The eternally beloved Anaheim Ducks (6-6-1, 13 points, sixth in the Pacific) come to town tonight to face our very own Sharks (7-5-0, 14 points, third in the Pacific) for the first time this season. Fresh off of a decisive 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators, the Sharks look to extend their longest winning streak of the season to four over the San Diego Gulls — er, Ducks on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Ducks' injury-riddled lineup will feature some unfamiliar names to Sharks fans, with Ryans Getzlaf (wear a visor, dude!) and Kesler out to injuries, along with Cam Fowler and Patrick Eaves. The criminally underrated Hampus Lindholm is back, however, and seems to be finding his footing, scoring his first goal of the season over the very same Predators in a 3-5 loss last night.
Special teams look to play a part in the evening's festivities, as the Ducks have installed a summer home in the penalty box this season. The Ducks rank third in the NHL in penalties taken with 68, and fourth with an average of 13 penalty minutes per game, although this number is inflated by three game misconducts taken in an October 20 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Anaheim defenseman and puck magician Kevin Bieksa places ninth in the league with 29 penalty minutes, while forward Nick Ritchie takes 11th with 26.
Ducks head coach and technological mastermind Randy Carlyle has been forced to field more than a few questions about the Ducks’ apparent preference for playing from behind. In fact, Anaheim has scored first in only four of their 13 games so far. If the Sharks can get on the board early, their fourth ranked defense (in goals against per game played, 2.42), and second ranked penalty kill (89.4%) should have no trouble containing Anaheim's decimated forward group.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned Sharks' defense may struggle tonight without their fearless leader, Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Steady Eddie is set to miss his first game of the season, recovering from a high hit from Ryan Johansen on Wednesday night. Vlasic skated with the Sharks this morning and took some light shots, but his timetable for return is still unknown.
The Ducks are led in points by iron man Andrew Cogliano, who will play his 800th consecutive NHL game tonight, good for fourth all time. Cogliano has not missed a single game since his NHL debut in 2007. Ondrej Kase has three points (two goals, one assist) in his last three games played, and Sharks captain Joe Pavelski is one goal shy of 300 for his career, having scored in each of his last two games. Logan Couture leads the Sharks in points (12) and in goals (eight).
Puck drops at 7:30 Pacific, so get your weird Jedi robes ready, and may the Force be with them.