Sharks-Canucks: What to watch for

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Sharks-Canucks: What to watch for

VANCOUVER (22-12-2) vs. SHARKS (19-11-3)
on Comcast SportsNet California at 7 p.m.

SAN JOSE The Vancouver Canucks are on a roll.

A league-leading power play has helped the Canucks to a 13-3-1 record in their last 17 games, as they visit the Sharks tonight at HP Pavilion. Vancouver sports an even 25-percent success rate with a man advantage, more than three percentage points higher than the second place Nashville Predators (21.6 percent).

Theyve got different looks. Obviously, the Sedins are pretty creative out there, defenseman Dan Boyle said. Theyre a big reason for it, but the guys on the blue line can shoot the puck pretty good. They have a lot of skill and a lot of creativity out there.

The identical twins Boyle is referring to, Henrik and Daniel, have identical power play numbers as well. The Canucks leading scorers each have six goals and 12 assists when on a man advantage.

They support each other really well and read off of each other, Douglas Murray said. They have solutions for a lot of situations they get into, and theyre creative.

RELATED: Handzus mentoring McGinn toward career year

Still, the Canucks have failed to score a power play goal in six of their last seven games, going 2-for-15 over that span. That could help the Sharks penalty kill gain confidence, which is still 28th in the league at 75.2 percent and dead last at home (72.1 percent).

Todd McLellan would rather not give the Canucks a chance to get their power play humming again, though. Discipline will be key, as far as staying out of the penalty box.

Check properly, use your legs instead of your stick, dont reach, no retaliation, that type of stuff, said the coach.

On the other side, the Sharks power play has struggled since they last saw the Canucks on Nov. 26 a 3-2 win for Vancouver at HP Pavilion. San Jose entered that game with the fifth ranked power play in the league at 22.2 percent, but a 4-for-45 stretch over the last 14 games has dropped them down to 13th in the NHL (18 percent).

What happened?

Lack of opportunity, and we havent earned enough power play chances in the game to gather any type of rhythm, McLellan said.

Murrays return: Murray will return to the Sharks lineup tonight after missing the last 10 games with a right hand injury. But, he didnt want to admit that to a Vancouver reporter this morning.

Its actually my left toe, not my wrist, so you can report that over there, he joked.

The beneficial part of Murrays injury is that hes been able to keep up his cardio, so McLellan wont have to limit his minutes against Vancouver.

I dont think hell have any issue physically, McLellan said. Hes probably skated more now than he has in his life. His fitness part of it and the ability to play the minutes is fine. It will be his reads, his anticipation, his puck skills. Tough team to come back against, but I dont worry about his lungs or his legs at all.

Murray said: Theyre a hot team right now, so you might as well get going and get your legs moving right away.

Targeting McGinn? Sharks forward Jamie McGinn was labeled a Canuck hunter after the previous game, when he knocked Canucks defenseman Alex Edler from the game with a hard check along the boards.

Edler didnt miss any time after that, but after what McGinn did to Vancouver in last years Western Conference finals, is he worried about any retaliation tonight?
RELATED: McGinn labeled a 'Canuck hunter' by Vancouver newspaper

Not so much.

Im just going to continue playing my game, and I think those were pretty clean hits, and it was just a freak accident that they got hurt, McGinn said. Im just going to continue to do what I do, and play hard.

McGinn has been providing valuable secondary scoring for the Sharks recently, with six goals and three assists in his last 12 games.

Finishing strong at home: The Sharks conclude their six-game homestand tonight looking for their fifth win.

A 5-1 record looks much healthier than 4-2, especially when you consider that the Sharks will have four days off between tonights game and Jan. 2 when they visit Vancouver.

That would be huge for us. Five out of six looks a whole lot better than four out of six, McGinn said. I think its critical to have a great home record, especially in front of these fans. Theyre great every year and we want to reward them with wins.

McLellan sounds like hell hammer home that point to his team prior to the game.

We know that anything less than an A-game will send us on the road with a 4-2 record. An A-game gives us an opportunity to be successful. Just like going on the Christmas break, youd like to leave your home arena when you leave on a road trip with a win, he said.

Thats what were showing up for and thats what were going to compete for, and at the end of the night we want to look up at the scoreboard and make sure that happens.

Odds and ends: Roberto Luongo will face Antti Niemi in net. Cory Schneider got the win on Nov. 26 for Vancouver, making 43 saves. Luongo is 8-1-1 in his last 10 games. Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture are tied for the Sharks team lead in goals with 15 each. Colin White is out for the Sharks with a lower body injury. Aaron Rome (thumb) and David Booth (knee) remain out for Vancouver.

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

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Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

SAN JOSE – Despite what was technically their sixth loss in the last eight games, the Sharks seemed to put more stock in the point they gained in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins on Sunday night at SAP Center, rather than the one they left on the table.

They have that luxury. 

The Sharks will enter their bye week five points ahead of Edmonton and Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and figure they’re due for some time off after a short summer followed by a World Cup for some, and a brutal condensed NHL schedule for all.

“[We’ve] showed up and played hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “We’ve been in a lot of games. Games we’ve lost, we’ve battled. There hasn’t been any cheat in [our] game. Defensively, we’ve been strong. There’s a lot of good areas in our game that we like right now.”

