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Ducks host Sharks in playoff rematch @NHLdotcom

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

Season series -- This is the first of six meetings for the 2009-10 season. The Sharks went 4-2-0 with two shutouts against the Ducks last season. Jonathan Cheechoo, now with Ottawa, led San Jose with three goals and tied Christian Ehrhoff (1-3) and Dan Boyle (0-4) with four points. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov went 3-2-0 with a 2.00 GAA. Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf scored a team-leading six points -- all assists -- in the series, and linemates Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan each had two goals. Goalie Jonas Hiller was 1-3-0 with a 2.04 GAA.

Big story -- The top two teams in the Pacific Division standings also met in the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the No. 8 Ducks pulled off a six-game upset of the No. 1 Sharks, the Presidents' Trophy-winning squad. The Sharks (53-18-11) were 26 points better than the Ducks (42-33-7) during the regular season, but were outscored 18-10 in the postseason series. The line of Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan totaled nine goals and 16 points.

Team scope:

Sharks -- The "big shakeup" promised by GM Doug Wilson after yet another disappointing playoff ouster led to the departure of Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, Brad Lukowich, Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc, Mike Grier, Travis Moen and Brian Boucher. What the Sharks didn't make up in quantity, they did so in quality by importing two-time 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley as well as Manny Malhotra, Jed Ortmeyer and Scott Nichol. A line of Heatley and Devin Setoguchi centered by Joe Thornton figures to be one of the most explosive in the League.

In addition, there was a change in captaincy. Stripped of the honor was veteran Patrick Marleau, often labeled as soft and unemotional, and in his place is hard-nosed defenseman Rob Blake, who twice previously captained the Los Angeles Kings.

Ducks -- With a team-leading and career-high 91 points (25 goals, 66 assists), Getzlaf, a 6-4, 221-pound center, broke the Ducks' single-season assist record (and tied for third in the NHL) in 2008-09, his fourth NHL season. He also became the third player in franchise history to reach the 90-point mark. Getzlaf was even more productive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ranking sixth overall in scoring with 4-14-18 in 13 games. The only player with more playoff points who did not reach a Conference Final was Washington's Alexander Ovechkin.

To support their budding All-Star, the Ducks added forwards Saku Koivu, Joffrey Lupul and Evgeny Artyukhin, and defensemen Luca Sbisa, Nick Boynton and Steve Eminger in the offseason.

Who's hot -- Ryan was among the preseason scoring leaders with eight points (four goals, four assists) in six games. Perry added three goals, and five points in six games, and newcomer Koivu performed well with a goal and five points in five games. Goalie Jonas Hiller was 1-1-0 with a 2.35 GAA and Jean-Sebastien Giguere went 2-1-0 with a 3.20 GAA.

In San Jose's first game, a 5-2 loss at Colorado on Thursday, second-line linemates Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski led the attack with two goals and two assists, respectively. Rookie forward Benn Ferriero, a four-year standout at Boston College, earned a spot on San Jose's fourth line with three goals and five points in five preseason games. Marleau (two goals, three assists) tied Ferriero for the team-scoring lead. Defenseman Doug Murray, not known for his offense, scored a surprising hat trick on Sept. 25 in a 6-0 preseason win against Anaheim.

Injury report -- For the Sharks, center Torrey Mitchell is sidelined indefinitely with a left knee injury. The Ducks have no injuries to report.

Stat pack -- These teams met in two preseason games last month, splitting the series. On Sept. 21, the Ducks won 3-2 at home on goals by Perry, Teemu Selanne (power play) and James Wisniewski (shorthanded), and 23 saves from Giguere. Ferriero and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (power play) scored for San Jose, and Nabokov made 20 saves. In the rematch on Sept. 25, the Sharks scored a 6-0 home shutout. Murray scored one goal in each period, and Ryane Clowe, Malhotra and Setoguchi added goals. Nabokov made 15 saves for San Jose, and Justin Pogge stopped 30 shots for Anaheim.

Puck drop -- Though their pre-game quotes will say differently, the Sharks would like nothing better than to avenge last season's playoff defeat in this budding All-California rivalry.

-- Rocky Bonanno,



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