Mighty Ducks-Sharks Preview
GAME: Anaheim Mighty Ducks (21-17-10) at San Jose Sharks (23-17-6).
TIME: Thursday, 10:30 p.m. EST.
After performing inconsistenly through December, the surging San Jose Sharks have rebounded to beat a host of good teams over the last month.
The Sharks look to win again facing the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, a Pacific Division rival they are tied with in the chase for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Both teams have 52 points, six behind the Edmonton Oilers for eighth in the West.
San Jose has moved back into playoff contention with an 8-1-1 run since Dec. 30. In that stretch, the Sharks have defeated the Colorado Avalanche, the Ottawa Senators, the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the Los Angeles Kings three times.
The Sharks are coming off a sweep of a home-and-home series with the Kings, which prevented Los Angeles from taking over first place in the Pacific Division.
Patrick Marleau secured the first win Saturday in Los Angeles, scoring a power-play goal with 8.9 seconds remaining in overtime. The Sharks fell behind 2-0 in the first period and needed a goal from Joe Thornton with 29 seconds left in regulation.
"I had three chances before I finally hit the back of the net," said Marleau, who smacked the post with a shot earlier in the power play.
Marleau opened the scoring in Tuesday's easier 4-1 victory in San Jose. He added an empty-net goal and finished the two-game series with three goals and three assists.
The only Shark who has been more productive of late is Jonathan Cheechoo, who had an assist Tuesday. He has a franchise-record 12-game point-scoring streak, totaling 10 goals and nine assists since Dec. 26.
The Ducks could have put some distance between themselves and the Sharks if they fared better in games that have gone beyond regulation.
Anaheim has had six of its 11 games decided in overtime or shootout since Dec. 31. The string began with a shootout win over the St. Louis Blues on New Year's Eve, but the Ducks have since posted overtime losses against the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins, and shootout losses to the Dallas Stars and the Kings.
The Ducks had a 3-2 lead Wednesday going into the final period against the Edmonton Oilers, but they took seven penalties and allowed four goals to lose 6-3.
After Edmonton's Chris Pronger scored the first of two power-play goals in the period at 10:17, Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere scuffled with Oilers left wing Ryan Smyth, and took three minor penalties and a 10-minute misconduct. Pronger scored again, 47 seconds after his first goal, and the Oilers added an empty-net score.
"I've never seen a guy implode like that at this level, especially in a game so meaningful to his team," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said of Giguere. "It was very selfish of him."
STANDINGS: Mighty Ducks - 52 points, 3rd place (tied), 14 PB, Pacific Division. Sharks - 52 points, 3rd place (tied), 14 PB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Mighty Ducks - Teemu Selanne, 22 goals and 43 points; Scott Niedermayer, 26 assists; Todd Fedoruk, 104 PIM. Sharks - Cheechoo, 26 goals; Thornton, 49 assists and 66 points; Mark Smith, 63 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Mighty Ducks - Power play: 15.5 percent (45 for 284), 21st in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (267 for 315), 7th. Sharks - Power play: 17.6 percent (50 for 284), 16th. Penalty killing: 79.6 percent (180 for 226), 26th.
GOALTENDERS: Mighty Ducks - Giguere (14-7-9, 1 SO, 2.72 GAA); Ilya Bryzgalov (7-10-1, 0, 2.62). Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (13-12-5, 1, 2.94); Vesa Toskala (5-4-1, 0, 3.20).
SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 20; Sharks, 4-2. At San Jose, Calif., Cheechoo scored on a short-handed penalty shot and recorded a hat trick. Petr Sykora and Selanne scored power-play goals for the Ducks.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mighty Ducks - 6-10-6 on the road; Sharks - 14-4-4 at home.