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Sharks-Ducks Preview

AP - Sports

While the Anaheim Ducks sit second from the bottom of the NHL standings and have clearly had trouble keeping up with most teams, it's safe to say they've had the San Jose Sharks' number.

Hoping to avoid a seventh defeat in eight games overall, Anaheim looks for a fifth consecutive victory over visiting San Jose on Wednesday night.

The Ducks (10-21-6), one point ahead of league-worst Columbus, saw their struggles continue during Saturday's 4-2 loss to Colorado. Anaheim failed to score a power-play goal for the fourth straight game and trailed 3-0 after giving up two goals in a 1:16 span midway through the second period.

"It's consistency that's bothering us the most," said defenseman Cam Fowler, who had an assist for just his third point in 11 games.

"Teams are jumping on us, and we can't allow them to do that. After (allowing) two goals in the span of one minute, you could see the heads drop. It's never easy, but when you're slumping like this, it's a little bit harder."

Though the Ducks concluded 2011 in disappointing fashion, they could kick off the new year on a positive note with the Sharks (20-11-4) coming to town. Anaheim has taken all three meetings this season to post nearly a third of its wins, and its only victory in the last seven games overall was 3-2 at San Jose on Dec. 26 to snap a franchise-worst 13-game road losing streak.

"They have good players," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said following that loss. "Their record may not show it but they are pretty dynamic."

San Jose, outscored 15-8 in dropping four of five at Anaheim, sits on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture with 44 points. The Sharks, though, have earned at least one point in eight of their last nine games.

They snapped an 0-2-2 road losing streak and opened 2012 in impressive fashion with Monday's 3-2 shootout win at Northwest Division-leading Vancouver.

Antti Niemi made 27 saves and center Michal Handzus had the only goal of the shootout.

"We keep talking about how one play, whether it's early in the first (period) or late in the third," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "One play could be the difference-maker and tonight we had to take it to a shootout to get a winner.

"It's a start. The West is so tight, every point counts so getting that extra point was big for us."

Niemi, who improved to 5-1-1 over his last seven starts Monday, is 3-4-0 with a 2.31 goals-against average lifetime against the Ducks. He's allowed three goals in each of his two losses to Anaheim this season.

Since losing eight of his first nine career starts versus the Sharks, Jonas Hiller has gone 5-0-0 with a 1.71 GAA and two shutouts in six games against them. He made 36 saves to beat San Jose last week and turned away 31 shots in a 1-0 win Oct. 14.

Hiller, however, has lost five of his last six starts overall with a 3.80 GAA.

Hiller and the Ducks have made things difficult on Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, who has no points in the past five meetings and just four over his last 18 regular-season visits to Anaheim. Marleau, however, is on a bit of a roll after tallying his fourth goal and eighth point in eight games Monday.

Ducks left wing Bobby Ryan has scored a goal in three consecutive games, but reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry has gone pointless in a season-worst four straight.

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