VANCOUVER – The Sharks will stick with their same lineup against Vancouver on Tuesday night at Rogers Arena, looking to build off of Monday’s 4-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens.
Not that they have much choice, at least at forward, as San Jose has yet to recall any spare players after losing four but adding just one before the trade deadline.
On defense, rookie Mirco Mueller will remain in the lineup, while Scott Hannan sits for the second straight game.
Against Montreal, coach Todd McLellan reunited Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun on the blue line, while Mueller was with Brenden Dillon. Brent Burns and Matt Irwin made up the third pair.
“Got a good game out of them, so we’ll try it again for tonight,” McLellan said of his defense corps, which held Montreal to 20 shots.
Braun said: “When you shut out a team like that, it’s an impressive effort by the whole group. It’s not just one or two guys, it’s top to bottom.”
Mueller played on Monday for the first time in seven games. He skated 18 minutes and 33 seconds, and on one play early in the third period, fell down while skating backwards but had the mindfulness to spin around and poke the puck away from a charging Dale Weise.
“I thought he skated extremely well. You could see that he brings that pace and that tempo to our game. That’s one of his assets,” McLellan said. “As the game wore on he got more and more comfortable. Not being in the lineup for awhile is a tough thing for a 19-year-old, but coming back in he really settled down and gave us a boost.”
It’s the first of two straight games against the Canucks. The Sharks host Vancouver on Saturday in the final game of the season series in their next match, while the Canucks will face Arizona on Thursday first.
San Jose has won four straight in Rogers Arena, and six of the last seven, including three in a shootout and one in overtime. They claimed a 5-1 win here on Feb. 5.
The Sharks trail Vancouver by five points in the division despite playing two more games.
“We’re in a little bit more difficult spot than what Vancouver is with games remaining and playoff position, so all the games are going to be intense,” McLellan said. “I don’t think it matters if you’re playing back-to-back or within one week, they’re going to come and play hard and we’re going to come and play hard.”
Braun said: “We’ve had a lot of big games over the years here, and I think guys feel that. Tonight is another big one.”
The Sharks will be trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since the end of January.
“Hopefully March is our month,” Braun said. “February wasn’t great, but we’ve got games left and plenty of time to do what we need to do and get where we need to go.”
Antti Niemi will start in net. He’s 1-4-0 with a 2.84 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in his last five starts.