SAN JOSE – Alex Stalock didn’t have to wait very long to get another start.
The backup goalie will play for the second time in less than a week when the surging Sharks host the Ottawa Senators on Monday. For Stalock, it will be a chance to build off of his 21-save performance in a 4-1 Sharks win in Winnipeg on Jan. 12. It was his first victory since Nov. 22.
Prior to that game in Winnipeg, Stalock started two games on a conditioning stint for the AHL Barracuda on Jan. 3 and Jan. 6, and stopped 53 of 57 shots in a pair of wins. Monday’s game, the Sharks’ seventh in 12 nights, gives him an opportunity to stay hot.
“He deserves to play again,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “The whole idea of us sending him down was we knew this stretch of games was coming.”
Stalock said: “It’s been a week since I’ve been in there. Just keep it going. Two in the American League and one up here, and just try to enjoy it.”
Against the Jets last week, Stalock, who has had his misadventures in the crease through the first three months, was as cool and collected as he’s been all season (although did get away with a late blunder that nearly allowed the Jets to tie the game when he was tripped by Blake Wheeler on a somewhat controversial call). He brings a 3-5-0 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .898 save percentage into Monday.
He was also in net for the Sharks’ last game against Ottawa, a 4-1 Senators win on Dec. 18 that included three straight goals in the third period in less than eight minutes.
“It was a good game until the third. They scored one halfway through the third and then it kind of broke open after that,” Stalock said.
The move allows Sharks starter Martin Jones to rest up for Thursday against the Coyotes in what will be a key division game, as well as tough back-to-back home games this weekend against the Wild and Kings. Jones has had a tendency to struggle when he’s getting too much work, as he continues to navigate his first season as a number one.
“We felt that this was going to be a critical time, and we’re going to need both guys,” DeBoer said. “We’re going to have to play both guys. I think that’s the plan.”
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The Senators continue to be led offensively by defenseman Erik Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy winner. The 25-year-old has nine goals and 46 points to lead all NHL blueliners in scoring.
DeBoer said: “If you’re looking to generate offense, it’s got to come from the back end or at least with the support of the back end. I think that’s the way the game is going. And, he’s right at the top of the list. He’s as good as there is in the world at doing that. We have to know when he’s on the ice.”
Stalock said: “They’ve got skilled forwards up front, but we have to key on their back end. [Karlsson] plays a fast game and he’s jumping up all the time. When he’s out there, they have four men on the rush and four men deep in the offensive zone.”
The Sharks have also gotten plenty of their offense from the defensemen, particularly lately. Brent Burns’ 40 points is second only to Karlsson among NHL rear guards, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic has 12 points (4g, 8a) in his last 13 games.
“That’s the NHL now,” DeBoer said.
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The Sharks will have a chance to equal their longest winning streak of the season, when they reeled off six in a row – all on the road – from Nov. 13-22.
Is the team hitting its stride, captain Joe Pavelski?
“I think just as a team we’re playing good. There’s a lot of structure to our game right now,” Pavelski said. “A lot of responsibility and a lot of hard work. We’ve found ways to win.”
“At the end of the night we’ve had that big save or big goal, where all 20 guys are doing a lot of little things to win. That’s made the biggest difference.”