The San Jose Sharks boast one of the NHL’s best records and most potent offenses, but have been relying too much on their top line for production. They hope Devin Setoguchi(notes) may be starting to provide their second line the punch it’s been lacking.
Setoguchi seeks a strong encore for his highest scoring game in nearly three months and tries to help Pacific Division-leading San Jose earn its 13th win in 16 games Monday night when it hosts the slumping Calgary Flames.
The Sharks (31-10-8) trail Chicago by two points for best record in the NHL and are tied for third in the league with 157 goals, with the top line of Patrick Marleau(notes), Joe Thornton(notes) and Dan Heatley producing the lion’s share of the offense.
San Jose went six consecutive games without a goal from any forward other than Marleau, Thornton and Heatley until Setoguchi broke through with two in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Edmonton. The top line also found its way onto the score sheet, as Marleau scored his league-leading 32nd goal and Thornton - third in the league with 63 points - had a goal and an assist.
Setoguchi is fourth on the Sharks with 12 goals, but came into play Saturday without a goal in nine consecutive games and with just two goals in his last 24 contests.
“It was nice to get rewarded,” said Setoguchi, who had his first two-goal game since Oct. 19. “Now I have to keep going forward and not take any steps and keep going in the right direction.”
This will be San Jose’s second meeting of the season with Calgary. The Sharks lost 2-1 to the Flames on Dec. 5 - part of a season-worst five-game losing streak. The Sharks have rebounded to go 12-2-1 since that skid.
The Flames (26-17-6), meanwhile, are trying to avoid their longest losing streak in more than two years.
Calgary fell 5-4 in Anaheim on Sunday - its fourth straight defeat and sixth in seven games. The Flames finally showed some signs of life offensively, scoring more than three goals for the second time in their last 23 games, but got a subpar performance from backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney(notes).
“We had the goal output for sure,” McElhinney said after stopping only 21 of 26 shots.
Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) is expected to be back between the pipes for the Flames. Calgary’s starter has allowed two goals or fewer in six of his last eight outings, but is a modest 5-3-1 in that span with an ineffective power play largely to blame.
The Flames, who haven’t lost five straight since Nov. 1-10, 2007, are 1 for 25 with the man advantage in their last eight games. It won’t be easy to get the power-play unit turned around against the Sharks, whose 87.3 percent penalty kill ranks second in the league.
Evgeni Nabokov(notes), who is 10-2-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average in 13 starts, anchors San Jose’s defense and will likely be back in net after getting a rare day off. He made 34 saves versus the Flames last month, but is just 1-4-2 with a 3.42 GAA in his last seven starts against them.
Kiprusoff stopped 35 shots for Calgary against the Sharks in December, improving to 6-2-0 with a 2.69 GAA in his last eight outings versus San Jose.