SAN JOSE – In their previous matchup with the Canucks just five days ago, the Sharks’ quick start was the key. San Jose scored three times in the first eight minutes and won 6-2, in a game that was closer than the score indicates after a pair of late empty net goals.
They’ll try and duplicate that in the rematch at SAP Center, as the Sharks open up a difficult four-game homestand with their season potentially on the line.
“We want to have the same mentality – shoot the puck, try and score on the rebounds, get it back,” said Logan Couture, who had one goal on Tuesday. “It was a great start for us. That won us a game in their building, and we’d like to get one early at home.”
Since the 2-1 loss outdoors to the Kings on Feb. 21, San Jose has been playing well at the start of games. In losses against the Red Wings and Senators, the Sharks played strong first periods before eventually fading and losing in regulation. Against the Canadiens and Canucks, though, they’ve maintained their early positive energy for much of the 60 minutes in recording back-to-back wins.
That’s a positive development with just 17 games left, and the Sharks sitting four points out of a playoff spot.
“We’ve had some good starts recently. That’s something that’s kind of keyed our game, so hopefully we can continue to do that,” Tommy Wingels said.
“Not only have the results been better, but when we watch video and we talk about the things we want to do as a team, they’re better in the past couple games. We’re more confident than we were a week ago. That’s a good thing.”
The Sharks were finally able to get a home win last Monday, as a 4-0 shutout of Montreal put an end to their miserable 0-6-2 run as SAP Center. Saturday’s tilt against the Canucks is the Sharks’ final long stretch of home games this season, as they will finish with 10 of their final 13 on the road.
It would be an optimal time for them to find that home consistency that has eluded them, as the powerful Penguins, Predators and Blackhawks are on the upcoming slate.
Couture said: “We haven’t been too good at home this year and it would be nice to finish the season with a good run, but we need to focus on Vancouver and go from there.”
Todd McLellan senses his team is trending the right direction again, and that can’t wane now that it’s so late in the season.
“We’ve had a tendency to play in waves a little bit, where we build and crest and then crash. That can’t happen,” said the coach.
“It’s not going to work that way in the last 17 games if we want to get to the second season. We’ve got to build a wave and we’ve got to ride it for a long period. We began that process with the two [wins], and now we’ve got to continue on.”
* * *
The Canucks’ injured list is shorter than it was on Tuesday, as defenseman Alex Edler and forwards Alex Burrows and Zack Kassian have all returned to Vancouver’s lineup.
In goal, the Sharks’ Antti Niemi will face Vancouver’s Eddie Lack. It will be Lack’s first-ever start at SAP Center, after the injured Ryan Miller helped Vancouver to win twice here this season.
Niemi is 11-8-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .915 save percentage career vs. Vancouver.