First of all I’d like to note that the fan incident in the stands a few days ago actually turned out to be even more interesting than first thought. Not only was it a fight over a stick, but one of the men involved was a promotional partner with the Ducks. “Mike V” had a link to his blog featured on the front page of the Ducks’ website, and he was one of the men involved and was cited for fighting in public by the Anaheim Police Department. Curtis Zupke at the Orange County Register wrote a very detailed article about the topic here.
But on to tonight. The Ducks will take on the Sharks tonight at Honda Center as they will try to build on their win on Thursday night. The Sharks are again the top team in the Pacific Division, Western Conference, and the NHL in general. They lead the league in standings points as well as several other major categories, and the Ducks are at the opposite end of the league.
While this game will be important and as competitive as a Ducks/Sharks game always is, I don’t think it’s realistic to think the Ducks will be able to do much damage tonight. James Wisniewski did not practice yesterday after taking a shot in the foot Thursday and is questionable for tonight’s game. Steve Eminger did not practice either as he continues to sit out with back spasms. Joffrey Lupul also did not play as he aggravated the back spasms he had earlier in the season, and he is also questionable for tonight. Saku Koivu practiced with the team and may return, but that is also uncertain. Ryan Carter is still unable to play.
So with all these players out for the Ducks, there is little expected of a team that couldn’t do much with a full, healthy roster. The Sharks are coming off a big win and their best players are their best players, with Dany Heatley leading the league in goals and Joe Thornton leading the league in assists. With that being said, Corey Perry is only four goals behind Heatley and has played five games less, while Getzlaf is second to Thornton in assists while playing four games fewer. But the goaltending and defense of the Ducks just don’t match up to the Sharks’ right now.
Jonas Hiller started against the Sharks in the season opener and played extremely well for the team, so expect him to get the start. Hiller is also coming off a win on Thursday, and Coach Randy Carlyle usually sticks with a winning goalie.
Probable forward line combinations are below. There’s no way to predict the defense pairings as we don’t know who will or won’t play for the team due to injuries.
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Evgeny Artyukhin - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Petteri Nokelainen - Todd Marchant - Kyle Calder
Mike Brown - MacGregor Sharp - George Parros
From John Krieser at NHL.com:
SHARKS (15-5-4) at DUCKS (7-10-3)
Last 10 – San Jose 6-1-3; Anaheim 4-4-2
Season series – The Sharks pay their second visit to the Honda Center. They spoiled the Ducks’ season-opener with a 4-1 victory at Anaheim on Oct. 3. The teams then meet three times in San Jose before the Sharks’ next and last visit on March 14.
Big story –This is the second of a seven-game homestand that the Ducks have to turn into points if they hope to get back into the playoff race in the West. They couldn’t hold a 3-0 lead on Thursday night against Tampa Bay, but went home with two points when Scott Niedermayer scored a power-play goal 52 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 victory.
The Ducks will have to shut down San Jose’s top line to have any chance to win. Dany Heatley scored three goals and Joe Thorntonhad four assists in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Shark Tank.
Sharks – There’s no official NHL record for the shortest hat trick — but if there were, Dany Heatleymight hold it. Heatleyhad his ninth career three-goal game and second as a Shark in Friday’s 6-3 win over Philadelphia. The combined distance of all three goals probably wouldn’t add up to 10 feet — two were tap-ins and one was a rebound in the crease.
Both tap-ins came off passes from Joe Thornton, who seemed to wait all night before finding Heatley’s stick.
“It was typical Jumbo,” Heatley said of Thornton’s pass on the second goal — a mirror image of the first. “He’s got such great patience. He waited and waited and waited, and gave me a tap-in.”
Ducks — Anaheim’s confidence has been fragile for much of the season, and blowing a 3-0 lead against Tampa Bay didn’t help. But finding a way to win in overtime should give the Ducks a boost.
“We feel a lot better about ourselves today than we did the day before yesterday,” coach Randy Carlyle said Friday. “That is what we’re trying to build on. First and foremost, the work ethic that we displayed from the start of the hockey game was critical. We have to provide ourselves with an opportunity to have a good start. It is a starting point for your group for what night’s work they are going to have to put in.”
Who’s hot – Anaheim’s Corey Perry has a 13-game points streak, the longest in the NHL this season, and Ryan Getzlaf has points in 12 of his last 13. … Heatley’s hat trick gave him 17 goals, the most in the League. Thornton’s four assists gave him 24, also tops in the League.
Injury report – Anaheim center Saku Koivupracticed Friday for the first time since going down with a groin strain that’s forced him to miss five games. He could return against the Sharks, as could defenseman James Wisniewski, who left Thursday’s game with a bruised foot but said it felt much better on Friday. … San Jose’s Brad Staubitz will miss a couple of weeks after taking a puck in the face during Monday’s practice.
Stat pack –Niedermayer’s OT goal was his 13th, the most by any defenseman since the NHL instituted overtime for the 1983-84 season. … Thornton became the 73rd NHL player to reach 600 career assists when he had four on Friday night. San Jose is the only Western team that has gotten at least a point in all of its home games. The Sharks are 7-0-2 at HP Pavilion.
Puck drop –“It’s going to be a big test for us tomorrow, playing against us a team that we beat in the playoffs last year, a divisional rival and one of the hottest teams in the League.” — Anaheim defenseman James Wisniewski.