SAN JOSE -– In the first meeting back on Nov. 16 in Raleigh, rookie Troy Grosenick was the story. The rookie goaltender made 45 saves that night, and was the only reason his lethargic teammates were able to claim a 2-0 win that included an late empty-net goal.
The Sharks know they’ll have to be better if they want to beat Carolina at SAP Center on Saturday in the rematch. The Hurricanes enter in eighth and last place in the Metropolitan Division, but are 8-3-3 in their last 14.
“The goaltender stole one in Carolina, and in fact we were probably just in their way long enough to win the game,” McLellan said.
“Their speed and attack and tempo had us on our heels. We were on the back end of a long road trip, but that speed, attack and tempo still is in their game. Maybe they’re not in a playoff position, but in the New Year they’ve been one of the best teams in the NHL. We’ve got our hands full.”
Bill Peters would prefer to see his club repeat its prior performance against the Sharks, with one tweak.
“We’d love to play the same way with a little bit more additional net-front traffic to make it hard on the goaltender,” said the first-year head coach. “I thought we had a stretch earlier in the year where we generated some shots but didn’t have enough traffic for [second and third chances].
“I think we’re a better team than we were at that stage, and I would think they are, too.”
Peters also commented on the Sharks’ youthful lineup, which features six rookies.
“You know two things –- they’re going to be excited about playing, they’re going to play hard, and they’re going to be dialed in,” Peters said. “Those young guys are all good players from what I could tell in the pre-scout. They’re playing with good players, and that makes it easier for a young guy to settle in.”
The Sharks will begin a three-game homestand, that continues with the Calgary Flames on Monday and Washington Capitals on Wednesday. They will try to open up a four-point lead on the idle Flames for second place in the Pacific Division.
San Jose just completed a two-game road trip in which it struggled in a 3-1 loss in Calgary on Wednesday, but regrouped to breeze past the Canucks on Thursday, 5-1.
“We’ve got to build off our game against Vancouver and keep putting points in the bank,” Patrick Marleau said.
Starters Antti Niemi and Cam Ward will oppose one another in net.