Sharks

Sharks-Coyotes: matchups to watch

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Sharks-Coyotes: matchups to watch

What to watch for as the Sharks open the season at home tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Control the jitters: The Shark Tank will undoubtedly be rocking tonight as the Sharks open their 20th season with Cup aspirations on their minds. The players themselves will have to make sure they dont get caught up in the atmosphere too much, and instead concentrate on their individual respective duties.

Many coaches will tell you they like to start on the road because there is less pressure out of the gate. The Sharks wont have that luxury, but Todd McLellan said after the morning skate that he actually hopes his players have some butterflies.

Players in this league get excited about playing on opening night, but they also get a little bit anxious and nervous, regardless of how many years youve played in the league, he said. I hope that we have that a little bit and our stomachs are turning, and that were able to react appropriately to it.

Patrick Marleau added the team has to not get outside of ourselves or too excited, even though its opening night. We want to use that energy in the right direction.

PREVIEW: Sharks vs. Phoenix
New netminder for Phoenix: The Coyotes lost their best player in the offseason as goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov signed a long-term deal with Philadelphia. Therefore, journeymen Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera are the pair for Phoenix, with Smith getting the start tonight.

It seems no one ever expects the Coyotes to be too much of a threat in preseason prognostications, and then they go out and prove everyone wrong by making the playoffs. If thats going to happen this year, the goaltending will have to play at least close to the level of Bryzgalov to give them a chance.

McLellan coached Smith when both were with the Houston Aeros (AHL) in 2004-05, and said Smith will be a good fit for their defense-first style.

Smith sets up real well with the way they play with their trap and forcing teams to give up possession, said McLellan. He can play the puck very well and initiate the breakouts going the other way. He may make their team even better.

Speaking of goalies: As everyone knows by now, Thomas Greiss will be starting in net for the Sharks as Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki are on the shelf. Greiss had a fantastic preseason, but lets face it -- that brand of hockey doesnt much resemble a regular season game. Griess will have more pressure on his shoulders than anyone else in the building, and knows that tonight is the start of a great opportunity to prove himself as a viable NHL goaltender. The first period especially will be key for him.

It already sounds like he has the full confidence of his teammates.

In practice he stops everything, Dan Boyle said. He works hard, and guys want to play for him. Especially with the season he had last year, it was a tough year for him, so we want to come out and give him a good effort.

Odds and ends: Harri Sateri will be the backup goaltender to Greiss tonight. The lines were as expected in practice, with Tommy Wingels skating with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe, in place of the injured Martin Havlat Jim Vandermeer stayed on the ice late, therefore, is likely to be the healthy scratch. Congrats to Sharks radio man Dan Rusanowsky, who will be calling his 1500th game tonight.

Sharks exorcise MSG demons, take down Rangers

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USATSI

Sharks exorcise MSG demons, take down Rangers

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Logan Couture had a goal and an assist, Martin Jones stopped xx shots and the San Jose Sharks beat the struggling New York Rangers 4-1 on Monday night.

Tim Heed, Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson also scored to help the Sharks win for the third time in four games. Jones got his fourth straight win after losing his first two starts.

Mika Zibanejad scored and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 20 saves for the Rangers, who fell to 2-6-2 on the season. New York finished 0 for 6 on the power play and is 3 for 25 over the last six games.

With the Sharks leading 3-0 after two periods, Couture took the puck away from Lundqvist behind the goal and sent it to Karlsson, who put it in for his second of the season at 2:51 of the third. Couture got his 200th career assist on the play.

San Jose turned the puck over in its defensive zone and Zibanejad snapped a shot into the top right corner to spoil Jones' shutout bid at 4:23 of the final period.

Donskoi increased the Sharks' lead to 3-0 with 38 seconds left in the second as he skated into the right circle and beat Lundqvist glove-side inside the right post.

The Rangers controlled the play for most of the first period while outshooting the Sharks 16-8, but trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes.

Couture, who had his second career hat trick in a loss at the New York Islanders on Saturday night, got San Jose on the scoreboard 1:56 into the game. With Jones pulled for an extra skater on a delayed penalty, Brent Burns sent pass from the right circle up top to Couture, who fired a slap shot from straightaway past Lundqvist.

Jones had two nice saves on back-to-back attempts in close by Pavel Buchnevich with a little more than nine minutes left in the first.

Heed doubled the Sharks' lead with 7:15 left as he brought the puck up the right side and sent a bad-angle shot from near the goal line along the boards. The puck trickled through Lundqvist's pads for the 26-year-old's first career goal in his seventh NHL game.

The Rangers had a two-man advantage for 25 seconds late in the opening period, but Jones stoppedZibanejad's shot from top of the left circle, and Rick Nash missed with an attempt in close.

NOTES: Couture has six goals and three assists in his last four games. ... The Sharks are 30 for 31 on the penalty kill in seven games since giving up three power-play goals in the season- opener against Philadelphia. ... The teams conclude the season series Jan. 25 at San Jose. ... Rangers D Kevin Shattenkirk played in his 500th career regular season game. ... New York F Rick Nash played in his 999th game. ... D Marc Staal played in his 699th game — all with the Rangers — and passed Mark Messier and Steve Vickers for sole possession of 12th place on the franchise list. ... New York has given up 15 goals in the first period this season.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At Boston on Thursday night in the fifth of a six-game trip that concludes at Buffalo on Saturday.

Rangers: Host Arizona on Thursday night in the finale of a season-high six-game homestand.

The world’s most famous arena is a house of horrors for Sharks

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USATI

The world’s most famous arena is a house of horrors for Sharks

Whenever the NHL's schedule comes out, a trip to Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers is usually a highlight. A matchup against one of the league's biggest teams, in the country's biggest city, in a historic venue? That's a date worth circling.

If the San Jose Sharks circle it, it’s for entirely different reasons.

Throughout the entirety of the franchise’s 26-season existence, the Garden has been anything but welcoming. The Sharks have traveled to the world’s most famous arena 17 times, and have only skated off with a win four times. They didn’t even win a game there until October 19, 1999, in San Jose’s eighth appearance in the building.

Madison Square Garden has been “King” Henrik Lundqvist’s castle against the Sharks. The king in the castle is also the moat surrounding it: In four career appearances against San Jose at home, Lundqvist has only allowed four goals.

The Sharks haven’t been able to solve his squires, either, losing games to two of his most recent back-ups: Martin Biron, now on television, and Antti Raanta, now in Arizona. Lundqvist will likely start on Monday night, but if he doesn’t, this is probably the one instance where San Jose wouldn’t want to face Ondrej Pavelec, even though he’s never managed to eclipse a .920 save percentage in a season.

That’s because the team’s most recent appearances at the Garden have been among their worst. The Sharks have been shut out twice in their last four visits to Manhattan, and have only scored five goals over that span. They did manage to win one game, thanks to a Lundqvist-like shutout from then-goaltender Antti Niemi in 2014.  

Martin Jones, on the other hand, has been decidedly unlike Lundqvist. He’s allowed nine goals on 55 shots in two road starts against the original six franchise, good for an .837 save percentage. The skaters in front of him exactly helped Jones, either. The Sharks have played from behind in their last two trips to Madison Square Garden, failing to score first and trailing after the first two periods both times.

Those recent struggles are especially strange, given Peter DeBoer’s relative success in the building. He won big road games against the Rangers before assuming his role behind the Sharks’ bench, most notably two in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, when DeBoer’s Devils upset the top-seeded Rangers. Once you coach this team in that arena, though, all bets are off.

Somehow, in a month known for horror, there may be nothing scarier than the thought of the Sharks playing in Madison Square Garden.