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Ducks host Sharks in home opener

by Frank Mentesana

SHARKS (1-0-0) at DUCKS (1-1-0)


Season Series:
It's the first of six meetings between the Pacific Division rivals, who meet again on Monday and then don't see each other again until the day after Christmas. The Sharks and Ducks split their six matchups last season, with each club winning two of three games at home. Reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry led all players with 5 goals and 11 points in the season series, including a hat trick in the Ducks' 6-2 victory on April 6. For San Jose, defenseman Dan Boyle was tops with 7 assists and 8 points.

Big Story: The last time both of these teams played was on Saturday, but they might not mind a couple more days of rest. The Ducks are still recovering after opening their season in Europe with back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday as part of the Compuware NHL Premiere series. Anaheim lost 4-1 loss to the Sabres in Helsinki, but defeated the Rangers 2-1 in a shootout the next day in Stockholm.

While the Sharks had no such travel obligations (their lone game was at home), they certainly aren't at 100 percent. Martin Havlat, acquired from the Minnesota Wild in July, missed the season opener as he looks to bounce back from offseason shoulder surgery. The team's No. 1 goalie, Antti Niemi, also sat out the game as he continues to recover from a minor procedure to remove a cyst from his knee. In addition, Patrick Marleau hasn't practiced this week while battling the flu, but coach Todd McLellan said he expects Marleau to suit up on Friday.

Team Scope:

Sharks: After the Sharks fell to Vancouver in five games in the Western Conference Finals, general manager Doug Wilson said the team "drained" its "tank" by having to work so hard to win the division after a lackluster 21-19-5 start to the season. Therefore, an emphasis was put on getting off to a good start in 2011-12, and the Sharks took that to heart in their opener, soundly defeating the Phoenix Coyotes 6-3. San Jose took 13 of the game's first 14 shots and led 4-0 by the midway point of the second period. The six goals tied a franchise record for the most scored in a home opener. All four lines scored goals, the power play tallied three times, and newcomer Michal Handzus recorded his first goal as a Shark.

With Niemi and backup Antero Niittymaki both unavailable, Thomas Greiss made 26 saves and earned the victory in his first NHL start since March 28, 2010 -- and his first career opening-night start.

"Everybody played well, everybody skated well," captain Joe Thornton said. "The lines worked out well. Everyone is still learning each other so we can still get better. But it was a good game."

Ducks: The high-powered Ducks struggled to score in Europe, generating just two goals. However, they still managed to return home with a split after Bobby Ryan scored the only goal in Saturday's shootout to beat the Rangers. Ryan, along with Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Saku Koivu, and Teemu Selanne have all been held off the scoresheet completely. A big reason for that was that Anaheim was 0-for-11 on the power play after converting 23.5 percent of its chances last season - tied for second in the League with San Jose.

"Our power play right now is the one thing that's not clicking the way it should," defenseman Cam Fowler said. "I think it's just getting that chemistry back to where we left off last season. If all five guys aren't on the same page, that's when things can get a little rough out there."

Perhaps the best news for the Ducks was that goaltender Jonas Hiller played every second in both games. He was solid in the win, denying all four Ranger attempts in the shootout, and seemed totally healthy after missing almost three months at the end of last season due to symptoms related to vertigo.

Who's Hot: No player on the Ducks has multiple points yet, while San Jose's fourth-line center, Andrew Desjardins, notched his first-ever two-point game with a pair of goals against Phoenix. Joe Pavelski also tallied twice in the victory, and Patrick Marleau recorded 2 assists.

Injury Report:
Havlat (shoulder) is still a question mark to make his Shark debut versus the Ducks, and Niemi said it is "50/50" on whether he can play on Friday. Niittymaki will miss at least another two months after abdominal surgery. …While Anaheim defenseman Matt Smaby (hand) remains on IR, fellow D-man Toni Lydman, who had shoulder surgery in May, was cleared for contact on Monday and could play against San Jose. Matt Beleskey (shoulder) is questionable; defenseman Kurtis Foster (thigh) was sent to AHL Syracuse for conditioning.

Stat Pack: Special teams could play a big factor in Friday's matchup. The Ducks converted 36.4 percent of their power-play opportunities against San Jose last season, and while their PP unit was stagnant in Europe, they still feature several dangerous weapons. …The Sharks, who finished 24th last season in the penalty kill, scored three man-advantage goals in their season opener, but also surrendered three.

Puck Drop: "This recovery from Europe isn't just a one-day or a two-day event when you travel the number of hours we did and the difference in time change," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "There's some nights now where they're ... having trouble getting to sleep."

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