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Sharks look for offensive boost against Canadiens

by John Kreiser /

CANADIENS (10-11-4) at SHARKS (13-7-1)

TV: RDS; CSN-California (HD)

LAST 10: Montreal 4-4-2; San Jose 6-3-1

Season Series: This is the only time the teams will meet this season. Montreal won last season's lone meeting by beating the Sharks 3-1 at the Bell Center on Dec. 4.

Big Story: The Canadiens will be playing for the second time in as many nights after losing 4-1 at Anaheim on Wednesday. San Jose, in contrast, has had a couple of days off to try to figure out where all the goals have gone -- the Sharks lost 2-0 at Los Angeles on Wednesday and have scored just three goals in their last three games.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: The first of Montreal's three-game swing through California started off well enough -- the Canadiens led 1-0 entering the final seconds of the opening period. But Ryan Getzlaf scored with 19 seconds left to get Anaheim even, and the Ducks dominated the final two periods for the win -- after which they fired coach Randy Carlyle.

"They're a desperate team, and they have some skilled players that made plays," Montreal defenseman Hal Gill said after the game but before the Ducks' coaching change was announced. "We couldn't get the job done on the power play, and we gave up a couple of goals shorthanded. It's tough to win when you do that."

Sharks: Some of the forwards San Jose relies on for offense have gone cold -- and, not surprisingly, so has the offense. Coach Todd McLellan reunited Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Marty Havlat on the same line at practice Wednesday and plans to play the slumping trio as a unit against the Canadiens.

"We're trying to jump start a few players," McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News after Wednesday's practice. "Our offensive production hasn't been enough to win games. We're trying to create more around the blue paint and the familiarity Logan has with Clowe is probably the most important thing right now.

Who's Hot: Sharks captain Joe Thornton has six assists in five games. Goalie Natti- Niemi is 2-2-0 in his last four games but has allowed just six goals.

Injury Report: The Canadiens hope to get defenseman Andrei Markov back soon; he hasn't played in a year as he works his way back from knee surgery. Montreal is also missing center Scott Gomez (lower body) and defensemen Jaroslav Spacek (upper body) and Chris Campoli (leg). Also, forward Max Pacioretty is sitting out a three-game suspension. … Sharks goaltender Antero Niittymaki was able to practice this week, a step forward as he works to return from abdominal surgery that has kept him from playing this season. Center Michal Handzus, who missed Monday's game due to illness, should be ready to go.

Stat Pack: San Jose has won the last five games at the Shark Tank since Montreal's 3-2 overtime victory on Nov. 13, 1999. … The Sharks will have plenty of time to do their Christmas shopping -- they are home for 10 of 13 games in December with all three road games in a four-day stretch from Dec. 10-13.

Puck Drop: The Canadiens and Sharks don't see each other very often, and Thursday's game will be a big one for San Jose defenseman Jason Demers, a Montreal native who will be facing his hometown team for the first time.

"I was hurt last year in Montreal so I missed it by a game," Demers told David Pollak of the Mercury News. "And my first year, I was sent down when we played Montreal so they've been eluding me.

"I'm pretty excited, and everyone back home is pretty excited. . . . It's not really an NHL moment for me, but for some people, like my parents, I think it's like 'wow.' It's my hometown team. I grew up cheering for them and now I get to try to beat them."

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