Programming note: Sharks-Ducks coverage kicks off tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California
ANAHEIM – Thomas Greiss answered the bell in his first start of the season last weekend. It looks like he’ll get another chance on Monday in Anaheim.
Greiss posted his first career NHL shutout on Saturday, Jan. 26 vs. Colorado, making 24 saves in a 4-0 win. He was the first goalie off of the ice at the morning skate at the Honda Center.
Missing from the Sharks’ skate was defenseman Dan Boyle. Boyle is still suffering the effects from the flu, which kept him out of the lineup on Jan. 29. He did, however, play in the previous two games and is expected to be fine tonight.
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The Sharks are playing in their second back-to-back of the season, and host the Blackhawks on Tuesday at HP Pavilion. It’s easy to see why McLellan would save Niemi for the game against the Blackhawks, as the goaltender has been strong against his former team. In the two home games vs. Chicago last season, Niemi was 2-0, allowing just three goals on 67 shots in the two wins.
As for the rest of the lineup, it appears Tommy Wingels will be back in for TJ Galiardi. Wingels skated alongside Michal Handzus and Marty Havlat, while Scott Gomez centered Adam Burish and Andrew Desjardins in line rushes. The top line (Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski) and second line (James Sheppard, Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe) were untouched from the Predators game.
The defense has been shifted around a bit, too, since Jason Demers returned from a fractured wrist on Saturday.
“We’re all fairly comfortable with each other. I haven’t played with everybody, but it’s not a problem,” Brad Stuart said. “We’re good enough players to be able to compensate for the fact that we haven’t played with each other a whole lot.”
Viktor Fasth is expected to start for Anaheim. The 30-year-old rookie is 2-0-0 with a 1.44 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
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PK still rolling
The Sharks enter the game with a streak of 21 straight opponent power plays killed off. The most recent kill may have been the most impressive, when San Jose survived Marty Havlat’s hooking penalty in overtime before falling in a shootout to the Preds.
One of the reasons Adam Burish was added in the offseason was to help with that unit, which was second from the bottom last season. Burish has played nearly a minute and a half per game on the PK.
He offered his view on why the penalty kill has been so successful lately.
“You’ve got to be willing to block shots and get in lanes and we’ve done a great job with that,” Burish said. “Niemi has been great, and obviously you have to have good goaltending. It’s not a brown-nose comment, but the coaching staff has done a great job preparing us. For every game we go over what we may see from the other team, and how we’re going to play against that. There are no grey areas.
“It’s a contagious attitude when you see Zeus, Stuey, and Murray diving in front of pucks and almost hobbling off the ice. Because I’ll tell you, it sucks. It hurts, it sucks, it’s not fun. You hurt the next day and day after that. But if you play that way, I think it’s contagious. If I saw somebody else do it, then heck, I better do it.”
Anaheim has won three of its last four games (3-0-1), including the shootout loss at HP Pavilion on Jan. 29. A regulation win over the Sharks would bring them to within two points of the Pacific Division lead, with a game in hand.
The Ducks gave the Sharks their first real challenge of the regular season, after San Jose won its first five games by multiple goals.
“They play hard, and [Ryan Getzlaf] is a great player up front,” Joe Thornton said. “He’s big and strong. They played hard against us.”
“They forecheck well. I think that was the biggest thing,” Burish said of the previous game with Anaheim. “They put pucks in areas they could get them, they forechecked, and they kind of sustained some momentum in our zone. From talking to some guys, this series has always been tight.”
The Ducks will be without defenseman Cam Fowler, who is battling a head injury after getting hit by the Kings’ Jarret Stoll on Saturday.
The Sharks’ lone win against Anaheim last season game 13 months ago, on Jan. 4 at the Honda Center, 3-1.
McLellan gave another update on defenseman Brent Burns on Monday morning, albeit a vague one. The defenseman, who has yet to play this season, did not make the trip to Anaheim. A visiting writer asked if Burns would be back “sooner or later.”
“I guess it depends how we define sooner, but he’s skating with the team now,” McLellan said.
“Pretty soon we’ll try to pick a potential target date, and work towards that.”
The Sharks (7-0-1) and Blackhawks (7-0-2) remain the only teams in the NHL without a regulation defeat. Chicago has a Monday afternoon practice at HP Pavilion. … Former Sharks draft pick Nick Bonino had just six goals in 91 career games before his hat trick against the Kings on Saturday. … Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan has a four-game point streak (2g, 5a).