Sharks-Ducks Preview

While the Anaheim Ducks sit second from the bottom of the NHL

standings and have clearly had trouble keeping up with most teams,

it’s safe to say they’ve had the San Jose Sharks’ number.

Hoping to avoid a seventh defeat in eight games overall, Anaheim

looks for a fifth consecutive victory over visiting San Jose on

Wednesday night.

The Ducks (10-21-6), one point ahead of league-worst Columbus,

saw their struggles continue during Saturday’s 4-2 loss to

Colorado. Anaheim failed to score a power-play goal for the fourth

straight game and trailed 3-0 after giving up two goals in a 1:16

span midway through the second period.

“It’s consistency that’s bothering us the most,” said defenseman

Cam Fowler, who had an assist for just his third point in 11

games.

“Teams are jumping on us, and we can’t allow them to do that.

After (allowing) two goals in the span of one minute, you could see

the heads drop. It’s never easy, but when you’re slumping like

this, it’s a little bit harder.”

Though the Ducks concluded 2011 in disappointing fashion, they

could kick off the new year on a positive note with the Sharks

(20-11-4) coming to town. Anaheim has taken all three meetings this

season to post nearly a third of its wins, and its only victory in

the last seven games overall was 3-2 at San Jose on Dec. 26 to snap

a franchise-worst 13-game road losing streak.

“They have good players,” Sharks center Joe Pavelski said

following that loss. “Their record may not show it but they are

pretty dynamic.”

San Jose, outscored 15-8 in dropping four of five at Anaheim,

sits on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture with

44 points. The Sharks, though, have earned at least one point in

eight of their last nine games.

They snapped an 0-2-2 road losing streak and opened 2012 in

impressive fashion with Monday’s 3-2 shootout win at Northwest

Division-leading Vancouver.

Antti Niemi made 27 saves and center Michal Handzus had the only

goal of the shootout.

“We keep talking about how one play, whether it’s early in the

first (period) or late in the third,” defenseman Dan Boyle said.

“One play could be the difference-maker and tonight we had to take

it to a shootout to get a winner.

“It’s a start. The West is so tight, every point counts so

getting that extra point was big for us.”

Niemi, who improved to 5-1-1 over his last seven starts Monday,

is 3-4-0 with a 2.31 goals-against average lifetime against the

Ducks. He’s allowed three goals in each of his two losses to

Anaheim this season.

Since losing eight of his first nine career starts versus the

Sharks, Jonas Hiller has gone 5-0-0 with a 1.71 GAA and two

shutouts in six games against them. He made 36 saves to beat San

Jose last week and turned away 31 shots in a 1-0 win Oct. 14.

Hiller, however, has lost five of his last six starts overall

with a 3.80 GAA.

Hiller and the Ducks have made things difficult on Sharks

forward Patrick Marleau, who has no points in the past five

meetings and just four over his last 18 regular-season visits to

Anaheim. Marleau, however, is on a bit of a roll after tallying his

fourth goal and eighth point in eight games Monday.

Ducks left wing Bobby Ryan has scored a goal in three

consecutive games, but reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry has

gone pointless in a season-worst four straight.