SAN JOSE – Three days after beating the best overall team in the NHL in the Washington Capitals, the Sharks will host another club at the top of its division on Tuesday night in the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer challenged his club to put forth a playoff-type effort on Saturday, and he got it in the form of a rousing 5-2 victory. That same type of determination will be necessary against the Bruins, who are 5-0-2 in their last seven games and 11-2-0 in their last 13 on the road.
“The guys found that level, I think. It wasn’t just two lines, it was 20 guys,” DeBoer said of Saturday’s performance. “It was a good sign. That’s got to be a part of our regular routine here over the last  games, because you don’t just crank that up for the playoffs.”
He later added: “We haven’t played a game like that in awhile, where we were dialed in and we were firing on all cylinders playing a playoff-type game. I like the fact we rose to that occasion, and tonight’s another night where I expect we’ll have to do the same thing.”
The Sharks are 8-1-1 and have won six straight games against teams that are currently in the top three of their respective divisions. The Washington game ended a stretch of eight in a row against clubs that won’t make the postseason, with San Jose going 5-3-0 over that span and looking sluggish during long portions of some of those games.
Is it only natural to get a little more amped up against the better teams in the league, Joel Ward?
“Yeah, I guess so. It’s a little added when you’re playing against the top-end teams, for sure. It seems like we’ve done well against top teams,” Ward said. “I don’t know if that’s the case, if we just get more amped up for it, it just seems to be that way.
“It’s a good test for us here tonight again, a team that’s hot on the road, have been playing well overall. A lot of key guys they’ve got, with a good back end and a great goalie. It’s a solid team up and down.”
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Sharks goalie James Reimer will get to show off his new teal mask for the first time Tuesday night. It will be his third start with San Jose and first since a 31-save shutout of the Oilers last Tuesday.
Reimer faced the Bruins three times with the Maple Leafs this season, posting a 1-1-1 record, 2.27 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. In his career, he’s played Boston 16 times with a .930 save percentage.
That’s part of the reason he’ll get the call on Tuesday.
“That’s one of the things we look at," DeBoer said. "Schedule-wise, it worked. He’s an Eastern Conference goalie so he has seen them a lot and his record is good against them."
Reimer said: “It’s a little different when you play them and you’re playing for a different team, because the way you force them to do some stuff may be different. … But, you’re more familiar with them so hopefully you can read the plays maybe a little quicker or sooner than another team that you haven’t played against.”
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Tommy Wingels is healthy enough to play against Boston after recovering from a left shoulder sprain, but DeBoer will keep him out of the lineup for at least one more game. Considering how pleased he was with the lineup in Saturday’s win, that’s not overly alarming.
Still, Wingels’ availability serves as a reminder to the rest of the forwards that they had better keep their games in order. Melker Karlsson, Matt Nieto, Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus are the Sharks most in danger of losing their spot if DeBoer wants to get Wingels back into the active lineup.
“Those are tough decisions, and that’s exactly the spot we want to be in from a coaching perspective, DeBoer said.
“You play well, you keep your job. … You don’t, or you take your foot off the gas, there’s guys there that want the opportunity and are ready to take it. That type of competitiveness can do nothing but help us as a team. It’s uncomfortable for the players, but that’s the time of year we’re in.”