SAN JOSE -– Immediately after the Sharks beat the Wild on Saturday afternoon in thrilling fashion, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer bristled at a question about Sunday’s important divisional matchup with his team’s chief rival.
“You can’t even let me enjoy this one for five minutes, huh? We’re on to the next biggest game,” he said through a chuckle.
Now that he’s had time to sleep on it, DeBoer admitted that the focus for his club on Sunday will be drawing to within six points of the first place Los Angeles Kings, who have lost two straight but still enjoy a substantial eight-point lead over the rest of the division, including second-place San Jose.
“We want to put as much pressure on them as we possibly can. You only get so many of these opportunities for these four-point games,” DeBoer said. “This is an important game for us.”
Logan Couture agreed. "Yeah, it's a big game. We can inch a little bit closer to these guys. It seemed like not too long ago we were pretty far away from them. So yeah, it's a very, very big game."
The Sharks have made a considerable climb in the standings during their 7-0-1 streak that started on Jan. 9. Headed into that game against the Maple Leafs, a 7-0 thrashing of Toronto, San Jose was in sixth place in the Pacific and full 16 points behind Los Angeles.
“Whether we’re on a streak or not, it’s nice to know the guys have been playing hard and been doing a lot of little things right,” Joe Pavelski said.
* * *
The Sharks held an optional skate on Sunday morning, and the only player who was on the ice that played in Saturday’s game was Mike Brown, who skated for just 3:18 in the win over the Wild.
Both clubs will be playing in the second of a back-to-back tonight, but the Sharks should be the more rested club, having played an afternoon home game as opposed to Los Angeles visiting Arizona last night.
“The day games are nice,” Pavelski said. “You can go out to dinner and those things, because you’re not in such a rush to get some sleep. … But, you’re still on a back-to-back, so you still have to manage yourself to an extent.”
Getting out on the ice again right away when the Sharks are playing arguably their best hockey of the season might not be a bad thing, either.
"I think anytime you're playing well and you're feeling good about your game it's a good time to continue to play hockey,” Couture said. “We've had a lot of games lately. It's been a tough schedule, but when you're confident and you're feeling good about your game, you want to get back out there and play again. So, I think it's a good time for us right now."
* * *
DeBoer will once again tab Martin Jones to start in net, after the Sharks number one won his sixth straight with 25 saves against the Wild.
In three games against his old squad, Jones is 2-1-0 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
“He’s got the game face the same every game. But, you know there’s extra emotion there,” DeBoer said of Jones playing his former teammates. “There always is when you’re playing your old team, and it’s not that far in the rear view mirror. It’s still pretty fresh that I’m sure that he’s got a little extra excitement here today.”
No other lineup changes are expected from the Sharks, so Dainius Zubrus, who was recently on injured reserve with an upper body injury, remains out.
“He could play if we needed him, but I also think he’s benefiting from the rest with what he was dealing with,” DeBoer said. “It just doesn’t make sense to make any changes.”