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Stalock starts as Sharks, Jets match four-game runs

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- One week after recording his first NHL shutout, backup goaltender Alex Stalock will make his ninth start of the season Thursday for the San Jose Sharks against the Winnipeg Jets at SAP Center in a battle between teams on four-game winning streaks.

Stalock made 24 saves in the Sharks' 3-0 victory against the Florida Panthers in his previous start, improving to 6-2-0 while lowering his goals-against average to 1.80 and raising his save percentage to .938.

"Obviously the goal for me is to stay sharp all the time," Stalock said. "You never know when you're going to get a chance. When you do you want to give the team a chance to win. That's my plan every night going into the game, trying to get two points every single game."

Stalock has had limited action this season but his numbers are better than No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi's. Niemi is 26-10-6 with a 2.38 GAA and .913 save percentage.

"He does give us a boost," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Stalock. "I think if we walked in and had to pick between either of the goaltenders, our group would be real comfortable playing and ready to play. So that's a good sign for Alex and for [Niemi]."

Stalock will be facing a Winnipeg team coming off a 3-2 victory Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, the first regulation home loss this season for Anaheim.

"That's a pretty good feat because they've got a great team at home," Stalock said. "It's obviously going to be a tough challenge [Thursday]. You see teams go there and maybe grab a lead, but to keep the lead it's a pretty big game for them."

The Jets have four straight wins since coach Paul Maurice replaced Claude Noel, none bigger than their road victory at Anaheim. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made 40 saves and the Jets blocked 36 shots against the Ducks. Now the Jets and Pavelec will try to beat a Sharks team that is 17-2-3 at home.

"We loved the gritty effort in Anaheim," Maurice said. "It was fantastic, but the facts at the end of the day were our goalie made [42] saves and we blocked 36 shots. We didn't have the puck enough, and I'm not complaining about our effort. So that tells you they were pretty good. I'm expecting to see that from San Jose [Thursday]."

Former Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi said the Jets will need to raise their level of play to win at the Shark Tank.

"It's big to beat [Anaheim], but you also know how hard it is to win here in this building," Setoguchi said. "We got to come back with the same mentality we had in Anaheim but we can play better than that. We relied a lot on our goalie last game and we know how tough it's going to be [Thursday] in here."

Sharks fourth-line forward Mike Brown will return to the lineup after missing three games with a stiff neck, the result of a fight with the Washington Capitals' Aaron Volpatti. He'll likely replace James Sheppard.

"When I go out there I've got to play the way I play, and that's a hard-nosed, physical game," Brown said. "If something's bothering me like that, I'm not going to contribute the way I can."

Jets fourth-line center James Wright will return to the lineup in place of Eric O'Dell.

Here are the projected lineups for San Jose and Winnipeg:


Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Tommy Wingels

Bracken Kearns - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy

Eriah Hayes - John McCarthy - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Brad Stuart - Justin Braun

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Alex Stalock

Antti Niemi

Scratched: James Sheppard, Marty Havlat, Taylor Doherty

Injured: Logan Couture (hand surgery), Tomas Hertl (knee surgery), Raffi Torres (knee surgery) Adam Burish (back surgery), Scott Hannan (upper body)


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik

Evander Kane - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Devin Setoguchi - Olli Jokinen - Dustin Byfuglien

Chris Thorburn - James Wright - Anthony Peluso

Zach Bogosian - Tobias Enstrom

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Adam Pardy - Keaton Ellerby

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Scratched: Eric Tangradi, Eric O'Dell, Zach Redmond

Injured: Jim Slater (hernia), Matt Halischuk (forearm), Grant Clitsome (upper body), Paul Postma (blood clot)

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