Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

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Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Sharks Pregame Live begins at 7:00 on CSN California, followed by Sharks-Dallas at 7:30, and Sharks Postgame Live at 10:00.
SAN JOSE Ryane Clowe is back, but Antti Niemi is out. That was the biggest development at Thursdays morning skate at HP Pavilion as the Sharks get set to host the Dallas Stars.

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For Clowe, it will be his first game since missing the last six with a facial fracture. Hes had some run-ins with the physical Stars in the past, but doesnt expect to alter his approach despite the injury.
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I dont think it will change my style. I cant be cautious, Clowe said. I wouldnt play if I felt I had to be timid out there. Ill be my normal self, I think.

The rugged winger is expected to return to his normal place on the second line with Logan Couture on one side, Todd McLellan said. That will likely put Patrick Marleau back on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, while Andrew Desjardins can go back to centering the fourth line.

Marleaus goal against the Blue Jackets ended a six-game scoreless streak for the winger.
Life of a backup: Thomas Greiss will get the call in net, and has been outstanding as the Sharks backup goaltender. His goals-against average is now under two (1.98) after holding the Edmonton Oilers to one regulation goal in a 2-1 shootout loss on Jan. 23.

Thats my job description, thats what Im here for, he said of filling in for Niemi, who suffered a minor injury in practice on Wednesday, on short notice.

Hell also get an opportunity to increase the Sharks current opponent scoreless streak of 158:10. San Jose hasnt allowed a goal since Jordan Eberle beat Greiss in the second period of the game against the Oilers, and Niemi shut out Calgary and Columbus in the next two games.

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The Sharks team defense has been outstanding, too.

Nemo had been playing great but also the defense limiting odd-man rushes. The defense has been great, too, Greiss said.

Tyson Sexsmith, recalled from Worcester, will serve as Greiss backup while Antero Niittymaki has been assigned to the Sharks AHL affiliate.

Dallas could go with backup Richard Bachman tonight, after Kari Lehtonen led the Stars to a 6-2 win in Anaheim last night. Bachman played 11 minutes in relief of Andrew Raycroft, who has since been reassigned to the AHL, in the Stars 5-2 loss in San Jose on Dec. 8 without allowing a goal.

Keep the offense rolling: The Sharks had trouble scoring goals in their games leading into the All-Star break, but exploded for six against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. Several of them came off of bad turnovers and inept play by last place Columbus, but the Sharks were still able to capitalize on their chances.

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Jamie McGinn, who had a goal and an assist to break a personal five-game scoreless streak, was asked how the Sharks could keep the goals coming against Dallas.

We talked about second and third chance opportunities, and you look at a lot of our goals last game, thats where they came from, McGinn said. I think if we do a good job of getting body position on their defense and getting pucks to the paint and whacking away, theyre bound to go in.

San Jose combined for six goals in their previous four games before equaling that number in one game against the Blue Jackets.

Falling Stars: Dallas led the Pacific Division early in the year, but finds itself on the outside looking in today in terms of playoff position. The Stars (26-21-2) have 54 points, putting them in ninth place in the Western Conference, one point behind eighth place Minnesota.

Prior to a pair of regulation wins against the Ducks in the games immediately preceding and following the All-Star break, the Stars had lost six of seven games (1-5-1), with the lone win coming via a shootout over the Kings on Jan. 12.

Should they lose tonight in regulation to the Sharks, the Stars would be a full 10 points behind San Jose for the Pacific Division lead, and could probably wave goodbye to any chance of winning the division.

Interestingly enough, the Stars have been better against the other Pacific Division clubs. They are 0-2 vs. the Sharks this season, but 9-4-0 against the rest of the division, including a 4-1-0 mark with Anaheim.

The Sharks have won both games with Dallas by a combined 9-3 score, but are just 4-5-0 against the rest of the Pacific with a -1 goal differential and have been shut out three times.

In the two games this season, the teams have combined for 134 penalty minutes, including 100 in a 4-1 Sharks win in Dallas on Nov. 19.

Theyre always hard, physical battles against Dallas. Weve come to expect that, McLellan said.

Its always a chippy game against Dallas, McGinn said. They play us hard and we play them hard. Its good to get our competition level up. I think that really helps the team. We expect the same tonight, and well be battling for every opportunity and every goal.
Odds and ends: Jason Demers was placed on injured reserve with a lower body injury. ... Dallas is 0-7-1 in the second of back-to-back games. Logan Couture has a four-game point streak, with six total in that span (3g, 3a). The Sharks have won their last four games against Dallas, outscoring the Stars 21-6 in the process. Joe Thornton has two goals and six assists in his last four games against Dallas. Hes coming off of a two goal, one assist performance against the Blue Jackets. Stars leading scorer Jamie Benn returned last night after missing the previous five games following an emergency appendectomy.

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.