Sharks-Sabres: What to watch for

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Sharks-Sabres: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Its been nearly a month since the San Jose Sharks won back-to-back games. After beating the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, theyll try and do just that for the first time since Jan. 31-Feb. 2 when they host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at HP Pavilion.

They may have to do it without their leading goal-scorer again, too. Logan Couture appeared on the ice with his teammates when the morning skate began, but came off much earlier than normal. Officially, hes a game-time decision. Couture missed his first game of the year on Tuesday with a lower body injury, believed to be a knee, that he sustained on Sunday in Minnesota.

The Sharks will, however, be getting at least one piece back. Dominic Moore played in just one complete game for the Sharks since he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has missed the last four games after blocking a shot in Columbus on Feb. 21.

You come to a new team you want to contribute right away. Its frustrating to not be able to, so Im looking forward to getting back at, Moore said.

Moore is expected to center a third line with Tommy Wingels and TJ Galiardi, with Andrew Desjardins likely coming out of the lineup.

Hes a good option for us to put into our forward group tonight. We look forward to seeing him play, said Jay Woodcroft, once again filling in for an injured Todd McLellan.

Defenseman Douglas Murray (fractured Adams apple) remains out.

New shutdown line? With Daniel Winnik in the fold, he, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski did an admirable job on Tuesday shutting down one of the most dynamic players in the NHL in the Flyers Claude Giroux. Philadelphia entered the game as the highest scoring team in the league, but left with a zero on the board in a 1-0 defeat.

Its a safe assumption that the new linemates will be on the ice against Buffalos Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville as the Sharks will get their desired matchups at home.

All three of those guys bring a lot to the table. Its not just offense, Woodcroft said. Pav is a real ethereal-type intelligent player that can play both ends. Patty obviously is a horse in the middle, and can wear other teams out with his speed and his size through the middle. With Winnik, hes a big body, checking type guy that when were controlling the puck in the offensive zone, its to our advantage.

Last game, that was one of those things we talked about before the game, was to play those guys hard, Marleau said of the matchup with Philly. I think everybody as a team did a good job, and played well defensively.

Goalie matchup: Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller made 43 saves in a 2-0 win over Anaheim last night, and could get the back-to-back assignment tonight Buffalo seeks to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Sabres did not skate at HP Pavilion on Thursday morning.

Antti Niemi is in net for the Sharks, and will be making just his second career appearance against Buffalo. On Dec. 9, 2010, Niemi allowed five goals in a 6-3 Sharks loss.

Miller, who has played in 17 straight games, is 5-1-1 against the Sharks in his career with a 2.24 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Backup Jonas Enroth has never faced San Jose.
More on the Sabres: Buffalo is 4-0-2 in its last six games, climbing to within five points of eighth place in the East. The Sabres are still in 12th place, though, and a longshot to make it to the postseason.

That doesnt mean they arent dangerous, and have some talented weapons in their lineup.

Moore said: Theyre a very strong defensive team and have one of the best goalies in the league. Weve got to continue to play good defensively and wait for our chances.

They have some dimensions on their back end with guys like Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff. Then up front, they are very skilled, Woodcroft said. They have a good power play and can make you pay for mistakes. Our game management, puck management, controlling our controllables is going to be huge tonight.

McLellan still sidelined: Coach Todd McLellan will remain out of action tonight, still feeling the effects of getting whacked with a stick in the head on Sunday in Minnesota.

Woodcraft and Matt Shaw continue to man the bench, although McLellan is still involved in the game-planning process.

Hes going to come back when he feels comfortable behind the bench, Joe Thornton said. Im sure the lights still give him problems, and the sound. A lot of guys in here have been through concussions and you never know how long theyre going to last. We just hope he gets back quick.

Hes getting better. Thats the primary concern of not only Matt and myself, but the whole organization to get Todd better, Woodcroft said.
Odds and ends: This is the only meeting between the Sharks and Sabres this year. Buffalo has won the last three. Joe Thornton has six goals and 15 assists in his last 15 games, and was named as the Sharks player of the month. Buffalo is 17-6-4-1 all-time against the Sharks. San Jose is 11-4-1 against the Eastern Conference. The Sharks lead the NHL in shots per game with 34.4. Buffalo is 4-1-0 against the Pacific Division, but 12-16-1 on the road.

Sharks' Marleau strengthens his case for Hall of Fame with career night

Sharks' Marleau strengthens his case for Hall of Fame with career night

Whether Sharks all-time leading scorer Patrick Marleau is worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame is a subject that can be hotly debated in sports bars throughout North America.

Monday’s performance in Colorado gave some major ammo to the side that argues in his favor.

Marleau had one of the greatest single game performances of his 19-year career, scoring four goals – all in the third period – of the Sharks’ 5-2 win over the Avalanche. 

How rare is four goals in a single period? It’s happened just 12 times, the most recent of which was Mario Lemieux on Jan. 26, 1997 at Montreal, according to Elias. Just five months later, a teenage Marleau would be drafted by the Sharks with the second overall pick.

Marleau spoke with NBCSN and CSN analyst Bret Hedican after the game.

“Everything seemed to click there in the third,” he said. “Some really good plays from a lot of different players. Was able to finish them off.”

