change.
In other words, expect to see Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic out there as much as possible when the NHLs leading scorer, Steven Stamkos, is on the ice.
We dont play them much so I just watch him, but he gets open all the time, said Vlasic of Stamkos, who has 20 goals already this season, and three goals and four assists in his last three games. He has a quick release and a very good shot. Thats what he does. He finds the open spots, and if he has an opening, its going in the net every time.
Todd McLellan cautions against focusing too much on one player, though. Although Martin St. Louis is still out, recovering from a puck to the face earlier this month, Tampa Bay still has some proven veteran scorers like Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone.
Its always important to have that last change, but teams can do other things to get away from that," said the coach. "Its not necessarily Boyle and Vlasic Ive really liked Justin Braun and Colin White, and I think they can defend some of the teams top pairs, as well.
The biggest reason the Lightning have been a disappointment this season is an inability to keep the puck out of their own net. Tampa Bay enters Wednesday night as the 28th-ranked NHL team in goals-against per game (3.28).
Staying hot at home: The Sharks are in the midst of a six-game homestand, and have managed to squeak out a pair of one-goal victories in the first two. After the Lightning, San Jose hosts Los Angeles on Friday, Anaheim next Monday and Vancouver on Dec. 28.
After that, nine of the teams next 13 games will be away from HP Pavilion.
When youre on an extended period of home games you want to win as many as you can. We know how tough it is to win on the road in this league, said Logan Couture. This building is tough for teams to come in and play, and weve got to play well on our home rink. Obviously, winning the first two helps, so weve got to stay on this roll.
The Sharks are 3-1-2 in their last six games, getting eight of a possible 12 points. They have not lost in regulation since a 1-0 defeat on Dec. 10 in St. Louis.
It seems like when you win you hardly make up any ground, but when you lose, you drop out, said Brent Burns. Obviously, its nice to be at home in front of our fans and get that home cookin'.
Improving special teams: Patrick Marleaus power play goal in the third period was the difference in Saturdays 3-2 win over the Oilers, ending a brutal stretch in which the Sharks were just two for their last 35 with a man advantage.
My biggest concern is our special teams play right now, said McLellan. Early in the year, it was obviously the penalty kill, and of late its been a little bit more of the power play.
Since the win over the Oilers, the Sharks enjoyed two practice days on Monday and Tuesday to work on the power play and their 29th-ranked penalty kill unit.
Big power play goal the other night, and a lot of work on special teams once again over the last couple of days, said McLellan. Hopefully, well see the fruits of our labor tonight.
Ferrieros opportunity: Marty Havlats injury will provide a huge chance for recent recall Benn Ferriero to establish himself as an every day player, while Havlat recovers from a left leg injury.
Ferriero, who flew in from Worcester on Monday, will get a look on the wing with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.
Basically, I really just have to try and keep up with them, get the puck to them and let them go to work, Ferriero said after the morning skate. I get the chance to come up here and play with guys like this, its only going to help me.
This is Bennys opportunity, said McLellan. A lot of times, when you bring that type of player up you plop him on the third line or fourth line, and it doesnt always fit what his strengths are. This is his chance to play in a top-six role for a little while."
Its Ferrieros second stint with the Sharks this season. He scored the game-winning goal on Oct. 22 in Boston in a 4-2 Sharks win, but just two games later, was among a group of Sharks benched in the second half of a 4-2 win in Detroit.
I really think hell be fine for three or four games. Its what hes going to do long term, if we keep him here, that will really make it or break it for him.
Odds and ends: Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will update the status of Marty Havlat at 6:15 prior to tonights game. San Jose leads the league in shots per game with 34.2. The Sharks have won their last three home games against the Lightning, including a 5-2 win last November. Antti Niemi will start for the Sharks. Hes s 8-2-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average over his last 10 home games. Mathieu Garon is expected to start in net for the Lightning, as he was the first goalie off in the morning skate.