Ducks-Sharks Preview

The Associated Press

Tied atop the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks will meet for the first of five times this season when they play Saturday night at the SAP Center.

The Sharks enter the game looking to continue their dominance on home ice. They have just one regulation loss in San Jose this season and have won four straight in front of their fans. The team is averaging 3.91 goals per home game, second-best in the NHL.

"We always concentrate on coming out fast at home," winger Brent Burns said. "You can hear the crowd when we get going, it's a tough building to play in."

Anaheim is the only club without a home loss in regulation but hasn't been nearly as good elsewhere of late, losing five of six on the road.

In two meetings between the teams last season in their building, the Sharks outscored the Ducks 7-2 and won both. San Jose took three of five matchups overall.

The Sharks (17-3-5) are coming off a win over another of the Western Conference's top teams. They scored four goals in the game's opening 12 minutes, then held on to defeat St. Louis 6-3 on Friday.

Burns led the way with his first career hat trick and added an assist, giving him 11 points in nine home games.

The 10-year veteran missed more than a month because of an upper-body injury, but since returning Nov. 21, he has five points in four games and the Sharks have won them all. They're 11-0-1 this season when he plays.

"It looks like he's getting back into where he was before," coach Todd McLellan said. "His minutes went up, he got back out on the power play. So, I'm more confident. He can shoot the puck, and his big body was needed against a strong team."

Joe Thornton added a goal and two assists for San Jose, which has scored 86 goals to trail Anaheim by one for second-most in the NHL behind Chicago.

The Ducks (18-7-3) have bounced back from a five-game losing streak to win three of four, including a 5-2 victory over Calgary on Friday. Dustin Penner scored twice, and he has five goals in the last three games.

The win also marked the return of Saku Koivu, who sat out 15 games with an upper-body injury. Koivu had two assists, though he said it took some time on the ice before he really felt at ease.

"Physically, I felt surprisingly good," Koivu said. "Coming back from a concussion, which is a first for me, I was a little hesitant in the first period, and then in the second half I felt a little more comfortable. You can only get so much contact in practice. You need a couple games to really see how you feel."

The Ducks are starting a difficult four-game stretch. Following the San Jose game, Anaheim hosts Los Angeles before visiting Chicago and St. Louis. Those four opponents, along with Anaheim, make up the five top teams in the West.

"It's going to let us know where we are in the next four games," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago and St. Louis are the top-four teams in the league. It'll give us a real good barometer of where we're at. In that sense, we're looking forward to seeing where we're at."

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