Programming note: Sharks-Ducks coverage begins Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
ANAHEIM – Yes, the Sharks played one of their better games in recent weeks in Sunday’s 3-1 home win over the Anaheim Ducks. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t adjustments to be made for Tuesday’s New Year’s Eve rematch in Southern California (4:30 p.m., CSN California).
One in particular is that San Jose would like to spend more time in its offensive zone. The Ducks outshot the Sharks, 31-23, and spent long stretches of time pressuring San Jose.
The Sharks played well in keeping the Ducks to the outside and not allowing second chance opportunities, including blocking a franchise-record tying 30 shots. They realize that’s playing with fire, though, according to Dan Boyle.
“We got the win, but we have to remember that they were in our end quite a bit,” Boyle said after an optional morning skate at Honda Center. “If it wasn’t for a good save or a good stick, it could have gone the other way. So, I think we have to do a little better job of being in their end little more, wearing down their D, and getting some more opportunities.”
Todd McLellan pointed out that the Sharks’ failure to get pucks through from the points was missing on Sunday, as San Jose had just two shots from its defense, one each from Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Their 23 shots was their second-lowest total of the season.
“That doesn’t keep any team on its toes,” McLellan said. “That doesn’t keep the opposition running around in their own zone. So, that has to improve a little.”
The Sharks are also dealing with yet another injured player, as Tommy Wingels is out with an upper body injury. The rugged winger went hard into the end boards, head first, early in the game on Sunday after a collision with Anaheim’s Mark Fistric.
Freddie Hamilton has been recalled from Worcester for the third time, and will be playing in his eighth game if he suits up. McLellan would not confirm if Hamilton, still looking for his first NHL point, would play.
Wingels’ injury means the Sharks are without five forwards from the start of training camp, including Marty Havlat (lower body) and Tomas Hertl (right knee), both of whom have been placed on injured reserve. Bracken Kearns was recalled before Sunday’s game, and scored his first career goal.
“Bracken had a good game the other night, Freddie coming up, if he gets a chance, he’s got to leave his mark, as well,” Joe Pavelski said. “The top guys have to play and perform, and everyone else needs to follow.”
McLellan said: “[Hamilton] has proven that he can skate at the NHL level. We have confidence in him and trust him in all different situations. He can play the middle or the wing, so we look at him as a utility man.”
The Sharks will be trying to draw within three points of the Ducks for the division lead, with two games in hand. Sunday’s win brought them closer, but that will mean little without at least another point in the standings on Tuesday.
Anaheim has not lost in regulation on home ice (14-0-2). After ending the Ducks’ 10-game winning streak on Sunday, the Sharks now hope to end Anaheim’s impressive run at Honda Center.
McLellan said: “It really diminishes whatever lead they had on us. Let’s face it, if they win both, they are a long ways away from us. If we win both, we’re a little bit closer. If we spilt, we’re right back to the same spot.”
* * *
Antti Niemi will be in net for the Sharks, likely opposing Jonas Hiller, who had the night off on Sunday.
Hiller is 7-10-2 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .929 save percentage against the Sharks. Niemi, second in the NHL with 21 wins, is 9-7-0 with a 2.32 GAA and .912 SP career vs. the Ducks.