Programming note: Flames-Sharks coverage begins Monday at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE – There hasn’t been a whole lot of interest or intrigue surrounding the Calgary Flames this season, as they are buried in the Pacific Division standings and are already a virtual lock to miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
That’s not the case as they visit San Jose on Monday, though. Two days ago against Vancouver, the Flames were involved in a highly publicized, old time hockey brawl-fest against the Canucks, in which there were 142 penalty minutes handed out in the first two seconds, 204 for the game, and eight players ejected. Canucks coach John Tortorella was so upset that Calgary started the game with its muscle men that he tried to storm into the Flames’ dressing room at Rogers Arena, and will likely face a league suspension for doing so.
And, yes, the players in the Sharks dressing room saw the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective).
“That was insane. I’ve never seen something like that before, 142 penalty minutes in the first two seconds. That was pretty crazy to see,” Matt Nieto said.
[RELATED: Sharks rookie Nieto finding his game again]
At least one Sharks player enjoyed the spectacle.
“Oh yeah, it’s great. Very entertaining,” Joe Thornton said. “Who wouldn’t want to watch that?”
As for coach Todd McLellan, he had a quick reply when asked what he might do if the Flames again start their fourth line of Kevin Westgarth, Brian McGrattan and Blair Jones against San Jose on Monday night.
“What happens if Doug Wilson signs Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr today? I can’t worry about hypothetical situations,” McLellan said. “They get to start their lineup, we get to start ours.”
The Sharks boarded a cross-country flight on Saturday evening after wrapping up a successful road trip with a thrilling 5-4 win over the Lightning, behind Joe Pavelski’s hat trick. They have won three in a row, and now enter a stretch of eight of 10 games at home leading up to the Olympic break, many of which are against the league’s weaker teams. San Jose is 16-2-3 at SAP Center.
The first home game back from a long trip can often be a struggle. McLellan would like to see his team get off to a quick start, something that it has done more often than not, but was missing in the three wins in Washington, Florida and Tampa Bay.
“We recoup yesterday, we try to get our legs under us quick here in the game tonight, and skate,” McLellan said. “When we’re skating and playing a fast, up-tempo game, we’re an effective team. If we’re sloshing around in the mud, if you will, we’re pretty average.”
Thornton said: “We’re playing well. We just can’t let our guard down here. We’ve got the next eight of 10 here at home, so we want to play well, keep accumulating points and climb in the standings.”
Calgary is just 1-5-1 in its last seven games, and 2-9-1 in its last 12. The Sharks won the first two games of the season series, including an overtime win on Nov. 12 at the Saddledome.
“We know their struggles, but can’t really take that lightly,” Pavelski said. “It’s a big game for us, coming off a road trip like we had, we need to build on it.”
Thornton said: “We all know where they sit in the standings, and they’re playing for contracts over there, so they’re going to come out and compete.”
Whether the Flames will get an emotional boost after what happened against the Canucks on Saturday, a 3-2 shootout loss, is to be determined. That’s not something McLellan can control, of course.
“That’s Calgary’s last game, that’s not San Jose’s last game, so we don’t have to be concerned about it,” he said. “We know what our job is, we know what the task ahead of us is, and at the end of the night we’ve got to score more goals than they do.”
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The Sharks' likely scratches are Mike Brown, Marty Havlat and Scott Hannan, all of whom are options to play, according to McLellan.
Antti Niemi will face Karri Ramo in net.