Sharks-Ducks Preview

To put it mildly, the San Jose Sharks seem to have taken their

first-round ouster to the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks last spring

personally.

The Western Conference-leading Sharks can add to the sputtering

Ducks’ misery by polishing off a six-game season series sweep

Sunday night at the Honda Center.

Anaheim shocked San Jose in six games last spring, allowing just

10 goals while eliminating the NHL’s top regular-season team in the

first round.

The Sharks (43-14-10) again have the most points in the West,

and 10 of those have come while taking their lingering frustrations

out on the Ducks. San Jose has outscored Anaheim 19-7 while winning

all five games of this season’s series, with Joe Thornton (four

goals, nine assists) and Patrick Marleau (five goals, five assists)

doing the bulk of the damage.

While the Sharks have won three of four overall since losing

their first post-Olympic contest, Anaheim (30-29-8) is still

seeking its first win since the break. Two of the losses during the

Ducks’ five-game slide have been shutouts, including a 1-0 home

defeat against Nashville on Friday.

“As a group, we don’t seem to be engaged emotionally in the

hockey game,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “I mean, we are for

spurts, but not for 60 minutes. That’s what’s been really

frustrating for everybody. The bench is quiet, the room is quiet

… it’s like we’re waiting for something bad to happen. And at

times, we seem to be in more of a defensive shell than we should

be.”

Now 10 points behind eighth-place Detroit with 15 games

remaining, Anaheim appears unlikely to get another crack at the

Sharks in the first round. Though the Ducks had the same total of

68 points with 15 games left last season, they were only two points

out of a playoff spot then.

San Jose is opening a six-game road trip after concluding its

five-game homestand in frustrating fashion. The Sharks led Florida

2-0 after one period Saturday on goals from Ryane Clowe and

Marleau, but lost 3-2 in overtime.

It was the polar opposite of San Jose’s most recent win. The

Sharks fell behind Nashville 4-2 after two periods Thursday before

scoring six times in the third to win 8-5.

“We came out (against the Panthers) and had a little fire in our

belly, and played extremely hard in the first period,” coach Todd

McLellan said. “But we let it get away from us. That’s the

inconsistency in our game right now. Obviously they heard the

message at the start but now we reversed the trend and didn’t

finish real well. We have to move on.”

Given the success of Thornton and Marleau against the Ducks this

season, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Evgeni Nabokov shouldn’t have much trouble bouncing back,

either. Russia’s Olympic starter is 11-4-2 with a 1.74

goals-against average in his last 17 regular-season outings against

the Ducks.

While Thornton and Marleau have carried San Jose versus Anaheim,

their Canadian Olympic teammates have disappeared for the Ducks.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have one goal, three assists and are a

combined minus-14 in the five games against San Jose.