Sharks-Flames: What to watch for


Sharks-Flames: What to watch for

PROGRAMMINGALERT: Tune into Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California at 7 p.m. and Sharks Postgame Live immediately after thegame.

SAN JOSE There are five games remaining for the Sharks before the NHL breaks for All-Star weekend, and ironically enough, all are against clubs north of the border. It begins tonight at home against the Calgary Flames.

Five games left, all against Canadian teams, which are fun to play against, especially for Canadian kids, Logan Couture said. Looking forward to playing these guys tonight, and hopefully we can get 10 points.

The two meetings with the Flames bookend the stretch before the break, as the Sharks visit the Saddledome on Jan. 24. Calgary is much better there (13-6-2) than it is on the road (8-14-3). The Flames bring a five-game road winless streak into tonight.

Furthermore, the Sharks are 7-1-1 in their last nine home games.

We try and make this building tough to play in, Couture said. Well try and start quick, and if we can get one early it will be good for us to get the crowd involved.

Its the first of four games total between the two teams. The Sharks won three of four last year.

Replacing Clowe: The Sharks will be without forward Ryane Clowe, who will miss the game with an injury related to him getting checked from behind into the boards against Minnesota on Jan. 10.

Curiously, Clowe played in the three games since that hit, but wont be in tonight. That means McLellan is without two of his top six forwards for the first time this season, as Marty Havlat recovers from a partially torn hamstring.

Jamie McGinn skated on the teams top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski at the morning skate, while the second line consisted of Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Benn Ferriero.

Well come up with some line combinations that will not be written in stone, Todd McLellan said. Well start from there, and see what the first five or 10 minutes gives us. Whoever is playing well is going to play.

Andrew Desjardins skated for the first time since getting hit in the head on Saturday, but is out indefinitely and listed as day-to-day.

Rebounding from Chicago: The Sharks four-game road trip ended with a whimper in Chicago on Sunday, and Todd McLellan admitted the 4-3 score made the game appear closer than it actually was.

It was the teams third game in four nights, and for most of it, Chicagos top line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg skated circles around the Sharks in combining for five points and a whopping 17 shots.

What was the reason the Sharks were so flat? McLellan likened it to a chicken-or-the-egg scenario.

We were slow, and we werent very smart. I dont know which one triggered it, he said. Were we a little bit sloppy and slow and that made us not very wise with the puck, or were we not very wise with the puck and that made us slow and sloppy?

We can point to fatigue, but teams are playing a tremendous amount of games around the league so we cant use that as an excuse. We expect to see a fresh team tonight.

Niemi vs. Kiprusoff: Antti Niemi will get the start for the Sharks tonight, facing Miikka Kiprusoff.

Niemi has won six of seven career games against Calgary, with a 2.62 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. Surprisingly, though, that save percentage is the lowest of any team hes faced a minimum of five times.

Kiprusoff is 13-11-2 in 26 games against San Jose in his career, with a 2.94 goals-against average, .905 save percentage and two shutouts.

Odds and ends: The Sharks are 4-1-1 against Canadian teams this season. San Jose is 12-3-2 in its last 17 home games against the Flames. The Sharks lead the league in shots per game with 34.7, while the Flames have the fifth fewest (27.7) San Jose is second in the league in faceoff percentage (53.3) trailing only Boston, but has lost 61 of 109 draws in the last two games (44.0 percent). The Sharks are 18-1-3 when leading after two periods. San Jose is a league-best 25 in second periods this season, while Calgary is a league-worst -18.

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.