SAN JOSE – It’s still awfully early in the season, but the Sharks are hopeful that they will be able to take advantage of the Rangers playing their second game in as many nights, when the teams meet on Tuesday at SAP Center. San Jose will be trying to improve to 3-0-0, and should be well rested, having not played since Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
New York is starting its season with nine straight road games due to renovations at Madison Square Garden, and earned a 3-1 win over the Kings on Monday night to even their record at 1-1-0.
“We’d like to get out of the gate and get our speed going, if we can,” Todd McLellan said. “They’re an aggressive team all over the ice. They’re not going to give you much space going through the neutral zone and the d-zone. If we can start quick, and wear a team down that’s played back-to-back…”
Of course, the reverse could happen.
“They feel good about what they did last night, and they just pick up where they left off,” McLellan said. “It’ll be our job to establish our game quickly.”
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There isn’t much that’s gone wrong for the Sharks in wins over the Canucks and Coyotes. San Jose has essentially controlled play for the duration of both matches, save for the opening minutes of the Vancouver game and the end of the second period against Phoenix.
On Saturday, they fired 51 shots on goaltender Mike Smith, and put three past him. They’ll need to do the same against the elite Henrik Lundqvist, who will start for the second straight night on Tuesday after making 28 saves against the Kings. Antti Niemi will go for the Sharks.
“I think you make a goalie work when you get the pucks on net,” said Patrick Marleau, who has a goal in each of the first two games. “The d-men don’t know where it’s going to go off the goalie, and it’s a little bit easier to get in on the forecheck, as well.”
It starts on the other end of the rink, though, according to McLellan.
“The fact that we’re doing certain things right in our end allows us to set up our offense. One goes with the other,” he said. “If you’re taking care of your end, you usually get some opportunities at the other end.”
The Sharks will see a familiar face behind the Rangers' bench in head coach Alain Vigneault, who was fired after the Sharks swept Vancouver out of the playoffs last May in the first round.
Eastern Conference teams tend to play a more offensive style, which could suit Vigneault, who is more of an offensive-minded coach.
“I think it’s a little bit more high scoring out in the East, for whatever reason,” Marleau said. “There’s a little bit of a difference, but there’s always that East vs. West competitiveness, and you’ll probably see that again tonight.”
He continued: “We’ve seen [Vigneault] coach some teams in the past against Vancouver, so we’re going to expect a lot of the same style of game."
Brad Stuart, the hardest hitter on the Sharks’ blue line, will make his season debut. Perhaps he can set the tone early.
"We're going to make sure we have a good start, and let them know it's going to be a hard night,” Stuart said. “If they're allowed to ease into the game, I think that will be advantageous for them. So, we want to jump on them early and let them know it's going to be a tough night, and we don't expect anything but a hard effort from them.”