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Canadiens end trip by visiting Sharks

by Mike Battaglino

CANADIENS (35-23-7) at SHARKS (40-17-7)


Last 10: Montreal 6-3-1; San Jose 6-3-1

Season series: Logan Couture scored twice when the San Jose Sharks beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 on Oct. 26 at Bell Centre. Goalie Antti Niemi made 22 saves for his second shutout in a three-game span; he has not had one since.

Big story: San Jose continues to steadily gain on the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings. The Sharks trail the Ducks by five points for first place; on March 1 they were seven back, on Feb. 1 they were 11 back.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: Thomas Vanek's debut for Montreal did not go well; the forward had one shot and was minus-1 in a 5-2 loss at the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday. He was acquired from the New York Islanders on Wednesday prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.

"I just want to rest up, get a good practice [Friday], and keep finding some chemistry," Vanek told the Canadiens website after the game before the team took Friday off. "... As a line, I thought in the second [period] we created a few chances, but probably not enough, as much as we would like."

The left wing played 15:34 with Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec.

"They're two good players," Vanek said. "... For me, it's just to study their habits and then know their routes better so I can contribute to them better."

With this game, the Canadiens will have played seven games in 11 nights in six cities, according to The Montreal Gazette.

"We were tired, and tired players make mistakes," coach Michel Therrien told the newspaper. "Now we have to get ready for San Jose. We're in a playoff battle and we need to get some points."

Sharks: San Jose is 3-0-1 in the four games forward Raffi Torres has played since making his season debut after the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The Sharks have scored 16 goals in the three wins; they lost in regulation in the post-break game Torres did not play.

"Raffi brings a whole different element to our team and it's kind of the fear factor," defenseman Jason Demers told the San Jose Mercury News. "The fans like it, and obviously other teams for sure are aware of him, looking over their shoulder. It pumps us up."

Torres missed the first 59 games of the season recovering from a knee injury sustained during the preseason. His time on ice has increased in each of the four games he's played; he played 13:20 in a 5-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. The 32-year-old has three goals and an assist.

"You can be a veteran all you want, but until you get a sense of timing and what's going on around you and a feel for the game again, it's hard to play," Sharks coach Todd McLellan told the newspaper Friday. "Raffi is rapidly gaining confidence, he's gaining a sense of timing and probably conditioning as well."

If Niemi starts in goal, as is expected, it would be the first time he's started consecutive games since Feb. 1 and 3, and the second since Jan. 18 and 20.

Who's hot: Canadiens defensemen Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban each has six points in five games since the Olympic break. … Sharks forward Brent Burns has three goals in two games after going 19 games without one. Forward Joe Pavelski has eight points and forward Patrick Marleau has six in five games.

Injury report: Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges (hand) is out. Goalie Carey Price (lower body) and forwards Michael Bournival (concussion) and Brandon Prust (upper body) are on injured reserve. … Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart (upper body) is out. Forward Tomas Hertl (knee) is skating but out indefinitely.

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