Sharks-Blue Jackets: What to watch for


Sharks-Blue Jackets: What to watch for

Columbus (10-23-5) vs. Sharks (21-11-4) at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks host the Columbus Blue Jackets at home tonight, looking to extend their winning streak to three games. After sweeping a mini-road trip with wins in Vancouver on Monday and Anaheim last night, the Sharks have points in nine of their last 10 games overall and lead the Pacific Division with 46 points.

Greiss to start: Its been more than a month since Antti Niemi has vacated the Sharks crease, but Thomas Greiss will get the call in net against the Blue Jackets. Greiss hasnt played since Dec. 3 when San Jose lost at home to the Florida Panthers, 5-3.

In eight games this season, Greiss is 4-4-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Niemi will serve as the backup, while Antero Niittymaki continues to be the odd man out.

No time to rest: The Sharks will play their third game in four nights, while Columbus enters well rested. The Blue Jackets havent played since New Years Eve, when they surrendered a 2-0 third period lead in losing to the Washington Capitals, 4-2. Columbus actually arrived in San Jose on Tuesday, which isnt uncommon for East Coast teams visiting California as they adapt to the time difference.

Rick Nash leads Columbus with 27 points, tied with Vinny Prospal, while newcomer Jeff Carter has 10 goals and seven assists in 27 games.

San Jose concludes a stretch of four games in six nights when it hosts the Capitals on Saturday.
Third period woes: The Blue Jackets, last overall in the NHL, enter with the worst goal differential in the third period. Theyve been outscored by 26 goals combined in the final 20 minutes (52-26), and are just 8-6-2 when leading after two.

The Sharks havent exactly dominated the third period, either. Theyve scored just 25 times, and only the New York Islanders have fewer.

San Jose has allowed just 24 goals in the third, though, the second fewest behind Boston.

Wingels watch: The Sharks made a roster move in time for tonights game, recalling winger Tommy Wingels. Theres a chance Wingels could get into the lineup, as McLellan wasnt too pleased with some of his forwards after the win in Anaheim.

You have to contribute, especially when you play this many games, said the coach. We had some guys that didnt do a lot tonight, and maybe well look at making some changes.

McLellan used a third line of Andrew Desjardins, Jamie McGinn and Brad Winchester, which generated the tying goal against the Ducks when Winchester fired in a wrist shot on a pass from McGinn late in the second period. Torrey Mitchell and Andrew Murray, meanwhile, did not see much ice in the second half of the game.

Wingels is second on Worcester in scoring with 21 points (13g, 8a) in 29 games. In eight career NHL games, all with San Jose, Wingels has one assist and four penalty minutes.

Wingels began the season on the opening night roster, playing three of the first four games before being reassigned.

Odds and ends: Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski, signed in the off-season, is out with a broken ankle. San Jose is 17-1-2 all-time against Columbus at HP Pavilion. Sharks defensemen Jim Vandermeer and Colin White remain on injured reserve.

Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes


Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes

Kevin Labanc’s first period goal in the Sharks’ Sunday win over the Ducks certainly didn’t look like it was just his fifth of the season, or only his third since opening night.

The 22-year-old, sprung in alone on a breakaway, sold Anaheim goaltender John Gibson on a fake shot with a leg kick, and snapped the puck past him into the top corner. You know a ‘goal-scorers goal’ when you see it, and you saw it 3:38 into the second period.

Labanc not only broke a 12-game, month-long goalless drought, but picked up his third point in as many games after scoring zero in his previous six. Despite his emergence as a force on the power play, all three points came during five-on-five play.

He’s generated six scoring chances in five-on-five situations in his last three games, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s as many as Labanc accounted for in the six games preceding this run.

The same can be said about his five-on-five shot attempts (seven) and high-danger chances (two). His six shots on goal in his last three games are just one shy of also matching his five-on-five output over his six games prior.

In those categories, Labanc ranks third, third, and tied for second among Sharks forwards, as well as third in five-on-five scoring chances. He’s also tied with Mikkel Boedker for the forward-lead in five-on-five points over the last three games, despite playing only the eighth-most five-on-five minutes.

As Labanc’s broken out of an extended slump, so have the Sharks. Since returning from the bye week on Jan. 13, San Jose is fifth in five-on-five scoring rate (3.1 goals for/60 minutes), compared to 28th before their bye (1.91).

They’re also 5-1-0 during that time.

The Sharks, much like Labanc, were too reliant upon power play production prior to the NHL-mandated week off. Over half of Labanc’s points came with (at least) a man advantage, and 32 of San Jose’s 108 were scored on the power play.

Since, the second-year forward has only scored five-on-five points, while only five of the Sharks’ 23 goals were power play tallies. The power play’s still converting, but it’s not been the sole driver of San Jose’s offense.

It’s only a six-game sample, but the early five-on-five, post-bye week returns are promising for Labanc and the Sharks. The next step for both is to maintain that pace.

If Labanc and San Jose can, the Sharks may not need to shop for a top-six winger at the trade deadline after all.

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights


ANAHEIM -- Mikkel Boedker had two goals and an assist, Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 on Sunday night.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Labanc and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have won five of six. Aaron Dell stopped 33 shots.

Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim. John Gibson stopped only 17 of 22 shots and was replaced after giving up his fifth goal. Anaheim had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

Four goals came in the third period. First, Anaheim pulled within one when Ondrej Kase stole the puck from behind the net and quickly fed Getzlaf, who fired it past Dell.

One minute later, the Sharks answered when Thornton's slap shot went in.

Boedker's second goal gave San Joe a 5-2 lead, and Karlsson's goal on goalie Ryan Miller made it a runaway.

The Ducks first found the net in the final minute of the second period, but that took a two-man advantage and a bit of luck.

Rakell was camped a few feet below the crease when he snapped a shot. San Jose's Justin Braun stuck out a stick, but it deflected the puck off the back of Dell's arm and into the net.

It was Rakell's team-high 17th goal this season.

San Jose appeared to take a commanding 3-0 lead on a power play in the second period. Boedker fired a shot from the top of the right circle that whistled past Gibson.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Anaheim's No.1 line turned the puck over. Thornton snapped it out to Labanc, who popped free for a breakaway. He beat Gibson on his short side for his fifth goal.

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a nifty give-and-go when Tomas Hertl skated down the far side and sent a pass through the legs of Anaheim's Brandon Montour and right to Vlasic in front of the net.

Vlasic snapped it past Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.


Sharks: Return to San Jose on Tuesday night to play the Jets.

Ducks: Remain at home to play the Rangers on Tuesday night.