Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

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Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Coverage of the Predators vs. Sharks begins with Sharks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m., and the game is immediately followed by Sharks Postgame Live. Watch it all on Comcast SportsNet California.

SAN JOSE If the Sharks deserve a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, well, now is the time to prove it.

The team is as healthy as its been all season, as its getting Marty Havlat back tonight after a three-month absence, and will play six of its next seven games at home as it tries to secure a place in the postseason tournament. The Sharks (34-25-10, 78 points) enter Thursdays game with the Predators (41-21-7, 89 points) on the outside looking in two points back of eighth place Colorado, and tied for ninth with Calgary and Los Angeles.
NEWS: Sharks activate Havlat, will face Nashville

If this is not the time, theres no other time, Ryane Clowe said. We know weve got a couple games in hand, so weve got to win those games and take care of our own business.

Weve got to get some consistency and a streak going at home here. Thats something we probably havent had all year. Get on a hot streak at home, and youve got to win those home games. Were looking forward to this.

It has been a miserable six weeks for the Sharks, who just concluded a four-game road trip with a 1-1-2 mark. San Jose has just one win in its last six games (1-3-3), and three in the last 15 (3-8-4).

We know whats ahead of us. I keep telling you that all along. We believe with the games that we have left we can control where we end up, or at least the input into the games, Todd McLellan said. Cant always control the results the other team has a say in that but we can control what goes into the games and we look forward to that opportunity.

Preds among NHL's best: The Predators have no worries when it comes to making the playoffs, as Nashville is in third place in the loaded Central Division and fifth overall in the West.

Unlike the Sharks, the Predators acquisitions at and before the trade deadline have paid dividends. Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad and Hal Gill all help make the Predators a popular sleeper pick to win the Stanley Cup. Kostitsyn has three goals and three assists for six points in his first six games with Nashville, while Gaustad has three assists in five games.

They are 2-1-0 against the Sharks in the season series so far, with tonights game the fourth and final head-to-head matchup.

Joe Thornton said: Theyre just very competitive. Have got great goaltending, solid D, depth up front. This is going to be a big challenge for us tonight.

We know theyre a good team. The first thing you look at is their goaltending. Weve got to get to him tonight, said Clowe, referring, of course, to Nashvilles star netminder, Pekka Rinne.

The Sharks won 3-1 at Nashville on Oct. 21, but lost at home in overtime on Nov. 5, 4-3. The most recent matchup came on San Jose's miserable nine-game road trip, when it lost 6-2 at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 25.

Where are the goals? The Sharks have just eight goals in their last 12 games, and have gotten hardly any recent contributions outside of big guns Joe Thornton (1g, 5a in last three games) and Logan Couture (3g in last three games).

In the last eight games, Clowe has a single goal; Joe Pavelski has a goal and an assist, while Patrick Marleau has a goal and two assists.

Clowe, who is expected to play with Marleau and Havlat on the second line, hopes Havlats return sparks more offense.

With Marty back our lines are fitting in pretty nice right now. I think its going to be a pretty good time for us to make a move and show our depth, he said.

Niemi to get ninth straight start: McLellan said before the Calgary game on Tuesday that Antti Niemi is his go-to guy" at the "go-to time of year, so its no surprise that Niemi will get his ninth straight start tonight against Nashville.

In eight career games against the Predators, Niemi is 4-3-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average but just an .899 save percentage.

Rinne, of course, goes for Nashville. Hes 5-2-3 in 11 career games against the Sharks, with a 2.43 GAA and .932 SP.
Lineup look: Tommy Wingels remains out for the Sharks with an upper body injury that he said is not related to his nine-game absence earlier this year. He skated with the team on Monday, but offered no timetable for his return.

The Sharks defense will likely remain unchanged from the last two games, with Colin White and Jim Vandermeer sitting out. Based on the morning skate, Michal Handzus and Brad Winchester will also be healthy scratches.

The Predators remain without defenseman Kevin Klein.

Odds and ends: Nashville is 2-0-1 in its last three visits to San Jose. The Predators won in Phoenix on Monday, 5-4 in a shootout, despite surrendering a 4-2 lead in the third period. San Jose is without a power play goal in its last four home games (0-for-8). Other games to watch tonight are Colorado at New Jersey, and Phoenix at Calgary.

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

SAN JOSE – For at least one night, the Sharks’ depth players – most of which have been missing in action for weeks – found the scoresheet against the Rangers in a 5-4 overtime win on Tuesday.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The Sharks were playing their first of what will surely be at least a few games without center Logan Couture, and are still in the hunt for a Pacific Division title with four of their six remaining games against Edmonton and Calgary – teams they are trying to fend off to earn home ice in the first round. And, of course, they ended a wretched six-game losing streak in which they never had a lead in any of the defeats.

Coach Pete DeBoer mentioned earlier in the week that the coaching staff had challenged the depth players to do more, especially now that their second line center is out indefinitely. The response on Tuesday included two goals from Chris Tierney (including a late game-tying score), one goal and one assist from Jannik Hansen, a shorthanded goal by Melker Karlsson, two assists from Mikkel Boedker, and an assist from Tomas Hertl.

Consider the challenge met.

“We want to score. All the depth guys know, and talked about stepping up,” Tierney said. “It's good that we broke through tonight, especially with Logan out of the lineup. We're going to have to keep doing it throughout the playoffs."