What seemed to spark Marleau was a line change by coach Pete DeBoer to start the final frame, after the Sharks had managed just four shots in the second period, and 13 through 40 minutes. Marleau was taken off of the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line, and put on the left side of the Logan Couture line, with Mikkel Boedker on the other wing.

Boedker’s hard work in getting the puck to the point resulted in Marleau redirecting a hard Marc-Edouard Vlasic pass to the front of the net to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.

He scored three more from there: a wraparound, a two-on-one with Pavelski, and a breakaway.

Switching lines is not unfamiliar to Marleau, who has played up and down the Sharks lineup this season after spending most of last season as the third line center.

“I play a bunch of different positions. Over the years you get a little experience and you know how to handle those situations,” Marleau said of his versatility. “It was a fun period.”

Vlasic said: “He was everywhere in the first two periods, and all of a sudden he exploded in the third. … He’s fast, he’s skilled. There’s a reason he can score four.”

Marleau’s second goal of the night was the game-winner, and even that was a bit historic. It was his 96th career game-winning goal, and he’s now tied for 10th all-time in that category with Mats Sundin (courtesy Darin Stephens). He is already one of just three players to have a game-winning goal against 29 other teams (Sundin, Brendan Shanahan), after getting one against Philadelphia on Dec. 30.

Four of Marleau’s five career hat tricks have come on the road, including his most recent one, also at Colorado on Nov. 20, 2011. He is just the third Sharks player to record four goals in a game, joining Owen Nolan and Tomas Hertl, and is the first to do it in a single period.

Marleau now sits just three goals from 500 in his career. Reaching that milestone seemed like a tossup to start the year, but now it’s virtually inevitable that he’ll become just the 45th player to reach that lofty mark before the end of the season.

He remains, of course, the Sharks’ all-time leader in games played (1459) and points (1059).

It all adds up to a few extra strides towards that hockey cathedral in downtown Toronto.

Instant Replay: Marleau's first four-goal game powers Sharks past Avs

Instant Replay: Marleau's first four-goal game powers Sharks past Avs

BOX SCORE

In five consecutive periods against Colorado, the Sharks’ “captains line” of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau had done next to nothing.

But a third period line change sparked one of them. Big time.

After getting bumped to the second line, Marleau scored a career-high four goals, all in the third period, leading the Sharks to a 5-2 win at Pepsi Center on Colorado on Monday.

On the first, Marleau was left alone in front of the net and redirected a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot-pass from the point at 2:53 of the final frame. That gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead.

Marleau’s second of the night came just three minutes and four seconds later. He faked to the net, but quickly shifted behind the cage and tucked it inside the post on his backhand before goalie Spencer Martin could seal it off.

The 19-year-veteran completed the hat trick at 10:35, stepping out of the penalty box and finishing off a two-on-one with Pavelski to push the Sharks’ lead to 4-1.

A goal by Colorado’s Nikita Zadorov brought the Avalanche back to within 4-2, but Marleau’s breakaway goal at 16:23, going from his forehand to his backhand, capped the scoring.

Marleau’s most recent hat trick also came in Colorado on Nov. 20, 2011. It was the fifth of his career, four of which have come on the road, as he upped his career total to 497. 

Only two Sharks have ever recorded four goals in a game – Owen Nolan on Dec. 19, 1995, and Tomas Hertl on Oct. 8, 2013.

The Sharks won a season-high fifth in a row, while Colorado dropped its sixth straight.

Brent Burns’ team-leading 20th goal opened the scoring. After David Schlemko rimmed it around the wall behind the Colorado net, Burns gathered it in and quickly fired it towards the goal from a sharp angle. Martin wasn’t able to stop it with one minute to go in the first period.

Burns continues to lead all NHL defensemen in scoring, and has 13 points in his last nine games (5g, 8a).

Colorado got the equalizer in the second period, when Jarome Iginla buried a seam pass from Mikhail Grigorenko at 10:02 on an Avalanche power play.

There were just eight shots in the second period – four per team – and shots were just 13 apiece at the second intermission.

The Sharks beat Colorado at home on Saturday, 3-2, in the only other meeting between the teams this season.

Special teams:
The Sharks finished 0-for-4 on the power play, including a long five-on-three in the third period. They are just 9-for-76 on the road this season (11.8 percent).

Colorado went 1-for-4.

In goal:
Jones improved to 6-1-0 in his last seven starts, with 26 saves.

Martin, who made his NHL debut on Saturday in San Jose, fell to 0-1-1 in his career with five goals allowed on 24 shots.

Lineup:
The Sharks lost Joonas Donskoi in the first period. He was hammered along the wall by Colorado’s Andreas Martinsen, and seemed to be favoring his right arm as he left the ice. Donskoi missed three games earlier this month with an upper body injury.

Timo Meier made his return to the lineup after missing a pair of games with an upper body injury. He started on the fourth line with Tommy Wingels and Melker Karlsson, while Ryan Carpenter – who had points in each of his last two games – was scratched.

Colorado was without center and second-leading scorer Matt Duchene with a reported flu. The Avalanche were forced to play with just 17 skaters.

Up next:
San Jose makes its first of two visits to Winnipeg on Tuesday night in yet another back-to-back situation. The Sharks, who skated past the Jets 5-2 on Jan. 16 at SAP Center, are 5-3 in the second game when playing on consecutive nights.

Edmonton visits the Sharks on Thursday in their final game before the All-Star break.