Playing in the second of a back-to-back against a Bruins team had was coming off of its own bye week, the Sharks fell behind 1-0 on a first period goal by Ryan Spooner, but notched a Patrick Marleau equalizer in a second period in which they outshot the Bruins 16-9. An evenly played third period gave way to overtime, where Brad Marchand scored on a breakaway to give the Bruins their fourth straight win since changing head coaches.

The Sharks spoke before the weekend about finishing the final two games strong before the respite. They ended up gaining three of four points, including Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona, and were pleased with their effort against the Bruins as they capped off 10 games in 20 days since the All-Star break.

“It was an important push into this break,” Pete DeBoer said. “To go in up [five points] on the next closest team is a real testament to our group.”

Paul Martin said: “I thought we played pretty well, considering the back-to-back with some travel, and a team that was waiting for us.”

Perhaps the most encouraging performance came from Martin Jones, who was one of a number of Sharks players that was looking particularly fatigued lately. The goaltender entered the game with a 1-0-2 record, 4.46 goals-against average and .837 save percentage in his last four starts, including getting pulled after the first period in Boston just 10 days ago.

Jones was impressive, though, making a vital pad stop on the dangerous David Pastrnak in front of the net midway through the third period to keep it a 1-1 score.

“It was a good game. Two teams playing hard,” Jones said. “We can take a lot of positives from that one. It was a good hard game, just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Overtimes have been an issue lately, though. The Sharks have lost their last four games decided during the three-on-three, all coming within the last two weeks. As satisfied as they are with their cushion in the division, it could have been cushier.

Against the Bruins, Tuukka Rask denied Brent Burns on a two-on-one in overtime, and Marchand scored off of the ensuing faceoff, blowing the zone past Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and corralling a long toss from Torey Krug before sliding it home.

“We get to overtime, shootouts – we expect to get that extra point,” Pavelski said. “We haven’t found it lately. We’ll just keep looking for it.”

DeBoer said: “The points are critical, they’re valuable. I don’t read a lot into [overtime decisions], we’ve won our share over the time I’ve been here. We had a chance to win tonight, too. … I concentrate on the effort, and I thought we got better as the game went on.”

Being focused and energized, as they have been most of the season to this point, shouldn’t be a problem when the season resumes next Saturday in Vancouver. The Sharks are in prime position to win their first division title since 2010-11, and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a distinct possibility.

Losing six of eight won’t be nearly as acceptable coming out of the break as it apparently is going into it, but that’s not something to worry about now, even after another defeat. 

“There are some games you wish you could get back and get those points, but we’re still in a good spot,” Marleau said.

Instant Replay: Bruins score in overtime, send Sharks to the break with a loss

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USATSI

Instant Replay: Bruins score in overtime, send Sharks to the break with a loss

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – The Boston Bruins skated past the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at SAP Center, 2-1 in overtime.

Brad Marchand’s breakaway goal after the Bruins won a defensive zone faceoff gave Boston the win, as Torey Krug found the forward charging towards the San Jose net. Marchand slipped the puck through Martin Jones’ five hole at 2:36.

San Jose has dropped its last four games decided in the three-on-three.

The Sharks lost for the sixth time in their last eight games (2-1-5), headed into the bye week. They will not play or practice from Monday through Friday, and resume their season on Saturday in Vancouver.

Boston extended its winning streak to four games since firing Claude Julien and naming Bruce Cassidy the interim head coach. The streak began with a 6-3 win over the Sharks at TD Garden on Feb. 9.

The Bruins were just the fourth team of 20 to win the first game after their bye week (4-12-4).

Boston scored the only goal in the first period, while the Sharks answered with a second period tally.

Ryan Spooner’s marker at 11:05 of the opening frame put Boston ahead. An Adam McQuaid point shot found Jimmy Hayes in the slot, and after Hayes fired wide of the net, Spooner tucked in the loose puck.

San Jose turned up the pressure late in the second, finally resulting in a goal by Patrick Marleau. During a four-on-four situation, Brent Burns’ wrist shot deflected right to Marleau’s tape, and he easily flipped in his 502nd career goal at 17:37.

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer shortened his bench for the third period, leaving Mikkel Boedker and Nikolay Goldobin planted on the pine. Melker Karlsson took Boedker’s place on the second line, while Chris Tierney skated on the third line with Tomas Hertl and Joel Ward.

The Sharks are 6-3-1 in the second half of back-to-backs.

Special teams

Each team had just one power play in the game, failing to convert.

The Sharks are 3-for-24 on the power play over their last eight games (12.5 percent), but a perfect 8-for-8 on the PK in their last five.

In goal

Jones was facing the Bruins just 10 days after he was pulled to start the second period in Boston when he allowed three goals on 12 shots. He allowed two goals on 27 shots.

Tuukka Rask made 29 saves for the win.

Lineup

The Sharks’ lineup was unchanged from Saturday’s win in Arizona, other than the goaltender. Goldobin played in his second game of the season.

Joe Thornton remains two assists away from 1000 in his career. His five-game point streak came to an end.

Burns had 20 shot attempts, including seven on net.

Up next

Saturday’s game in Vancouver begins a stretch where the Sharks will play their final 22 games over a 43-day span. On Feb. 2, they won the first of five meetings with the Canucks, 4-1 at Rogers Arena.

Vancouver, which hosted Philadelphia on Sunday, also has its bye week from Feb. 20-24.