Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for

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Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Detroit Red Wings werent very pleased after their 2-1 loss on Tuesday in St. Louis. The Sharks didnt like their mental approach to Saturdays 3-0 shutout loss to Phoenix.

One of them still wont be content after tonight, when the rival clubs meet for the second time this season and first at HP Pavilion.

Neither of us played the game we wanted to in our last outing, said Todd McLellan. Somebodys going to fix it tonight, and somebody wont.

One thing the Sharks would like to do, especially at home, is score the first goal. In eight home games this season, San Jose has jumped out to a 1-0 lead just twice. Overall, the Sharks are 5-0 when they open the scoring.

Saturdays loss to Phoenix was a good example why it's a focus for the Sharks. After taking an early lead, the Coyotes were able to clog up the neutral zone and not take as many chances offensively, while playing in front of a strong goaltender that plays the puck well in Mike Smith.

Something we need to work on is our starts, said Logan Couture. We find ourselves behind too often, especially here at home. Its a tough rink to play in for other teams, so we have to start getting the first goal.

The stats, maybe more this year than any other year, bear fruit to scoring first and playing with a lead, said McLellan. We saw the other day how a team can quickly get a one or two goal lead, clamp down and play good defensively. The goaltending is superior, and its hard to come back in that situation.

The Sharks were able to score first against the Red Wings on October 28 on a Ryane Clowe power play goal, when they beat Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, 4-2.

Keep Wings' PP frustrated: The Red Wings have not won a road game since Oct. 15, although, to be fair, they have played just four games away from home in that span.

Still, a win at raucous HP Pavilion could be just what they need to put their early road struggles behind them.

As a player you circle these games in your mind. You feel the rivalry, especially with these guys playing them the last two years in the playoffs and us beating them, said Couture. Im sure in that dressing room they really want to beat us, and the feeling is mutual.

One big reason the Red Wings have only won two of six road games is the power play. When they arent at Joe Louis Arena, they have converted just two of 24 chances with a man advantage. Thats tied for 28th in the NHL.

Overall, the Red Wings' power play is just 14.3 percent, or 21st in the league.

It will come to life, I just hope that happens later on in the week and not tonight, said McLellan.

Conversely, the Sharks much-maligned penalty kill has been better its last two outings, killing off three chances apiece against Phoenix on Saturday and Minnesota last Thursday.

According to Michal Handzus, the penalty-killers are succeeding due to more play as a unit and not as many breakdowns, he said.

Like McLellan, Handzus isnt looking at the Red Wings lackluster power play stats.

They are very dangerous, it doesnt really matter what happened before, he said. They have great players and two good units. We have to worry about ourselves. The last two games weve been better, and we want to build on that.
Defensive changes: As mentioned in an earlier Sharks Talk post, Jason Demers will be inserted back into the lineup in place of Justin Braun. Demers hasnt played since Oct. 31 in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

RELATED: Demers nervous, but ready to return

For the Red Wings, they are still dealing with a broken cheekbone injury to Ian White, who did not make the trip. The recently recalled Brendan Smith, all of 22 years old, will play in his first NHL game and hes had plenty of time to watch San Jose as an observer.

I really enjoy watching the Sharks. They are such a great team, said Smith. Just knowing a little more of their tendencies and stuff is going to help me defensively and offensively.

Hitting the reset button: The Sharks had plenty of time to stew over their loss against Phoenix on Saturday, but it also gave them a welcome break in the schedule with four days off between games.

A veteran like Dan Boyle, who had a game to forget against the Coyotes with a -3 rating and turnover leading directly to a goal against, was glad to get some practice time and some rest.

For me, it was a reset button, said Boyle. We went through a pretty good streak and then had a pretty bad game against Phoenix. It was time to press the reset button here and start over.

Odds and ends: Joe Thorntons two goals led the way in the 4-2 win in Detroit on Oct. 28. The Red Wings had won four straight before losing to the Blues on Tuesday, in what was the first of a four-game road trip. The Sharks conclude a six-game homestand tonight, and are 3-1-1 through the first five. Patrick Marleau has five points in the last three games. Along with White, the Red wings will be without Todd Bertuzzi, who is on IR with a sinus infection that has caused dizziness.

Sharks Jones, Tierney find more success in Vancouver in 4-1 win

Sharks Jones, Tierney find more success in Vancouver in 4-1 win

VANCOUVER – One of the more appealing NHL road cities, Vancouver dazzles with its beautiful mountain scenery and walkable downtown avenues.

The Sharks undoubtedly relish those aspects of their trips to British Columbia, but more importantly they’ve enjoyed them on a professional basis, too. San Jose won its 10th straight game at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1, kicking off the final push to the playoffs with a victory coming out of the bye week.

“I think we definitely got better as the game went on, and that’s what you’re looking for,” said Mikkel Boedker, who was one of four Sharks’ goal scorers. “We came out with the win.”

Two Sharks in particular have enjoyed their recent excursions into Vancouver. 

Martin Jones was the best player on the ice, making 35 saves in his hometown. He was relied upon early as the Sharks predictably struggled to get their legs underneath them in what was their first game since last Sunday.

Jones made an impressive stop on Loui Eriksson in the first period, and in the second he stopped Jannik Hansen from point blank range with the Sharks holding a 1-0 lead. Later in the second, it was saves on Alex Edler and Hansen again that preserved San Jose’s 2-1 lead at the intermission. Vancouver was outshooting the Sharks 30-16 after 40 minutes, but trailed.

The Sharks rewarded their goalie with scores by Boedker and Logan Couture on the power play to make the final few minutes of the third period relatively easy.

