It’s Kings-Sharks Rivalry Night in San Jose; it is also Metallica Night

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Nothing else matters except for what’s happening in the Bay Area tonight.

First, there’s the latest installment of the Sharks-Kings rivalry (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the third rematch since last year’s unforgettable playoff series faded to black. The Kings, as you may remember, rallied from 0-3 down — or, depending how you look at it, San Jose collapsed from 3-0 up — to turn the page and eventually win the Stanley Cup.

This year, the Sharks went into seek and destroy mode for the season opener, thumping the Kings 4-0 on banner-raising night, but the bell tolled for San Jose in the rematch, as L.A. won 3-1 win on Dec. 27.

Oh yeah, there’s also something else going on this evening: METALLICA NIGHT.

source:

From the band’s website:

“We have been long supporters of the Sharks going back to the mid-90’s when the team moved permanently to San Jose… over the years we’ve made many treks down to the Shark Tank. So it’s actually pretty fitting that we finally connect with the team for a night of metal and hockey and we want you to come along and partake of the festivities with us.

“We’ll be on hand for the first strains of ‘Seek & Destroy,’ kick off the game with the puck drop, and partake in some of the intermission fun and games that Sharks fans know and love.

It’s very likely the ambiance will spice up tonight’s affair and provide more angst than the last time these two met; back in December, the two sides combined for just 12 penalty minutes (none in the opening period).

“We’ve got to be energized coming to the rink tomorrow, ready for a game that’s going to be like a playoff game,” Logan Couture told the Mercury News. “There’s nothing better than playing a rival. It’ll be a great environment in the building. Metallica Night is probably going to add to it.

“So if we can’t get up for that game, we’ve got some major issues.”

 

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks face Kings in California clash

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign with Wednesday’s second game as the San Jose Sharks host the Los Angeles Kings at the SAP Center at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Beating the Los Angeles Kings handily to open the 2014-15 season obviously didn’t erase all the pain from that infamous “reverse sweep” in the 2014 playoffs, but the San Jose Sharks still got a measure of revenge with that 4-0 win.

The Sharks will get another chance to spite the Kings tonight, as things haven’t been going smoothly for the defending champions lately. The aim is obvious enough for a Kings team that is currently on the outside of the playoff picture, as NHL.com notes.

“We need to be in that playoff spot before the break. No doubt about it,” Drew Doughty said . “We need to win this game. It’s a division game and it’s a big rivalry. We need to win it, and we need to go into the break feeling good about ourselves.”

Really, you can trace the bad times back to a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 6. Including that defeat, the Kings have gone 6-7-7 in their past 20 games. More recently, Los Angeles has dropped three straight games and six of seven, squandering precious points from an expired seven-game homestand.

(While four of those defeats netted standings points, there was also the frustration of leaving points on the table.)

Much of those struggles stem from Jonathan Quick’s prolonged slump.

After starting brilliantly (.942 save percentage in October), Quick’s individual stats have dropped significantly each month; his January save percentage has been a putrid .861.

That’s not to say that the Kings are the only team that sees room for improvement, of course.

You know things aren’t going great for a team when its head coach questions their drive, as Sharks bench boss Todd McLellan did on Tuesday.

After beating Toronto to begin this seven-game homestand, the Sharks have dropped two straight games. They would greatly benefit from exploiting this opportunity to load up on standings points.

As much as these two perennial contending California teams have been struggling lately, there’s still plenty of talent on hand. From Joe Thornton to Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, the Sharks remain loaded with scoring skill. Los Angeles can go toe-to-toe in that area with Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter as well while also boasting elite defenseman Drew Doughty.

Sharks – Kings games are always an entertaining watch, but things get that much more interesting when there’s something on the line. That’s the case tonight, January game or not.

Sharks’ McLellan: ‘We have to get better in a lot of areas’

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Just five days after losing 7-2 on home ice to the Blues, the San Jose Sharks were spanked by the same score Thursday night in St. Louis.

Alex Steen, Jay Bouwmeester and Paul Stastny gave the Blues a 3-1 lead after one period.

Jori Lehtera restored the two-goal lead after Melker Karlsson had pulled the Sharks to within one and T.J. Oshie made it 5-2 after 40 minutes.

Patrik Berglund and David Backes scored third period goals while Brian Elliott made 24 saves for the win.

