|After starting with one win in their first four games this season, the San Jose Sharks came under immediate scrutiny for the slow start but quickly shook off the cobwebs. They followed by going 8-1-1 in their next 10 contests and haven’t looked back. Head coach Todd McLellan is at the helm of one of the NHL’s most consistent teams, and a team that scores in bunches - especially on home ice at HP Pavilion. |
The Sharks have one of the strongest and most dangerous group of forwards in the league, led by captain Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and a couple of youngsters in Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. Entering last night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Sharks were 5-1-1 in their last seven games and showed the ability to score at-will. They dropped five goals in a come-from-behind win over the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 15, and two games later, lit the lamp seven times against the Tampa Bay Lightning – a game in which the Sharks led 5-0 after the first period.
The knock on the Sharks has long been their inability to reach the Finals, but this year they look to be more equipped than ever. They are getting outstanding goaltending from Antti Niemi, who already has one Stanley Cup under his belt, with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Finnish netminder is 16-7-4 this season with a 2.34 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage, making McLellan’s goalie decisions quick and easy on a nightly basis.
Seldom-used backup Thomas Greiss has played well when called upon, and may get the start tonight vs. the Blue Jackets with Niemi having played against the Ducks last night.
San Jose’s mobile defense gives it a legitimate chance to win on most nights, and GM Doug Wilson added another offensive piece over the summer by acquiring Brent Burns from the Minnesota Wild. Along with Dan Boyle, Marc Edouard-Vlasic and Jason Demers, the Sharks have a defense corps that can start the rush and finish plays. Their power play is always one of the best in the league, and a key to victory in San Jose is to stay disciplined and keep the Sharks off the power play.
| || || |
|Nash (12) ||Couture (16) |
|Prospal (20) ||Thornton (23) |
|Nash, Prospal (27) ||Thornton (30) |
|Dorsett (82) ||Clowe (54) |
|MacKenzie (+8) ||Vlasic (+15) |
|Sanford (5-6-3) |
|Niemi (16-7-4) |
|Sanford (2.66) ||Niemi (2.34) |
|Sanford (.908) ||Niemi (.916) || |
|• With a 4-2 loss to Washington last Saturday, Columbus is now 2-7-2 in its last 11 games after going 5-3-2 its previous 10 games. The club is in the midst of playing eight of 10 on the road, with tonight’s game serving as the start of a four-game road trip. |
• Ryan Johansen has points in three of the last five games, including an assist Dec. 29 at Dallas. He has 2-2-4 the last five games after being held pointless the previous 10 games. He snapped a 16-game goalless skid and 10-game pointless skid with his sixth and seventh goals of the season Dec. 22 at Nashville.
• John Moore has points in back-to-back games after scoring his second goal of the season Dec. 31 vs. Washington. The goal was his first in 24 games, as he last scored Oct. 25 vs. Detroit. He has 1-2-3 the last two games after snapping a 23-game pointless skid with two assists Dec. 29 at Dallas. The two assists marked his first in the NHL and first multi-point outing of his NHL career.
• Tonight marks first of four meetings overall and first of two at HP Pavilion at San Jose this season between the Blue Jackets and Sharks. Columbus is 13-23-4 all-time against San Jose, including a 3-15-2 mark at HP Pavilion at San Jose. After the home team won 27 of the first 36 meetings between the teams, the road team won all four meetings last season, including a pair of games in Stockholm.