SAN JOSE –- The most notable trait in the Flames' last two wins -- 1-0 over Vancouver on Jan. 10 and a 4-1 victory against Arizona on Thursday -- is that Calgary wasn’t shorthanded even once in either game.
In fact, the Flames have been shorthanded just 105 times this season, the fewest in the NHL. If the Sharks are going to claim their third-straight win on Saturday at SAP Center, they’ll likely have to play a disciplined game against the club that is just four points behind them in the tightly packed Pacific Division.
“The game is probably going to have to be won 5-on-5 because there's not a lot of power-play time against them,” Todd McLellan said. “That's usually a sign of a fairly quick team. They've got good legs and check properly.”
Joe Pavelski said: “They are a pretty simple team. They work hard. They are disciplined and don’t take many penalties, so it gives them a chance to win every night. It’s going to have to be about us tonight, doing it the right way, staying patient, being able to get on the forecheck, winning faceoffs early on, and build our momentum that way.”
The Sharks will keep their forward lines the same, after pouring 42 shots on goal on Thursday in a 3-1 win over the Maple Leafs. That means Tomas Hertl will play his third straight game at center.
In net, Antti Niemi will make his fifth straight start. He’s 2-1-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in his last three starts, and made a number of key saves against Toronto while the Sharks were clinging to a one-goal lead.
Calgary will go with relative unknown Joni Ortio for the third-straight game. Ortio shut out the Canucks with 35 saves in his season debut, and followed that up by allowing just one goal on 28 shots in the win against the Coyotes. The former sixth-round pick is taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself when Karri Ramo got hurt.
Is there any extra preparation that has to be done for a goalie the Sharks have never seen before?
“[The coaches] will probably go over video, but for me it’s just shoot the puck,” Logan Couture said. “Try and shoot it as much as possible, play in the other team’s end, make the goalie work.”
McLellan said: “With Joni we don't have a lot of information on him, but we'll look at the last few games. ... But, the players will have to crack that nut tonight. They won't get a lot of help from us because there's not a lot of evidence there yet."
San Jose has three games remaining before the All-Star break, and has the luxury of remaining at home for all of them. The victory over the Maple Leafs ended a three-game regulation losing streak at SAP Center.
Saturday’s game is vital when it comes to the standings, as the Flames and Sharks will likely be battling one another for position for the rest of the season. If Calgary wins in regulation, it will be just two points behind the Sharks with a game in hand.
It’s difficult to envision both clubs making it to the playoffs.
“We know where Calgary is in the standings. We know where we are,” Couture said. “You’ve got to be ready to play them. They’re a young team that’s excited to play every night, so you’ve got to match their energy.”