“For us, the two games against St. Louis give us an indication of where we’re at as a club, and where we need to go,” Sharks’ coach Todd McLellan said post-game. “There’s some high-end players on our team that really have to pick it up, and there’s also some role players that have to pick it up.

“We all have to grow as a group, and we have to get better in a lot of areas if we expect to compete against teams like St. Louis. Right now, it would be hard to find a team better than that.”

Logan Couture had the Sharks other goal while Antti Niemi made 16 saves on 21 shots before being replaced by Alex Stalock.

“You can sit here and make every single excuse in the book, but to lose 7-2 is unacceptable with this team that we have,” Couture said. “We just got beat, plain and simple, again, by that team.

“We’re better than what we’ve shown. To go out and play that team two games and get spanked like that … we haven’t been good in front of our goalies against these guys.”

Get your game notes: Sharks at Wild

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Today on NBC, it’s the Minnesota Wild hosting the San Jose Sharks at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Despite the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul being located more than 2,000 miles away from the SAP Center in San Jose, the Sharks were essentially born from the Minnesota North Stars franchise. Original owners George and Gordon Gund sold the North Stars in exchange for rights to an NHL expansion team in the Bay Area.

• San Jose is in the middle of a 3-game road trip, having played last night at WPG (3-2 win) and closing out the stretch at St. Louis on Thursday.

• Last night, Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored the game winner with 4.5 seconds left in the 3rd.

• This goal at 19:55 was the 2nd-latest regulation game-winning goal in Sharks history. (Jonathan Cheechoo scored at 19:56 in a 5-4 win vs. LA in 2005).

• SJ has gone 3-3-0 in the 2nd half of back-to-back games this season but has never swept both games of its back-to-backs.

• SJ has won 2 of its last 3 since dropping 3 straight before that.

• Minnesota is also a team in search of collecting wins. The Wild, despite splitting their last 4 games (2-2-0), have lost 7 of their last 9 (2-4-3), giving up an average of 4.00 goals per game during this stretch.

• MIN is coming off a 7-1 defeat in Dallas against the Stars on Saturday, by most accounts their worst loss all season:

• The 7 goals was the most given up by MIN all season.

• The 6-goal loss was the largest margin of defeat for MIN all season and the biggest lost since Mar. 6, 2012 at Colorado (also a 7-1 loss).

• Darcy Kuemper gave up 4 goals on 21 shots before being pulled in the middle of the 2nd…Niklas Backstrom allowed 3 goals on 14 shots the rest of the way.

SHARKS WITHOUT JUMBO JOE:

• Sharks captain Joe Thornton will miss his 3rd straight game tonight with an upper-body injury. Thornton was placed on IR on Sunday after he was injured on a hit at ANA on Wednesday. His status is day-to-day.

• Since joining the Sharks in the middle of the 2005-06 season, Thornton has missed only 7 games, having played in SJ’s other 713 regular-season games since then and also all of the Sharks’ 97 playoff games since 2005-06.

• Thornton’s streak of 319 consecutive GP was snapped when he missed Saturday’s game vs. STL.

• Thornton is t-2nd on the team with 33 points (Joe Pavelski – 35) and leads the team with 24 assists… Thornton had played well lately, boasting 5 points (1G-4A) during a personal 5-game point streak and 11 points (2G-9A) in his last 9 games.

• Thornton has fared well against MIN in his career: 36 points (11G-25A) in 38 GP – more points than any other player on the Sharks roster – including 34 points in 33 GP against MIN as a member of the SJ.

HEAD TO HEAD

• Teams have split thus far, with the home team winning each game…

• Oct. 30 at MIN: MIN def. SJ 4-3 (SO).

• Kyle Brodziak scored twice for the Wild

• MIN outshot SJ 46-28

• Jason Pominville netted the shootout winner in the 3rd roun

• Dec. 11 at SJ: SJ def. MIN 2-1.

• Christian Folin scored 1:03 into the 3rd to tie the game at 1 for MIN…but Joe Pavelski scored the game-winner 45 seconds later to give SJ the win.

• MIN Home Winning Streak vs. SJ: MIN is riding a 7-game home win streak vs. SJ dating back to the 2010-11 season.

• MIN last lost at home to SJ on Apr. 2, 2010, a 3-2 win by the Sharks.

