Programming note: Bruins-Sharks coverage begins Saturday at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE -- It was two and a half months ago, but the Sharks can still picture David Krejci’s last-second goal on Oct. 24 at TD Garden, which gave the Bruins a 2-1 win over San Jose. It was the Sharks’ first regulation defeat of the season, dropping them to 8-1-1.
The Sharks did a lot right in that game, outshooting the Bruins 39-17. But Krejci tipped in an Adam McQuaid floater through Antti Niemi, after finding a soft spot between Joe Thornton and Justin Braun.
“We were going really well and give one up right there at the end. It’s a tough way to lose, when you play 60 minutes and it comes down to that moment,” Joe Pavelski said. “But, it’s in the past, we’ve got to play a good game tonight.”
Head coach Todd McLellan pointed out that the last time the Sharks faced Boston, the Bruins had played the night before in Buffalo while San Jose had two days off in New England. The defending Eastern Conference champs may have been a bit fatigued.
“They don’t have that tonight,” McLellan said. “We were fresh, we had two days off, and played with some speed and some tempo early in the game. We’ll need that again tonight against this team, but we can’t rely on the fact that somebody wore them out for us. We’re going to have to do that on our own.”
The Sharks have alternated wins and losses in their last seven games, the most recent being a 4-1 win over Detroit on Thursday at home. They are 16-1-3 at SAP Center, and start a three-game road trip in Washington on Tuesday.
Boston has lately struggled away from home, including losses in Anaheim and Los Angeles in its last two games. Against the Kings on Thursday, goaltender Tuukka Rask was pulled after allowing three goals in 22 minutes in a 4-2 defeat.
Rask, like Niemi, will head to Sochi as part of the Finnish Olympic team. He’s probably got the edge to be the starter over Niemi, and may even be the midseason favorite for the NHL's Vezina Trophy.
Niemi, who has struggled with his consistency this season, admitted there’s something special about facing a countryman.
“It’s always fun to play against the Finnish goalies, and Tuukka, of course, as well, because he’s one of the top goalies in the league,” said Niemi, who will start in net against Rask.
The Bruins will be getting some players back on Saturday. Shawn Thornton’s 15-game suspension for punching Brooks Orpik is over, and Loui Eriksson will return after missing 15 games with a concussion. Eriksson was hurt in that same game on Dec. 7 on a hit by Orpik, which led to Thornton’s cheap shot.
San Jose will ice its same lineup that it did in Thursday’s win over the Red Wings, based on the morning skate. That means Eriah Hayes has at least temporarily pushed a healthy James Sheppard from the forward group.
In his first three career NHL games, Hayes has skated about eight minutes a night, has five shots on goal, six hits, and two blocked shots.
“No fear of the NHL at this point,” McLellan said of the 25-year-old rookie. “He’s just ready to go out and play. That’s a big thing for us right now. He’s provided us with some energy and some good minutes, very capable of playing at this level. Can he maintain that energy level and that fearless level? We’ll see.”
Hayes said: “When I go out there, I want to be reliable and trusted out there. I feel good about it so far.”
Boston leads the Atlantic Division with 58 points, two more than Montreal.
“They’re a good team,” Pavelski said. “Obviously, they had a tough night in L.A. They are one of the better teams in the East and in the league so they are going to come out and play hard and try to reestablish their game.”