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Sharks vs. Canucks preview: Nieto returns to lineup for divisional back-to-back

Matt Nieto has been activated from injured reserve in time for the Sharks to close out the year with games against Vancouver and Anaheim.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

With two days left in the calendar year the Sharks still have a pair of games to play, both against division rivals they're chasing in the standings, before the ball drops on New Year's Eve. Their back-to-back slate to close out 2014 begins tonight when they'll host a Vancouver Canucks team that currently has exactly as many standings points as the Sharks albeit with two games in hand over San Jose. Matt Nieto, who has missed the last nine games with an ankle injury, has been activated from injured reserve and will return to the lineup tonight to help the Sharks pick up two valuable wins to finish the year on a high note.

Tale Of The Tape
Vancouver Canucks

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San Jose Sharks
20-11-3, 43 points
Record 19-12-5, 43 points
2nd in Pacific Rank 3rd in Pacific
50.6%
Score-Adj. Fenwick 51.6%
98.5 PDO 99.4
19.3
PP% 24.5
86.8 PK% 83.0

7PM PST | SAP Center | San Jose, California
TV: CSNCA-HD | Radio: SJSharks.com, 98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: Canucks Army, Nucks Misconduct, Pass It To Bulis

Projected Sharks Lineup

Matt Nieto - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Tomas Hertl - James Sheppard - Barclay Goodrow
Tye McGinn - Andrew Desjardins - Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon - Brent Burns
Matt Irwin - Matt Tennyson

Alex Stalock
Antti Niemi

Projected Canucks Lineup

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata
Chris Higgins - Nick Bonino - Derek Dorsett
Alexandre Burrows - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen
Shawn Matthias - Brad Richardson - Linden Vey

Alex Edler - Chris Tanev
Ryan Stanton - Kevin Bieksa
Luca Sbisa - Yannick Weber

Ryan Miller
Eddie Lack

Last Meeting

With Antti Niemi pulled for an extra attacker and time winding down, Tommy Wingels threw the puck into the slot in desperation allowing Joe Thornton to bat it past an outstretched Ryan Miller. Unfortunately, it was deemed the puck crossed the goal line after the buzzer sounded, giving the Sharks a 3-2 home loss to Vancouver in early November despite outshooting the Canucks 36-19.

Storylines

  • Chris Tierney, a healthy scratch in the team's last four games, was reassigned to Worcester to open up a roster spot for Nieto.
  • Impressively, and despite signing Ryan Miller to a big contract, the Canucks are currently 2nd in the Pacific Division despite a fairly dreadful showing by their goaltenders so far this season. Vancouver's .911 team 5-on-5 save percentage ranks 26th in the NHL, ahead of only teams like the Oilers, Wild and Hurricanes who don't have a starting goalie among them.
  • Alex Stalock, first off the ice at the team's morning skate, will likely start in goal for the Sharks tonight meaning Antti Niemi's a good bet to start in Anaheim tomorrow.