San Jose Sharks (12-8-4) at Montreal Canadiens (16-8-2) – Saturday,
December 4th, 2010
The Canadiens host a rare matinee Saturday afternoon as the San Jose Sharks visit
Montreal. The Sharks are one game into a 5-game road trip, having beaten the
Ottawa Senators 4-0 on Thursday night. The Habs are also fresh off an
impressive victory, beating their perpetual nemeses, the New Jersey Devils, 5-1.
As 5000 kilometers separate the two cities, this is the one and only time the
Sharks and the Canadiens will meet this year, barring any Stanley Cup Final
showdowns. Accordingly, the two clubs played each other just once last
season, with the Sharks winning 3-2 at home. Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez
tallied for the Habs, while Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Manny Malhotra
answered for the Sharks. Evgeni Nabokov recorded 28 saves for the win
while Carey Price made 37 saves in a losing effort. The Canadiens have
alternated wins and losses for their last 9 games, and are 6-3-1 over their last
10 games. The Sharks are 5-3-2 over the same span.
Sources state that Carey Price (15-7-2, 2.00 GAA, .934 SV%) will be the
starting goalie against San Jose, despite his less-than-stellar career stats
against the Sharks. Price owns a 0-2-0 all-time record versus San Jose,
with an awful 4.60 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. All things
considered, those stats aren’t too bad compared to the Saturday’s starting
goaltender for the Sharks, Antti Niemi (4-5-1, 3.50 GAA, .889 SV%). The
2010 Cup-winning goalie has had his share of struggles this season, and has lost
the majority of starts to Antero Niittymaki (8-3-3, 2.34 GAA, .910) who has been
more consistent this year.
Tomas Plekanec (8-16-24) leads all Canadiens with 24 points through 25 games,
followed closely by Andrei Kostitsyn (9-9-18) and Mike Cammalleri (7-10-17).
Brian Gionta (8-8-16) has contributed heavily since being moved to Plekanec’s
line, and has 4 points in his last 3 games. Surprisingly, it is Scott
Gomez (4-5-9) with the hot stick lately, as he has recorded powerplay goals in
consecutive games after an obscenely slow start. The Sharks ice a plethora of potent scorers and are led
by Dany Heatley (12-14-26), Joe Thornton (6-18-24), Patrick Marleau (11-11-22),
Ryane Clowe (5-15-20), Joe Pavelski (8-12-20) and Dan Boyle (3-16-19).
It should come as virtually no surprise that such talent would translate to
an effective powerplay unit, as the Sharks sit 4th in the league with a 23.8%
conversion rate. After toiling through the first month of the season,
Montreal’s powerplay has caught fire of late, converting 5 of 15 opportunities
in the last 5 games, and have
vaulted to 11th in the NHL with 17.9% on the PP. The Canadiens
have proved superior in the penalty-killing department thus far, as their
league-best 89.9% ranks 11 spots higher than the Sharks 83.3% with the man
Andrei Markov (knee) looks to be the only injured player for Montreal, and
will undergo season-ending surgery on December 8th. Although Jacques Martin
won’t confirm it, P.K. Subban will likely draw back into the line-up after serving one game as a healthy scratch.
If Subban does play, Dustin Boyd and either Alex Picard or Yannick Weber will
likely watch the game from the press
box. The Sharks will be without Jason Demers (upper body), while Devin Setoguchi (upper body) Niclas Wallin (leg) and Kent Huskins are all questionable
for the afternoon tilt.
The game begins at 1400 EST and can be seen on CBC and RDS.
Preview written by Matt Dilworth