SHARKS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Joe Pavelski leads the team in goals (20 – 5th in NHL) and points (35). He tallied 2 assists last night and has 3G-2A during a 3-game point streak. He also has 15 points (10G-5A) in his last 14 games.

• Pavelski’s 10 power-play goals lead the NHL.

• The 9-year vet, who has spent his entire career with SJ, is coming off a career year in which he set personal highs in goals (41) and points (79).

• Patrick Marleau, despite being one of 6 Shark skaters with 20+ points this season (28), has been in a 12-game goal slump and has just 4 assists during this stretch – although he did record a helper last night.

• Marleau ranks 2nd on the team in assists with 21.

• Marleau has faced MIN 52 times in his career, tallying 35 points (18G-17A) in those games.

• Defenseman Brent Burns is one of 3 Sharks with 10+ goals this season and leads all Shark d-men in goals (11 – 3rd on team) and assists (20 – 3rd on team).

• Burns totaled 1G-1A last night and now has 1G-3A during a 3-game point streak.

• Burns ranks 3rd among NHL d-men in points (31) and leads the league lead among d-men in goals (11).

• Burns leads the team in TOI/game (23:42) but does have a -7 rating on the season (t-worst on the team).

• Burns was drafted by MIN back in 2003 (1st round – 20th overall) and played from 2003-2011 with the Wild (183 points in 453 games) before being traded to SJ in June 2011.

• Logan Couture is one of 3 Sharks (along with Thornton and Pavelski) with 30+ points this season, boasting 14G-19A (33 poitns). Couture registered his 10th multi-point game of the season last night (2 assists)

• SJ is 8-2-0 this season when Couture has 2+ points.

• Couture’s 14 goals are 2nd on the team.

• John Scott returned from suspension last night (0 points in 4:48 TOI) after missing the last 4 games for punching Tim Jackman of ANA on Dec. 22.

WILD TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Zach Parise leads the Wild in points (30) and is tied for the team lead in goals (14 – with Nino Niederreiter).

• Parise had an assist against DAL in MIN’s last game and has 7 points (3G-4A) in his last 7 games.

• Jason Pominville is 2nd on the team in points (28) and assists (20)…Pominville has 8 points (2G-6A) in his last 8 games.

• Pominville led the team in goals (30) and points (60) last season.

• Thomas Vanek is 3rd on the team in points (24) and now has 7 goals after finding the back of the net against DAL. Vanek has 10 points (5G-5A) in his last 12 games. Vanek is in his first season in Minnesota (signed in the offseason) has scored 20+ goals and totaled 40+ points in each of his 9 seasons in the league.

• Ryan Suter leads the league in time on ice/game (29:29) after leading the league in this category the past two seasons. Suter is 4th on the team in points (22) and 1st in assists (21 – t-5th in NHL among d-men).

• Suter has gone without a point in his last 5 games and scored his only goal in MIN’s season opener against COL on Oct. 9.

• Nino Niederreiter is tied for the team lead in goals (14) but has gone the last 8 games without one and has 0 points in 5 career games against the Sharks.

• Niederreiter has 18 points this season (played in all 37 games) – halfway to his career high of 36 set last season (in 81 GP) – and has already tied his goal total from a season ago in 44 fewer games.

• Darcy Kuemper is coming off a 4-goals-allowed-on-21-shots outing in Saturday’s loss at Dallas. The Wild goaltender had a strong start to the season but has struggled in net since Nov. 22.

• Kuemper started both games against SJ this season, allowing 3 goals in the October-win and 2 goals in the December-loss.

Video: Sharks best Jets on Vlasic’s buzzer-beater

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It wasn’t always pretty, but it seemed like the Winnipeg Jets might squeeze out a standings point or two against the San Jose Sharks tonight, even with a threadbare defense.

That held true for much of Monday’s game, yet it was all for naught as Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored in the waning moments to give San Jose a 3-2 regulation win (and Winnipeg zero points for its troubles):

Ouch.

This marks the Sharks second win in five tries while the Jets have dropped three of their last four games.

As strong as Michael Hutchinson was in net at times on Monday, Winnipeg left the game empty-handed (and probably muttering a few choice words).

One situation to watch for San Jose is Tomas Hertl’s health. He took a wayward Logan Couture puck to the face while sitting on the bench and needed to leave for repairs.