NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, December 4th (All times eastern)
San Jose Sharks (12-8-4) at Montreal Canadiens (16-8-2), 2 p.m.
(Sports Network) - San Jose appears to be getting its road game on track. That could help the club pick up its first victory in Montreal in nearly eight years.
The Sharks continue a five-game road trip this afternoon against the Canadiens, who seek a seventh victory in their last 10 games at the Bell Centre.
San Jose halted a six-game road slide (0-4-2) with a triumph in Edmonton last Saturday, then dropped a home test to Detroit on Wednesday. The Sharks were able to get their lengthy swing off to a good start on Thursday as they posted a 4-0 victory over the Senators in Dany Heatley's return to Ottawa.
Heatley was facing the Sens at Scotiabank Place for the first time since demanding a trade from the franchise prior to last season. He eventually landed in San Jose and had an assist in his return while getting showered with boos.
"I expected a bit of that," said Heatley referring to an unfriendly welcome from the Ottawa fans. "They are passionate fans and they love their team."
Logan Couture scored twice and Antti Niemi made 28 saves for his eighth career shutout and first with the Sharks. Also scoring goals were Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun, with the defenseman notching the first of his NHL career.
"We've been so inconsistent this season, but this was a good step for us, and now we need to build on it," said Couture, whose club has won three of five and is 7-3-3 over its last 13 games as well as 5-4-2 on the road this year.
Niemi's shutout could earn him his first career start versus the Canadiens and second straight overall in front of Antero Niittymaki, who owns 13 career starts versus Montreal but is just 3-9-1 with a 3.23 goals-against average in that span.
Whoever gets the call will be aiming to backstop the Sharks to their first win at the Bell Centre since Dec. 17, 2002. They have lost a pair of trips there since, including a 3-2 setback on Feb. 28, 2009, but San Jose did record a 3-2 home win over the Canadiens last year. The Sharks got a goals from Heatley and Marleau in besting the Habs for the fifth time in seven meetings.
Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta had the goals for the Habs and Carey Price made 37 saves. Both Gomez and Gionta also scored in Montreal's last trip to the ice, a 5-1 victory in New Jersey that also featured 27 stops by Price.
Gionta scored just 11 seconds into the game and Lars Eller followed with a goal 87 seconds later to chase Devils netminder Johan Hedberg from the game.
"They're waiting for you to make mistakes, so when play with the lead on them, they don't have as much patience to do that," Gionta said of the Devils. "When you jump out early they have to change their game."
Montreal has alternated wins and losses over its last nine games, but has won six of its last eight at home and is 9-4-2 as the host. The Canadiens also own a four-point edge over the Bruins for first place in the Northeast Division.
Price has lost both of his previous career starts versus the Sharks, allowing nine goals on 79 shots faced.
Montreal also announced on Friday that defenseman Andrei Markov will have season-ending surgery on his right knee. Plagued by injuries in the knee since last year's playoffs, Markov will undergo a procedure to repair a meniscus and reconstruct the ACL on Dec. 8.
The 31-year-old blueliner played in just seven games before re-injuring the knee on Nov. 13 after missing the first three weeks of the season while recovering from surgery to repair the ACL in the same knee, an injury sustained during the second round of the playoffs against Pittsburgh.
12/04 10:33:02 ET