Sharks

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.

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders is one with which Sharks fans have become all too familiar.

The Sharks held a decided 41-23 edge on the shot count, but trailed 3-1 on the scoreboard. Since 2005, no team in the league has lost more games (59) in which they shot 35 or more times, and held their opponent to 25 or fewer shots.

No, your instincts haven’t deceived you over the Joe Thornton era: San Jose has lost a lot of games where they’ve otherwise outplayed their opponent. Of course, they’ve won plenty of those games too. More often than not, in fact, winning 72 of 131 times under those circumstances.

Frustration under those circumstances became readily apparent in the second period on Saturday, when Joe Pavelski broke his stick over Thomas Greiss’ net. The captain had plenty of reason to be unhappy, as his goalless drought to start the season has mirrored his team’s inability to finish at even strength.

So far this season, only Dallas and Montreal have scored on a lower percentage of their shots at even strength than San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both the Stars and Canadiens, unsurprisingly, are seventh in their respective divisions. The Sharks are sixth in the Pacific, thanks only to the still-winless Coyotes.

This early in the season, bad results can mask a strong process. They can’t finish, but the Sharks have been, statistically, one of the league’s best puck possession teams at even strength. That can happen over such a short stretch, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the team’s sitting in the division’s basement.

Right now, the Sharks just aren’t scoring enough at even strength, even as they’re playing well elsewhere. The power play’s begun to find an identity, particularly on the Kevin Labanc-led second unit. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal since allowing three in the season opener, and have climbed all the way to 13th in the league.

If the Sharks continue to play this way, the goals, and wins, should come. They may not, of course, especially if Peter DeBoer struggles to find combinations that click for more than a game at a time. But eventually, the results should align with the process.

Saturday night was “one of those games” that have been surprisingly common in recent Sharks history, but it shouldn’t be chalked up as anything more than an amusing anomaly. Sometimes, one team is better, and still finds a way to lose.  

Sometimes, it truly is that simple.

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

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USATSI

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Thomas Greiss guided the New York Islanders on a night when they played it a little bit too safe.

Greiss stopped 40 shots, Brock Nelson scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the New York Islanders rallied to beat the slumping San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday.

The Islanders improved to 1-1 on their three-game, five-day West Coast trip. The Sharks are 1-3 on their season-opening five-game homestand.

Nelson made it 2-1 at 13:33 of the second period, capitalizing on an open look in front of the goal after Joshua Ho-Sang's pass from behind the net.

"After we got the lead we just kind of held on, we bent but we didn't break and we needed some big saves from Thomas," Islanders coach Doug Weight said.

"These teams, when they're down, they're gonna push. ... You don't want to sit back but I think it's human nature. We have to get it out of our heads. We want to play aggressive and we want to put the puck in good spots. We started making some shoddy decisions, our feet stopped moving for a while, but give (the Sharks) credit, they made a good push. Tommy was great."

The Sharks led after Kevin Labanc's power-play goal at 4:16 of the first. Labanc was in the left circle when he rebounded a deflection and fired a wrist shot that slipped through Greiss' pads.

The Islanders tied it when Anders Lee tipped one in at 17:02 of the first.

Cal Clutterbuck scored an empty-net goal at with 1:10 left in the game.

"It's nice, first road win of the year, a good bounce back," Nelson said, referencing a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

"I thought we did some good things in Anaheim and weren't rewarded. It's nice to come out on top here."

The Islanders failed to score on three power plays. The Sharks penalty killing unit hasn't allowed a power-play goal in 12 chances over its last three games.

The Sharks had a short-handed scoring chance after Joakim Ryan was called for holding at 14:33 in the third period, when Greiss turned away Chris Tierney's shot in front of the goal.

Greiss survived relentless pressure in a third period in which the Sharks had 15 shots on goal.

"It felt like it was going to break, it just never did," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "A little bit of credit to Greisser over there, but with us, we've got to keep pushing and find a way.

"I thought we were going to tie it, but encouraging to see the way guys played for a second straight game here. Wanted a better result, for sure, but guys played hard."

NOTES: Islanders C Alan Quine (wrist) is with the team on its West Coast trip and has been practicing. He'll likely go to Bridgeport of the AHL on a conditioning assignment if he's ready when the team returns home on Monday. ... RW Clutterbuck (hip) was in Saturday's lineup after missing the last three games and C Jordan Eberle was on the ice a day after missing Friday's practice with an injury he suffered in practice the previous day. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. Coach Pete DeBoer said the injury is day-to-day.

UP NEXT

Islanders: At the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night.

Sharks: Host the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday night.