Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, left, Ryan Getzlaf, right, and Corey Perry celebrate after their team defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. The Ducks won 6-5 in shootout. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
ANAHEIM, Calif. — A team with a sputtering offense meets an opponent with a porous defense when the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks clash Friday night at the Honda Center.
The Sharks, Stanley Cup finalists last season, are near the bottom of the NHL in goals scored with 62 — or 2.38 per game. Defenseman Brent Burns leads San Jose with 11 goals and owns second place with 23 points, one behind Joe Pavelski. In their past 11 games, the Sharks scored two or fewer goals eight times.
Fellow Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlassic provided a simple solution.
“Against anybody, if you play the way we have been — starting the right way, with good breakouts and a good forecheck — no matter who you're playing, you'll have success,” Vlassic told the San Jose Mercury News. “If you do it on a nightly basis, you'll get rewarded.”
Meanwhile, the Ducks allowed 11 goals in their last two games, including eight to the Calgary Flames on Sunday. Five of those goals came in a six-minute span.
Even after his team broke a two-game losing streak Wednesday night by rallying for a 6-5 shootout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle stressed the need for improvement.
“We feel good about the win,” Carlyle said, “but there are parts of the game we definitely have to shore up.”
One of those areas is penalty killing. In their past three games, the Ducks have allowed four power-play goals in 10 opportunities.
“We have a system that we are expected to play to,” Carlyle told the Orange County Register. “We've been chasing where we shouldn't be chasing. We're not in the shooting lanes. We're allowing the opposition to get over and back through people and make the seam passes.”
Left winger Rickard Rakell, one of Anaheim's leading scorers, could miss his third consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Rakell, second on the team with 10 goals, skated in Thursday's optional practice but wore a non-contact jersey. If Rakell cannot play, Nick Ritchie once again would replace him on the Ducks' top line with center Ryan Getzlaf and right winger Corey Perry. Ritchie had a goal and an assist against Carolina.
San Jose defenseman David Schlemko, who played in 24 of the Sharks' first 25 contests, might miss his second successive game Friday night. Schlemko injured his right ankle when the fell to the ice after colliding with the Montreal Canadiens' Phillip Danault during a 2-1 victory Dec. 2.
“All my weight kind of came down on my foot underneath me,” Schlemko told the Mercury News after Thursday's optional practice. “I watched it and was lucky I didn't break it. X-rays were negative so I thought I was fine to go. But started to hurt against kind of late in the third period, so we shut it down. It feels pretty good. It's definitely close.”
Even without Schlemko, Anaheim will find Sharks goalie Martin Jones to be a challenging obstacle. Jones, named the NHL's third star of the week Monday, ranks among the league's top 10 goaltenders with 13 victories, two shutouts and a 2.05 goals-against average.