Ducks, Sharks meet with the same goal: score more
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Goals are hard to come by this season for the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, but that seems to be the norm when the California rivals have faced off in recent years.
Looking to stretch its longest winning streak of the season to four games, the Sharks welcome the Ducks on Saturday night to SAP Center.
San Jose (7-5-0) has won only two of its last eight meetings with Anaheim (6-6-1), which has outscored the Sharks 16-12. Neither team has put up more than three goals in a game and San Jose has been held to two or fewer goals in all six losses in that span.
This season, both clubs are in the bottom half of the NHL in scoring. Anaheim is tied with the Winnipeg Jets for 17th with 38 goals and San Jose is even with the Buffalo Sabres in 23rd with 34 goals.
The Ducks' scoring woes may be traced to injuries. Center Ryan Getzlaf (face) has played in just six games, center Ryan Kesler (hip surgery) has yet to hit the ice this season and Cam Fowler (lower-body injury) has been on injured reserve since Oct. 21.
Last season, Getzlaf and Kesler ranked first and second, respectively, in scoring. Fowler was Anaheim's highest-scoring defenseman.
The Sharks are still looking someone to pick up the scoring slack after letting Patrick Marleau (27 goals last season) walk away in free agency following nearly two decades with the team.
San Jose reaches the midway point of its second five-game homestand this season after posting a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night. Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker each had a goal and an assist, and center Joe Thornton became the 20th player in league history with 1,400 career points.
"It was just a good, hard-fought win," captain Joe Pavelski told the Sharks' official website. "I think you understand that guys in here care. We weren't happy with our start, and the last five, six, seven games, it's been much better.
"It's just a continuous process of working towards that and keeping our game at a certain level we want to keep it at."
Pavelski also scored his fourth goal and needs one more to reach a rare milestone. Selected 205th overall in the 2003 NHL Draft, the 33-year-old center would join only Marleau with 300 goals in a San Jose uniform. Now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marleau collected 508 goals before heading east.
Pavelski has 14 goals in 59 career games versus Anaheim.
The Sharks' resurgence in the standings could easily be tied to a stout defense. Martin Jones has been red-hot (6-1-0, a 1.44 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and one shutout) in his last seven starts.
After being acquired from the Boston Bruins in June 2015, Jones has surrendered only seven goals in five home games against the Ducks but is 2-3-0 in those meetings.
While the Sharks appear to have gotten back on track on both ends of the ice, defenseman Brent Burns is still scuffling.
The reigning Norris Trophy winner has taken a team-high 54 shots but has only seven assists in 12 games. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Burns leads all defensemen with 56 goals and 727 shots, and is second in points with 158, trailing only Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.
Since joining San Jose in 2011, the 32-year-old has eight goals and 11 assists in 28 games against Anaheim. However, Burns hasn't beaten the Ducks for a goal at SAP Center in eight straight games dating to March 30, 2014.
The Sharks may also be without a key member on defense and perhaps beyond Saturday. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is day to day after taking a hit to the head from the Predators' Ryan Johansen.
"He's one of those guys you don't realize how important he is until he is out of the lineup," coach Peter DeBoer, who needs one win for 100 with the Sharks, told the San Jose Mercury News.
Vlasic has a goal and three assists in 12 games.
Anaheim will try to avoid a season-high third straight loss after a 5-3 setback to Nashville on Friday night. Antoine Vermette, Hampus Lindholm and Jakob Silfverberg had goals for the Ducks, who fell to 3-4-1 at home.
"We don't have all our top guys now, but you can't expect to win games when you let in four (even-strength) goals. Not many teams win games like that," said Lindholm, who is still rounding into form after missing seven games with a shoulder injury.
John Gibson, who stopped 25 of 29 shots Friday, has alternated losses and wins in all four of his road appearances, including three starts, in 2017-18. He has never started in San Jose, but replaced Jonathan Bernier there on Oct. 25, 2016, and surrendered an overtime goal to Vlasic in a 2-1 loss.
Ryan Miller, who posted a win in overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes during his Anaheim debut on Sunday, is 7-2-0 with a tie, a 1.87 GAA, .944 save percentage and two career shutouts in northern California.
Updated November 4, 2017