SAN JOSE -– The records, as well as the previous results, often go out the window any time the Sharks and Ducks face off against one another.
Still, headed into Friday’s game at Honda Center, it’s worth nothing that the first two matchups between the California rivals were low-scoring affairs. On Oct. 10, the Sharks claimed a 2-0 win over Anaheim in their home opener. Less than one month later the Ducks squeaked out a 1-0 win at SAP Center behind 31 saves by Anton Khudobin.
Will the Sharks’ first of two games in Anaheim this season be any different?
“You never know. The last game, both goalies were exceptional,” Pete DeBoer said, referring to Khudobin and Martin Jones. “They are hard fought games. You’ve got heavy teams that play hard.”
Joe Pavelski said: “We’re ready when we usually play that team. We get a good performance from a lot of guys. Just that intensity is always there when we play those guys.”
In net, Jones will get the start for the 11th time in the last 12 for San Jose, per DeBoer. Backup Alex Stalock will “probably” play on Saturday at home against the Lightning in the second half of the back-to-back.
Jones has stopped 43 of 44 shots directed his way by Anaheim players in the first two meetings.
“They’re a good team. Obviously, they got off to a slow start,” Jones said of the 9-12-5 Ducks. “They’ve got a very skilled group of forwards, and a big strong team. It’s a good challenge for us.”
Still with just 54 games of NHL experience under his belt, Jones has lately been seeing some Eastern Conference teams that are unfamiliar to the 25-year-old. He’ll be playing the Ducks on Friday for the sixth time in his career, though.
Does it help to play against a team he’s more familiar with?
“I think we do such a good job with video and preparing for teams not that there’s not a lot of surprises when you go in and play someone,” he said. “The more you play against teams you can maybe get a little more comfortable against them, but we do a good job video preparing.”
As it often is, penalty killing will be key, especially if goals are hard to come by again. The Ducks owned the league’s top unit in the NHL heading into Friday night’s game with an 87.0 percent success rate, while the Sharks were 17th at 80.0 percent.
That’s an area of San Jose’s game that is improving, though. Over the last 11 games, the Sharks have killed off 27 of 31 opponent power plays (87.0 percent), and are 9-for-10 over the last four games.
What’s helped turn that aspect of their game around after a slow start?
“Combination of things,” DeBoer said. “We’ve liked the structure since day one. Obviously your goaltender is your best penalty killer. I don’t think it’s any secret, the hotter the goalies are the better that area is.
“Being able to add some more personnel to get out there -– [Chris] Tierney has done a good job, [Dainius] Zubrus is an option now for us, Melker Karlsson is back in the lineup, and he’s a good PK guy. When Logan [Couture] comes back we’ll have another option there. Just some more personnel that we have available to us helps us in that area.”
Although they lost Tuesday against the Penguins, 5-1 in a game that was closer than the score would indicate, the Sharks bring a 7-2-0 mark in their last nine into their meeting with the Ducks. They’ll look to increase the five-point cushion they’ve built on Anaheim in what is still a wide open Pacific Division.
DeBoer said: “We all know what’s at stake. It’s never too early to talk about the importance of the two points against a division rival like that. It should be a playoff-type game.”
“We’re at a point now where we can’t take a step back,” Pavelski said. “We’ve got to push forward and keep getting better. Everything we’ve established now, it has to stay at a high level.”