SHARKS (11-8-4) at SENATORS (11-13-1)
TV -- TSN (HD), NHLN-US (HD)
Last 10 --
San Jose 5-3-2; Ottawa 3-7-0
Season series --
It's a typical one-night-only inter-conference engagement between teams which last met exactly a year and a day before, on Dec. 1, 2009, a 5-2 Sharks win at HP Pavilion -- San Jose's fourth win in a row over Ottawa.
Big story --
The rare encounter in the schedule also means it's the first time Dany Heatley will return to Scotiabank Place since requesting a trade and getting his wish on Sept. 12, 2009. It's probably not going to be a warm reception. It's the opener of a five-game trip for the Sharks, part of a stretch in which they will play 10 of 13 games on the road. The Senators have lost three of four and six of eight, but are only three points behind eighth-seeded Boston in the Eastern Conference. They'll be playing five of their next seven at home.
The Sharks are in last place. That's not a statement people have heard in a while this late into the season, and there's a technicality involved, of course. Entering Wednesday's action, only three points separate top from bottom in the five-team Pacific Division. Still, keeping that close means playing well on the road, where they've lost six of their last seven and two of three overall in this pivotal 13-game stretch.
Being short three defensemen doesn't help, especially if the opponent is the Red Wings. With Kent Huskins, Niclas Wallin and Jason Demers
out of the lineup, coach Todd McLellan had to throw rookies Justin Braun
and Mike Moore
-- with a combined seven games of NHL experience -- against guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, both of whom had their way with the Sharks in a 5-3 Detroit win.
"We've got to get our legs back underneath us. We've got a long flight," McLellan said. "I think we have to recognize and understand that there's been some Western Conference teams that have made this trip already and haven't had a lot of success, so we've got to prepare ourselves for tough games in tough buildings.
"We're going to have to polish our game up on the trip, get some guys healthy and then find a few extra players that are healthy and in uniform."
If there's anything everyone can agree on, it's that you don't lose to the second-worst team in the NHL by three goals in your home building, especially if you have a lead after one period.
The Sens scored first against the Oilers, whose youngsters then came up with four unanswered goals in a 4-1 win. How it got that way elicited a variety of opinions.
"We didn't respect our opponent," coach Cory Clouston said.
"I don't know if I agree with that," captain Daniel Alfredsson
told the Ottawa Citizen. "I don't know if you can say taking penalties is taking another team lightly. He's probably got a better view than I do, but I didn't feel that way."
Trouble is, they're both right. They let the Oilers get a jump on them and couldn't answer back because they got in the penalty box too much. The final result is a not-so-pretty loss.
Who's hot --
Heatley has a four-game goal streak going, while Sharks captain Joe Thornton
has a four-game point streak, all assists.
Injury report --
Alfredsson and Alexei Kovalev took maintenance days off from practice Tuesday, but should be ready to go. … Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi (upper body) has been out two games, did not skate Tuesday, and might miss a few more. Of the defensemen, Demers (upper body) skated Monday and Tuesday but isn't expected to be available for a few more days, Wallin (ankle) may be out at least a week and Huskins (upper body) remains day-to-day.
Stat pack --
Thornton scored his 500th point as a Shark in the Detroit game. … The Sharks haven't gotten a goal from a defenseman in six games. … Heatley scored 180 goals and 182 assists in his four seasons with the Sens (2005-09).
Puck drop --
"I'm excited to see some of the guys, and some of the trainers, and doctors and things like that," Heatley told the Ottawa Citizen by cell phone en route from San Jose to the airport for his Ottawa flight. "So, from that point of view I think [the return] will be fun for me."