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DUCKS (13-13-7) at SHARKS (19-8-7)
Last 10 -- Anaheim 4-2-4; San Jose 4-3-3
Season series -- The teams are meeting for the third time this season, but the first at the Shark Tank. San Jose won both of its trips to Anaheim, beating the Ducks 4-1 on Oct. 3 and 3-2 on Nov. 21. The Ducks are back at the Tank on Dec. 26.
Big story -- San Jose has had four days off following Saturday night's 2-1 loss at Phoenix, the Sharks' fifth consecutive loss (0-2-3), and they have the weekend off before a road game at Dallas on Monday. Coach Todd McLellan is trying to get his team back on the right track after its worst slide in a couple of years. The losing streak has dropped San Jose behind Los Angeles in the Pacific Division and overall standings.
Ducks -- Nothing demonstrates the Western Conference's domination of the East more than the fact that Anaheim is 13-13-7 but dead last among the 15 teams despite Wednesday's 3-2 win at Vancouver.
The Ducks have points in six consecutive games and have won back-to-back road contests. One reason for their improvement has been the development of a second line -- Saku Koivu, rookie Dan Sexton and Bobby Ryan. Ryan and Koivu both scored against the Canucks, with Koivu getting the winning goal, and Sexton had two assists
Sharks -- The Sharks, who blitzed the Western Conference last season, are finding out that parity is here -- Anaheim is the only team in the conference with more regulation losses than wins.
"I look at the standings and how tight they are," captain Rob Blake told the San Jose Mercury-News. "Well, .500 used to be -- when I wasn't on very good teams -- the benchmark you used to get into the playoffs. That's how tight things have gotten."
Who's hot -- Ryan is 2-4-6 in his last four games, Koivu is 3-4-7 in that span with a pair of game-winners and Sexton is 4-3-7 in his last four. … San Jose's Dany Heatley has goals in his last two games. The combination of Heatley (21) and Patrick Marleau (20) has more goals than any two teammates in the NHL.
Injury report -- Ducks center Ryan Carter (foot) is expected to return later this month, while right wing Teemu Selanne may not return until January due to a broken hand. Forward Joffrey Lupul, who has 10 goals in 23 games, is scheduled to undergo back surgery Thursday to repair a herniated disc. He's expected to miss 6-8 weeks… Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, who sustained a lower-body injury on Saturday, has used the time off to rest and expects to play.
Stat pack -- Wednesday's win marked the first time in eight games that the Ducks won when they were tied after one period. They're now 1-2-5. Anaheim was 3-3-4 in back-to-back games before Wednesday, including 1-2-2 in the second game.
Puck drop -- One team is well-rested, the other played last night. Expect the Sharks to come out flying -- they don't want to spend the weekend nursing a six-game losing streak with two road games coming up before Christmas.