“When [Jones] plays like that it gives us confidence, and we’ve just got to stick with it and keep creating chances, and we did that tonight,” said Boedker, who snapped a 19-game goal drought.

“[Jones] was our best player tonight,” coach Pete DeBoer said.

Jones improved to a perfect 4-0 in Vancouver, all in a San Jose sweater, with a 1.25 goals-against average and .959 save percentage. He spent the bye week in the area, and had several supporters in the stands.

“It’s always fun playing in front of friends and family,” Jones said. “Happy to get the win here.”

Chris Tierney is another player who seems to thrive in Vancouver. He notched a pair of assists and centered the team's most effective line, after getting his first career two-goal game here earlier this month.

His new line, featuring wingers Tomas Hertl and Joel Ward, opened the scoring in the second period, with Hertl finishing off a pass from Tierney after Ward’s breakaway attempt crept just wide of the net. Later, Tierney got a secondary assist on Patrick Marleau’s second period goal, restoring the Sharks' lead at 2-1.

“They did a good job. I thought some of those guys had our better legs early,” DeBoer said of his third line. “It took some of our veteran guys a little longer to get into it.”

Tierney, who was scoreless in eight straight games since his last time at Rogers Arena on Feb. 2, said: “I thought we generated some good chances. I think we can get better, too. We kind of talked on the bench throughout the game of what we can kind of do to improve and where each other is going to be on the ice, but it felt good playing with those guys. It’s easy to create offense with them.”

In seven career games in Vancouver, Tierney has four goals and three assists for seven points.

“Something about the Vancouver air, or Canadian air,” he said. “I always feel good when I play here.”

After dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to Boston in their final game before the break, the Sharks had a five-point lead over the rest of the division headed into a week off. Saturday’s win pushes the lead back up to five points again on Anaheim and Edmonton, and they now have games in hand on both of those teams, too.

It all adds up to a good start in what is the final stretch before the postseason, and a quest for a division title. Overall, the Sharks are 3-0-3 in their last six games, and have just one regulation loss in their last 11 (5-1-5).

“It’s huge, that’s what you play the regular season for,” said Boedker, when asked about the Sharks padding their lead. “You keep trying to gain as many points as you can, and lately we’ve had some overtime losses, but we keep gaining points.”

Instant Replay: Sharks blow past Canucks in first game back from break

Instant Replay: Sharks blow past Canucks in first game back from break

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER – Playing for the first time since their bye week, the Sharks scored two goals in each of the final two periods to down the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1.

San Jose improved to 11-2-5 in its last 18 games, and increased its lead in the Pacific Division to five points over Anaheim and Edmonton.

After a lackluster first period without much action, the Sharks opened the scoring in the second.

Joel Ward took advantage of some confusion at the Vancouver bench, plowing ahead untouched for a breakaway. His attempt squirted just wide, but Chris Tierney pushed the loose puck to the front of the net where Tomas Hertl pounded it home at 3:31.

Vancouver tied it later. Brent Burns’ defensive zone turnover resulted in Daniel Sedin buzzing in a wrist shot short side on Martin Jones at 12:02.

The Canucks had a chance to take the lead on the power play later, after Micheal Haley jumped Joseph Labate for hammering Melker Karlsson along the wall. Bo Horvat was staring at an empty net, but fired the puck high with four minutes to go in the middle frame.

That allowed the Sharks to reclaim the lead on Patrick Marleau’s 22nd goal. The forward was set up beautifully by David Schlemko, who passed the puck through the seam, confusing Ryan Miller and allowing Marleau to tuck it in at 19:04.

Jones, who was outstanding for the duration of the game, made a key stop on Alex Edler’s wrist shot from the top of the circle with 20 seconds to go, keeping it a 2-1 San Jose advantage after two.

Mikkel Boedker added to the Sharks’ lead at 11:31, whooshing a wrist shot past Miller on two-on-one with Logan Couture. The goal, Boedker’s first in 20 games, was unassisted after defenseman Ben Hutton gave the puck away to the San Jose winger.

Couture capped the scoring with a power play goal, picking the top corner from the faceoff dot at 14:20.

Karlsson returned to start the third period. Early in the third, Labate answered the bell and fought Brenden Dillon, with Dillon seemingly landing more punches.

Vancouver was without five players due to a mumps outbreak in their dressing room, while defenseman Luca Sbisa did not finish the game due to the stomach flu.

The Sharks won their 10th straight game in Vancouver, including both this season, increasing what was already the longest winning streak ever by a Canucks home opponent. The road team has won 15 in a row, extending an NHL record.

Special teams

The Sharks capitalized on their only advantage of the evening, scoring just their second power play goal in the last five games (2-for-13).

Vancouver finished 0-for-2 on the power play, with both of its advantages in the second period. The Sharks are 10-for-10 on the PK over the last six games.

In goal

Jones, a North Vancouver native, improved to 4-0 in his career at Rogers Arena with 35 saves. He’s 29-15-6 on the season, starting 51 of the Sharks’ 61 games.

Miller fell to 16-18-3 on the season, allowing four goals on 26 shots. He’s 10-6-0 in his long career against San Jose.

Lineup

The Sharks were carrying just 12 healthy forwards, as Joonas Donskoi did not make the trip after coming down with the flu. Donskoi, who has been out since Jan. 24 after suffering an upper body injury, is close to a return.

Barclay Goodrow played in his second game of the season, skating on the fourth line.

Vancouver defenseman Evan McEnany was making his NHL debut, while Labate was playing in just his fourth career game.

Up next

The Sharks return home to host the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, and see the Canucks again on Thursday at SAP Center.

Saturday’s game in Vancouver kicked off a stretch of 22 games over 43 days before the playoffs.