Sharks eager for chance to end Blackhawks' streak

Sharks eager for chance to end Blackhawks' streak
February 22, 2013, 11:15 am
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The Sharks will be trying to build off of their win against a good Blues team that ended an 0-4-3 stretch. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Programming note: Sharks-Blackhawks coverage kicks off tonight at 5 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California 

CHICAGO – The Sharks ended one streak on Tuesday night in St. Louis. They’d like to stop another tonight in Chicago.

A 2-1 victory over the Blues halted San Jose’s seven-game skid, and on Friday in Chicago, the Sharks will try and prevent the Blackhawks from setting a new NHL record for points in consecutive games to start a season. Chicago has gone its first 16 without a regular season defeat (13-0-3), tying a mark set by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks.

And, the Sharks are aware.

“It’s a pretty impressive streak. We’re happy with the chance to try to stop it,” Joe Pavelski said on Friday morning. “That’s the bottom line. It’s two points we’d love to have and it’s going to be a competitive battle out there. We’d like to end it, and they’d like to keep it going.”

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Ryane Clowe said: “It will be a good test. Not only are they undefeated, but they are probably pretty excited to go for a record here at home. It will be a great test for us.”

The Sharks will be trying to build off of their win against a good Blues team that ended an 0-4-3 stretch, including a 4-1 defeat here in Chicago exactly one week ago.

Could the good feelings from that win, combined with a pair up-tempo practice sessions in Chicago, help the Sharks play a bit looser than the last time they were handled fairly easily by the impressive Blackhawks?

“I don’t know. I think more than anything we played a better game [in St. Louis],” Clowe said. “When you’re coming off a better game and had a couple good days of practice, you’re feeling better about yourself. We won last game, but played a more complete game against a good team.”

“Maybe we don’t squeeze the sticks as much, but we still only put two pucks in the net,” Todd McLellan said. “We’re not going to win many games like that. We have to get upwards of three or four a night to be successful.”

As pointed out by McLellan, goal-scoring has remains an issue for the Sharks, who have failed to net more than two in regulation in nine of the last 10 games. The power play is just 2-for-42 in the last 10.

"There are certain areas of our game that can get a lot better. It’s time for our power play to start stepping up again,” Pavelski said.

The Sharks will be wrapping up the season series against the Blackhawks, who also won at HP Pavilion on Feb. 5, 5-3.

“Last chance. That’s a six-point swing in a 48-game season,” McLellan said. “You don’t get a chance to get those points back. It really gives them a cushion that’s quite large and quite big.”

Clowe said: “More than anything it will be a test to see where we’re at right now. If we can win this game tonight, I think it will do a lot confidence-wise, and knock them down a bit.”

Niemi to face Emery

Antti Niemi has been perhaps the Sharks’ most consistent player this season, but he’s struggled against his former team this season. Niemi has taken the loss in both games, allowing four goals in each.

In his career at the United Center since the Sharks acquired him, Niemi is 1-3-1 with a 4.11 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. He’s allowed at least three goals in all five games.

Niemi made 25 saves in St. Louis, and is among the league leaders despite his struggles against Chicago. His 1.86 GAA and .933 SP are eighth in the NHL.

“He’s been pretty successful all year,” McLellan said. “If we probably were looking for an MVP or a guy that’s been able to be the most consistent, we’d have to consider him as one of them.”

Ray Emery, who beat the Sharks last Friday, will try and improve to a perfect 7-0-0. Corey Crawford missed the last three games with an upper body injury, but will return and dress as Emery’s backup.

In his last three starts against the Sharks, including one with Anaheim, Emery is 3-0-0 with a 1.60 GAA and .955 SP.

Braun out for Sharks?

Justin Braun was the last Sharks defenseman to come off of the ice in the morning skate on Friday, meaning Jason Demers will likely dress as the sixth defenseman and be paired with Douglas Murray.

If that happens, it will be the second time in the last three games that Braun sits.

The Sharks’ forward lines remained the same as in practice on Thursday, so it looks like TJ Galiardi will return as a fourth line winger and Scott Gomez will remain a healthy scratch.

Blackhawks lineup notables

It appears Marian Hossa will play for Chicago after taking a high hit from Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen on Tuesday. Hossa had two goals against Vancouver before he had to leave the game. Chicago won in a shootout, 4-3.

Daniel Carcillo will also be in for Chicago. He hasn’t played since a knee sprain on opening night forced him from the lineup.

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