DeBoer said the internal challenge “didn’t involve much more than just ‘Hey, we need some contributions from you.’ We can’t always look to the big guys to get the job done. We got that tonight. Those guys got on the board. It’s never a lack of effort with that group, but we’re the sum of our parts. We need those guys to get on the board for us on a regular basis and they did that tonight.”

It was also surely welcomed that one of their big guys – perhaps their biggest – got the overtime winner. Brent Burns had been mired in a 16-game drought without a goal, but his slap shot got through Henrik Lundqvist half-a-minute into an overtime power play.

While the depth guys will need to continue to produce, the Sharks are going to need more from Burns, too, as the postseason approaches. The defenseman had been kept off of the scoresheet in nine of 10 games from March 5 – 21, but now has one point in each of his last three games. That’s a good sign.

Getting a goal was particularly nice, as was ending the losing skid.

“Yeah on both accounts,” Burns said. “That was a big win, especially coming back, staying resilient, getting that big goal there at the end.”

Still, with all that went right, the game was far from perfect. The Sharks allowed a 3-1 second period lead to turn into a 4-3 deficit in just a span of five minutes and seven seconds, indicating they’re still a bit fragile. Derek Stepan made it 3-2 late in the second with a power play goal, Jesper Fast scored on a deflection early in the third, and J.T. Miller gave New York its first lead of the night less than five minutes into the final frame.

“There’s still room for improvement, definitely,” Joe Pavelski said.

Still, the Sharks fought back for Tierney’s late game-tying goal with less than two minutes in regulation, setting up Burns’ overtime heroics. 

The captain sensed some displeasure from the home fans due to the blown lead, something he surely understood, but indicated that the energy level on the Sharks’ bench was still high.

“Whether you think, like, ‘Here we go again’ or not – I’m sure someone in this building thought that tonight,” Pavelski said. “Guys just kind of stuck with it, and we believed we would tie it up tonight.”

Getting that extra point in overtime brought a sense of relief.

“When you lose six straight, it's obviously a relief when you win one,” Martin Jones said. “But win or lose, we played a lot better tonight.”

 

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Despite blowing a two-goal lead, the Sharks found a way to tie their game with the Rangers late and win it in overtime, 5-4, to end their losing streak at six games on Tuesday night at SAP Center.

After New York had turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead, Chris Tierney knotted the score with just 2:15 left in regulation. Mikkel Boedker’s shot from high in the zone rattled around the slot, and Tierney was there to flip it home for his second of the night.

Brent Burns ended a 16-game goal drought with a power play goal at 3:10 in overtime, overpowering Henrik Lundqvist with a slap shot.

After Tierney had given San Jose a 3-1 lead earlier in the second period the Sharks kept up the pressure, recording seven of the next eight shots. But Patrick Marleau’s interference penalty on Jimmy Vesey gave New York a late power play and turned the game in their favor.

Derek Stepan – who was stopped on a partial breakaway midway through the first period – brought the Rangers back to within 3-2. Mats Zuccarello hummed a seam pass through Justin Braun to Stepan, who had an open net to deposit his 16th of the season in the final minutes of the second period.

In the third, Jesper Fast redirected a Brady Skjei floater at 1:24, tying the game at 3-3. A Burns tripping minor during four-on-four play offered a power play to the Rangers, and they capitalized on a J.T. Miller one-timer at 4:44, his second of the night.

The Sharks remain two points back of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and are tied with Edmonton for second.

For the first time in eight games the Sharks struck first. A newly configured third line of Tomas Hertl, Boedker and Jannik Hansen scored on its first shift together, as Hansen chopped in a loose puck at 1:44. Boedker and Hertl both got assists, ending pointless streaks of 10 games and 12 games, respectively.

Hansen’s first goal as a Shark also gave the team its first lead in more than two weeks, as it never led throughout its six-game regulation losing streak.

The Rangers tied it at 13:30 of the first on a goal by Miller, who took the puck from Paul Martin along the wall and lifted a perfectly placed wrist shot over Martin Jones’ near shoulder.

Melker Karlsson, returning from an eight-game absence, put the Sharks ahead 2-1 late in the first period with a shorthanded score. He whizzed a wrist shot past countryman Lundqvist at 18:01 while on a two-on-one with Tierney.

Tierney increased the lead to 3-1 in the middle frame, taking a shot from the slot and following up his own rebound at 11:38. It was just his second goal in the last 22 games, and eighth of the year.

The Rangers won the only other game of the season series back on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden, 7-4. The Sharks finished the season with a 21-7-4 mark against Eastern Conference clubs.

The Sharks were without Logan Couture, who is out indefinitely with a facial injury.

Special teams

Two of New York’s goals came on the power play, on three opportunities. The Sharks are 11-for-15 on the PK in the last six games.

San Jose had just one power play before overtime, failing to score. Karlsson’s marker was his second shorthanded score of the season, and the Sharks’ seventh as a team.

In goal

After allowing a career high seven goals-against on Saturday in Nashville, Jones made 24 saves on 28 shots.

Lundqvist suffered the loss with 30 saves on 35 shots.

Lineup

Micheal Haley served a one-game suspension for punching Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday.

Tierney (upper body) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (flu) both returned after missing Saturday’s game with the Predators. Marcus Sorensen came out of the lineup for Kevin Labanc, who was recalled on Tuesday morning and skated on the top line.

New York’s Skjei had three assists.

Up next

The Sharks have six games remaining in the regular season – two each against Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

A three-game road trip against each of those division rivals begins on Thursday with the Oilers, as the clubs battle for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and continues on Friday against the Flames and Sunday versus the Canucks.