Sharks-Blackhawks Preview


The San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks are each atop their respective divisions, but the Sharks have been much more consistent thanks to solid play in net.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are in need of more scoring from one of their top producers.

Two of the league's heavyweights meet for the third time this season Sunday night at the United Center.

The Pacific Division-leading Sharks have taken away at least one point from eight straight games (6-0-2) while winning their last two. San Jose (25-11-5) defeated Columbus 2-1 on Saturday as Ryan Clowe and Patrick Marleau each scored and Thomas Greiss recorded 25 saves.

Greiss made his second start this month as San Jose opened a stretch of four games in six nights.

"Greiss was very good. His last two starts, both against Columbus, have been exceptional,'' coach Todd McLellan said. "It makes us feel very good heading into this busy stretch.''

That likely means Antti Niemi, who is 7-1-2 with a 1.95 goals-against average in his last 10 starts, will face his former team.

Niemi, who was on Chicago's 2009-10 Stanley Cup-winning club, is 1-1-1 with a 3.95 GAA in three games at the United Center as a visitor.

While the Sharks are rolling, Chicago has two wins in its last seven games (2-4-1), although it has at least one point in four straight.

The Blackhawks (26-13-6) rallied from a 2-0 deficit at Detroit on Saturday before losing 3-2 in overtime.

Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews scored, with Toews' shot going off Nicklas Lidstrom's skate with 51.7 seconds remaining in regulation. The Red Wings, one point behind Chicago in the Central Division, scored with less than a minute left in overtime.

"We're not going to beat ourselves up about it," Toews, who had gone five games without a goal, said. "When you work your way back, you feel that extra point is yours. It is a little disappointing. We have to learn from it and be better next time we play these guys."

The Blackhawks, outshot 21-4 in the opening period and 43-27 overall, went 0 for 3 on the power play, registering only two shots during a four-minute advantage midway through the third period. Chicago is 3 for 30 on the power play in its last nine games.

With 20-goal scorer Patrick Sharp out with an undisclosed upper-body injury, the Blackhawks need more from Patrick Kane, who has one goal in 11 games and no points in three of his last four. He has been held off the scoresheet in two games against San Jose this season.

The Sharks and Blackhawks have split those two contests. Chicago lost 1-0 at San Jose on Nov. 23 but beat the Sharks 3-2 in overtime at home on Dec. 11.

San Jose could be without Andrew Desjardins after the second-year center took a shoulder hit to the head in the second period Saturday. He had to be helped to the dressing room and did not return, although he did say he was feeling better.

"I feel for Dezzie,'' McLellan said. "He's really starting to fit in and play real well for our team. ... To see him get hit like that, that's exactly what we want to eliminate from the game - exactly.''