Programming note: Sharks-Ducks coverage gets underway today at 6:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only Comcast SportsNet California.
ANAHEIM – Ryane Clowe won’t suit up against the Ducks on Monday, still suffering from a shoulder injury incurred on Saturday in Los Angeles, while Antti Niemi will return to the crease after getting pulled in the 5-2 loss to the Kings.
Just who will go in and who else will come out is still unclear, as the Sharks held an optional practice on Monday morning at Honda Center, with about half of the team taking the option and staying off.
There were no personnel moves, although Marty Havlat is no longer listed on injured reserve, so it’s a good bet he’ll return. Tim Kennedy is now listed on IR for reasons that weren’t immediately clear.
“No new faces. What we have,” Todd McLellan said of the roster.
Niemi will oppose impressive rookie Viktor Fasth in net, as Fasth has recovered from an upper body injury that had him sidelined for the past week.
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Brent Burns will remain at forward for at least another game. The big defenseman-turned-winger has two goals and three assists in three games up front, including a pair of assists on Saturday in Los Angeles.
“He’s given us a boost, he’s scored some goals, he’s a big load to handle. We like what we’ve seen from him. We’ll continue the experiment tonight, and we’ll see how it goes from here,” McLellan said.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau was asked if he ever tried to turn a defenseman into a forward. It didn’t work out too well with Joe Finley, who was drafted in the first round by the Washington Capitals in 2005.
“We tried to make him into a forward in camp, and it turned out horribly," Boudreau said. "So, now he’s a defenseman with the Islanders.”
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The Ducks are still without Corey Perry, who will be serving the third of a four-game suspension for a late, high hit on Minnesota forward Jason Zucker. Perry has nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points in 25 games with the Ducks this season.
Although not having Perry makes the Ducks offense less dangerous, the club still has nine other players with at least five goals.
“They’re going to miss him, and they do miss him, but they’re able to plug those holes and keep on going,” McLellan said. “That’s a sign of a real good hockey club.”
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The Sharks will face the Ducks in three of their next five games, including a home-and-home on March 25 (here) and 27 (at HP Pavilion).
San Jose will be trying to put its poor effort against the Kings in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible. The Sharks have lost six of seven on the road (1-5-1), and are just 4-8-2 overall.
“Second game of the road trip, we need these points bad,” Scott Gomez said. “This is a big challenge for us.”
Gomez said the Sharks aren’t thinking about any future games with the Ducks past Monday.
“As far as looking ahead on the schedule, no. If we were in their position with the points, probably, but we’re only worried about tonight and that’s all that’s on our mind.”
The Sharks had a stern talking to from their coach on Sunday, as well as a spirited, hard-hitting practice to follow. McLellan will reinforce his message of playing with energy and playing physical before the game.
“Our meeting won’t be much about system play,” he said. “We’ll give them the information that they need. We played Anaheim so many times over the years, that we know their personnel and know what their strengths are. We have a good idea of how they want to play the game, but all of that’s irrelevant if we don’t bring what we have and we don’t put it on the ice. We won’t play with them if we don’t do that.”
Boudreau still considers the Sharks a dangerous team.
“Every game against San Jose is important,” he said. “They’ve gone through a little inconsistent stretch now, but at any given moment they can go seven, or 10-and-0. Especially in our division, you lose all three to the same team, you’re in trouble. Tonight is a big start to how the rest of the games against San Jose are going to go.”
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There’s been speculation that Gomez could be one of the players benched against the Ducks on Monday, after his -4 performace against the Kings. While Gomez certainly can’t be blamed for all four goals scored while he was on the ice, his defensive zone play was sited as a reason by McLellan for his previous stint in the press box in mid-February, when he sat for three of four games.
“It happens. It’s a useless stat until it happens to you,” Gomez said of is plus/minus, which is now a team-worst -10. “I grew up in the Devils’ system and I know people are down on that stat, but at the Devils it was always a big stat.
“I’ve been around too long, nights like that are going to happen. Won’t be the first and won’t be the last. Hopefully, that’s the last time that happens to me as a Shark.”