Having played only two games against Pacific Division teams this season, the San Jose Sharks will be taking their current four-game win streak to Anaheim Friday night to take on the division rival Mighty Ducks. With a flare for the dramatic, the Sharks have upended four top teams consecutively in the closing minutes of each contest, and on Friday, they look to take sole possession of second place.
But for a team that has its share of bumps and bruises, the Sharks are looking at their match-up with the Ducks like any other, despite entering play on Thursday with identical 7-5-1 records (Anaheim plays Colorado tonight).
"We're going to play it like it's any other game," said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. "Hopefully we're not too banged up going in there. They're missing some key people as well (ex-Sharks defense Sandis Ozolinsh and Sergei Federov). We've had a busy and tough schedule, but after we get through this weekend, it kind of eases up for a couple weeks where we don't play as much and we'll be able to lick our wounds. We just have to find a way to get through the weekend."
Left wing Nils Ekman, who pitched in Saturday with the game-winning shootout goal against Calgary, stressed the importance of not only division games, but each and every game.
"You always want to be first in your division in order to secure a playoff spot," said Ekman. "Obviously the points you earn in your own division are a little more important. Not only do you get two points, but they lose them. But we approach all games like any other and play our best."
POWER PLAY PICKING UP
Perhaps the main reason the Sharks dropped six of their first eight games can be attributed to an ineffective power play. In the last six contests, however, the Sharks have turned their man advantages around and have notched at least one power play goal in each game and have amassed an 18.9 percent conversion rate over that span.
"We talk about it a lot," said Ekman. "They have us working on the passing. It's starting to look good and that's because we're getting guys to the front of the net and we're getting good shots. If we get everyone on the same page, there's no reason why we shouldn't have a good power play."
The Sharks were getting plenty of opportunities during their slide at the beginning of the season, but they weren't crashing the net waiting for the loose rebound. The young squad ranks second in the NHL for shots on goal and is out shooting their opponents 377-290 in the last 11 games.
"The power play is something we've been working on in practice, trying to get in the zone and getting set up," said rookie center Marcel Goc. "We try to settle the puck down, move it a little bit and make a couple good passes. It all depends on what they give us. If there's no play, we keep passing it, but if you see there's a chance, you try to attack right away."
It looks as if the Sharks will remain without goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, and possibly Wayne Primeau and Scott Thornton for Friday night's game in Anaheim.
"I don't believe either Primeau or Thornton is going on the trip," said Wilson. "I'm hoping they're both ready to play on Saturday night."
If such is the case, look for Team Teal to dress seven defensemen as they did in their 3-2 overtime win against the Predators Wednesday night.
"If I have to dress seven defensemen, I will," Wilson added. "We got by last night and if we have to do it again, we'll find a way to get it done. There's not much of a choice right now."
The first-ever Sharks podcast "Tank Talk," can now be downloaded onto your personal mp3 players. Listen to Sharks broadcasters talk about everything Sharks. The podcast is located on the Interactive dropdown menu on the Sharks homepage. Click the following link to download Tank Talk: http://cdn.nhl.com/sharks/bc/images/news/podcast/index.xml
The Friday night game at Anaheim will not be televised, but can be heard on 98.5 KFOX, sjsharks.com and in many places on Comcast digital channel 975.
Saturday night, the Sharks return to HP Pavilion and will play host to the Minnesota Wild at Tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be televised on FSN Bay Area (in High Definition) and can be heard on 98.5 KFOX, sjsharks.com and in many places on Comcast digital channel 975.