Programming note: Jets-Sharks coverage begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE – Alex Stalock will be in net, and Mike Brown will likely return from a previously undisclosed injury when the Sharks face the surging Winnipeg Jets on Thursday at SAP Center.
Stalock, 6-2-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average and .938 save percentage, will be making just his second career home start. On Dec. 21 vs. Dallas, he made 33 saves in a 3-2 shootout win. Since then, Stlaock backstopped the Sharks to wins in Chicago on Jan. 5 and shut out the Panthers in Florida on Jan. 16.
The 26-year-old was asked if he’s still getting used to playing at SAP Center.
“Maybe a little bit. But, I’ve been watching for so many games in this rink,” Stalock said. “You know how the crowd is when they get behind you. … Opposing teams don’t like playing in this rink.”
Brown revealed he has been battling through an injury since Jan. 14 at Washington, when he got in a spirited fight with the Capitals’ Aaron Volpatti.
“It was more of a recovery – the neck a little stiff,” Brown said. “Didn’t want to go out there and [do nothing]. When I go out there, I’ve got to play the way I play and that’s a hard-nosed, physical game. If something’s bothering me like that, I’m not going to contribute the way I can.”
Brown will likely replace James Sheppard on the fourth line, based on the morning skate. Defensemen Scott Hannan (head injury) and recent recall Taylor Doherty will also be scratched, as Hannan suffered a setback after the morning skate on Monday.
The Jets are 4-0 since Paul Maurice took over for Claude Noel, outscoring teams 16-7. They gave the Anaheim Ducks their first regulation loss on home ice on Tuesday, 3-2, after securing wins over Phoenix, Calgary and Edmonton.
“I think the biggest thing is just they look a little more confident,” Todd McLellan said. “The eraser came out. It was a fresh start for a lot of players, from the goaltender on out.
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“They haven’t had a significant amount of time to change a large part of their game. I’m sure they’ve made some adjustments, but the players just look like they’re a little more confident right now. Winning does that for you. Usually you get that bump from a coach’s change.”
The Sharks enjoyed their first complete, two-day break at home for the first time since Christmas with an optional skate on Tuesday, a full practice on Wednesday, and another optional skate on Thursday.
There are nine games between Thursday’s matchup with the Jets and the Olympic break, which begins after a home meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 7. The Sharks won’t have consecutive days off between games until that point.
“Earlier in the year, where we’re still working on our game, we’re still using it as practice. Now it’s time to conserve energy to get to the Olympic break,” McLellan said.
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Opposing Stalock in net will be Ondrej Pavalec, perhaps the most improved Jets player since Maurice took over. Pavalec has been in net for each of the Jets’ four straight wins, allowing seven goals on 105 shots for a .933 save percentage.
The Jets are 7-3-1 against Pacific Division teams.
In line image of Mike Brown provided by The Associated Press