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Reeling Ducks set to host Sharks

by Davis Harper
SHARKS (20-11-4) at DUCKS (10-21-6)


Last 10: San Jose 5-2-3; Anaheim 2-7-1.

Season Series: This is the fourth of six season meetings between these Pacific Division rivals. Despite Anaheim's season-long struggle, the Ducks have prevailed in each of the first three matchups this season and five straight in the series. In their most recent encounter on Dec. 26, Anaheim broke a 13-game road winless streak when they beat the Sharks, 3-2, on the back of Andrew Cogliano's second-period winner.

Big Story: While they've had their Golden State rival's number in recent games, the Ducks can't seem to beat anybody else -- except themselves. Losers of seven of eight overall, Anaheim has dropped to within a point of Columbus for last place in the Western Conference. San Jose, meanwhile, just split a grueling home-and-home series with Vancouver, beating the Canucks on the road on Monday, 3-2 in a shootout, to move within a point of Colorado for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Team Scope:

Sharks: After losing their first two meetings with Vancouver by excruciatingly tight margins – and the whole Western Conference Final encounter – San Jose finally got the best of the Canucks on Monday. Michal Handzus scored the winner on the third penalty shot, and Antti Niemi made 27 saves as the Sharks snapped a 0-2-2 road skid. The Sharks now have points in eight of nine and are gradually gearing up for another playoff run.

"We keep talking about how one play, whether it's early in the first (period) or late in the third," said defenseman Dan Boyle said. "One play could be the difference-maker and tonight we had to take it to a shootout to get a winner.

"It's a start. The West is so tight, every point counts so getting that extra point was big for us."

Ducks: Anaheim is currently exhibiting the rare and crippling combination of slow starts and impotent special teams. The Ducks haven’t scored a power-play goal in four games, and chalked up early deficits in recent games against Vancouver and Colorado. Two days after Vancouver grabbed a 4-0 lead against the Ducks, Anaheim was down 3-0 after 30 minutes against Colorado. 

"It's never fun when you lose at all and it seems like we've been doing a lot of losing lately," said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. "You can't even really describe it. It's a terrible feeling. You feel like you're letting the fans down, the team down and the coaching staff. I think we're all just searching for an answer right now. It's tough."
Who's Hot: Anaheim's Bobby Ryan has scored a goal in three straight games.
Injury Report: San Jose's Colin White (lower body), Martin Havlat (left hamstring surgery), Jim Vandermeer (upper body) and Alex Stalock (knee surgery) will miss significant time and are on injured reserve. … Devante Smith-Pelly fractured his left foot while playing for Canada in the World Junior Championship and will miss 4-6 weeks. Jason Blake (left wrist surgery) and Matt Smaby (right thumb surgery) are both on IR.

Stat Pack: Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller has gone 5-0-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average with two shutouts in his last six appearances against San Jose, but he has lost five of six overall. Niemi is 3-4-0 lifetime against Anaheim, but he's won five of his last seven starts.

Puck Drop: "They have good players. Their record may not show it but they are pretty dynamic." – Sharks center Joe Pavelski on Anaheim

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