|The San Jose Sharks have been sitting in Columbus waiting for the Blue Jackets, and in the middle of a four-game road trip, they are looking for an opportunity to gain ground in the Western Conference. In their favor is not having played as many games the rest of the teams in the playoff hunt, and when they play at Nationwide Arena tonight, they will be looking for their sixth win in the last eight games. |
The Sharks have climbed the standings in a number of ways: getting quality goaltending from Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss, outscoring opponents (a four-goal third period against the Colorado Avalanche last month comes to mind) and playing tight-checking games, as they did last week at HP Pavilion against the Blue Jackets. That versatility in their game makes them one of the NHL’s most dangerous teams, and they’ve got special-teams weapons to use, as well.
One of the Sharks’ hottest scorers right now is Logan Couture, who has tallied six goals in the last 10 games and is providing a solid source of secondary scoring on San Jose’s second line. He and lumbering winger Ryane Clowe have formed a formidable alliance in the top six for the Sharks and that has been a major reason why San Jose boasts one of the more balanced forward groups in the league.
Goaltending has been a murkier issue, if only because it’s a crowded crease for coach Todd McLellan right now. After the Sharks recalled Antero Niittymaki from a conditioning assignment with Worcester (AHL) on Dec. 23, that meant a roster with three goaltenders and important decisions that have yet to be made. It appears Greiss will start in net for the Sharks tonight vs. the Blue Jackets with a back-to-back on tap (the Sharks play in Chicago tomorrow night) and Niemi likely to face his former club.
The Sharks are bound to have their hands full with a re-energized Blue Jackets squad tonight, one that displayed a renewed pace and confidence in its 4-3 win last night vs. the Phoenix Coyotes. Curtis Sanford made 32 saves in that victory, and he’s expected to be the starter once again tonight.
| || || |
|Nash (15) ||Couture (18) |
|Prospal (21) ||Thornton (27) |
|Prospal/Nash (30) ||Thornton/Marleau (35) |
|Dorsett (105) ||Clowe (54) |
|MacKenzie (+6) ||Vlasic (+20) |
|Sanford (7-9-3) |
|Niemi (19-7-5) |
|Sanford (2.59) ||Niemi (2.26) |
|Sanford (.911) ||Niemi (.920) || |
|• For the second time this season and the second time in team history, Columbus had two players score the first goals of their NHL career in the same game. Tomas Kubalik and Ryan Russell got their first tallies of their careers last night against Phoenix. Ryan Johansen and John Moore scored their firsts Oct. 25 vs. Detroit. |
• C Antoine Vermette has taken over the longest active consecutive games played streak, having played in 224-straight entering tonight’s contest. His streak, which is the third-longest in team history, began Mar. 7, 2009 after being acquired by the Blue Jackets on Mar. 4, 2009. He has points in back-to-back games after notching an assist last night.
• Tonight marks second of four meetings overall and first of two meetings at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Sharks. Columbus is 13-24-4 all-time against San Jose, including a 10-8-2 mark at Nationwide Arena.
• D Aaron Johnson has assists in three straight games after picking up a helper last night against Phoenix. The three-game assist/point streak is the longest of his career. His previous best of two was set seven times. He has 0-4-4 the last three games after being held pointless the previous four games.