ANAHEIM – The Sharks and Ducks were two of the hottest teams in hockey at the All-Star break.
San Jose, 8-0-2 in its last 10, will be attempting to extend its point streak on Tuesday at Honda Center, while the Ducks – 10-3-1 in their last 14 – will be going for their fourth straight win. Anaheim trails the second place Sharks by five points, with a game in hand.
It’s a heck of a way for both teams to start the unofficial second half of the season. Jockeying for playoff position is in full swing.
“I think any time you’re playing well on a roll and a rhythm like we were you don’t want to take a break. At the same time, I think the tanks were pretty empty by the end,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “I think the guys really pushed hard to the finish line there, and probably deserved a break. For us, it’s finding that rhythm here again. Anaheim was playing very well too the last month, so it should be an exciting game.”
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said: “There’s not a lot of love between the two teams, and when you get together you know it’s going to be a hard game. We take today as no different. They’re ahead of us in the standings. We want to catch them. They want to keep us behind them. It should make for a really good, interesting game.”
Spreading out the scoring has been key in both team’s recent runs of success. The Sharks have been bolstered by Logan Couture’s return and the resurgence of Tomas Hertl, in particular, while the Ducks have Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler on different lines.
There won’t be any easy shifts for either club.
Boudreau said: “They’ve balanced out their scoring where usually the top two defense pairs are not just facing [Patrick] Marleau and [Joe] Pavelski and [Joe] Thornton. With three lines coming at you, it’s difficult to stop. I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve been successful, and it’s one of the reasons we’ve been successful recently is because we’ve split Perry and Getzlaf up. It makes it more difficult for teams to cover.”
The Ducks, a preseason pick by many to challenge for a Stanley Cup, appear to have put their early struggles behind them.
DeBoer said: “They’re a different team. You just write their lineup on the board, four dangerous lines.”
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Goals have been at a premium in the first three games of the season series. The Sharks shut out the Ducks 2-0 in their home opener on Oct. 10, but have been blanked in a pair of 1-0 defeats in the two most recent meetings.
None of the four goals that the teams have combined for have come on the power play. San Jose is 0-for-9 against the Ducks’ top-ranked unit, while Anaheim is 0-for-7.
“Our penalty killing has been there all season,” Perry said. “It’s won us hockey games, for sure.”
One of the keys in the first game back from a break, according to DeBoer, is playing a simple, cerebral game. He’ll emphasize staying out of the penalty box to his troops.
“The smartest team usually wins these games,” DeBoer said. “The team that doesn’t turn pucks over, that stays out of the penalty box. That’s going to be our focus tonight. It’s not going to look like it did the game before we left, but we have to play a smart road game here.”
Pavelski said: “You’ve got to play responsible hockey, and I think we’ve done that. Guys have shown up to work and that’s been needed. Hopefully we can just build off of that.”
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The Ducks will be getting Cam Fowler back, after the defenseman has missed the last 13 games with a knee injury.
In 34 games, Fowler has 12 points (3g, 9a) and a minus-11 rating. He leads the Ducks in average ice time at 22:38 per game.
“He’s our best defenseman,” Boudreau said. “When you lose him, it’s difficult. We did a good job without him, but we’re really happy to have him back. He’s a first-pass, moving-out-of-his-own-zone kind of guy. He can skate and he can defend. All those things are qualities that you sure miss when he’s not there.”
DeBoer said: “[Fowler] gives them a real dimension on D with [Sami] Vatanen and some of the other skaters they’ve got back there. Their goaltending has been outstanding for the last month-and-a-half. There aren’t many weaknesses here.”
Martin Jones will face Frederik Andersen in net, as All-Star John Gibson will get another day to rest from the festivities in Nashville.
Andersen has been bad against the Sharks in his career, with a 1-6-0 record, 3.09 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. It will be his first game against San Jose since the Sharks’ home opener when he allowed two goals on 44 shots.
Jones is 7-0-1 with a 1.96 GAA and .930 save percentage in his last eight starts.