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Strong defensive teams Ducks, Sharks face off

Sports Xchange - Sunday 21st January, 2018

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Anaheim Ducks take on the San Jose Sharks on Sunday evening in a battle of teams which score few goals but win on strong defense and goaltending.

Both clubs are in the top 10 in the NHL in fewest goals against per game and in the bottom third of the league in scoring.

Anaheim (22-16-9) defeated archrival Los Angeles Friday night 2-1. John Gibson made 23 saves in the win, helped by his teammates' shot-blocking, which turned away 24 Kings shot attempts. The Ducks have gained two consecutive victories and are 6-3-1 in their last ten games.

San Jose (25-14-6) comes off a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Sharks are 5-2-2 in their last nine games. San Jose survived an early Penguins goal and won with a third-period power play tally by Tomas Hertl, his 13th goal. Aaron Dell stopped 31 shots for San Jose.

The Ducks also played Pittsburgh last week, defeating the Penguins 5-3. Gibson got the win. With the victory Friday over Los Angeles, he has three victories in a row. He has helped the team gain seven points out of a possible 10 in his last five starts.

To win in Anaheim, the Sharks will have to contain the Ducks' depth players. Anaheim's scoring versus the Kings came from their second- and third-line centers. Adam Henrique got the first Ducks goal, his 11th of the year, and Ryan Kesler notched the game-winner, his third goal. Kesler's three goals have come in his last six games.

After the game, Kesler said, "We still have lacks in the game, turnovers where we shouldn't. We're not perfect. ... Today was a good step in the right direction."

The Ducks are three spots, but only two points, out of the second wild card spot coming into Sunday's game. Kesler added, "In the position we're in, we're on the outside looking in right now. We're in a mode that every game counts, and these divisional games, they're obviously extra-special."

The Ducks will need to contain Brent Burns. The San Jose defenseman has come alive after a slow start and holds the second spot in the NHL for points by a defenseman. He leads the Sharks in ice-time, shots, and points (37). Burns also leads the Sharks in power play points with four goals and 13 assists. Joe Thornton is second (6-10-16). Burns has a three-game assist streak going. Saturday, he and Joe Pavelski assisted on the San Jose goals.

San Jose has four players with at least 32 points -- Burns, Thornton (12-21-33), Logan Couture (17-15-32) and Pavelski (9-22-32).

Rickard Rakell (16 goals, 33 points), is the only Anaheim skater with more than 30 points, although Ryan Getzlaf has 26 points in 23 games.

San Jose will likely continue to be without starting goaltender Martin Jones. He is listed day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Aaron Dell's win against the Penguins marked his 11th of the year in 19 starts. Troy Grosenick was called up from the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) on Saturday as backup.

Coach Peter DeBoer commented on his goalie situation after the game Saturday. "With Jones going down with an injury, we knew Deller would be great, and he was again. He was outstanding for us. That's the nice luxury of having two good goalies."

The Ducks have taken three of four points from the Sharks this season, key in their playoff aspirations.

Coach Randy Carlyle said, "With us, we're striving to garner as many points as we can 'til the All-Star break. That's our mindset. We'll use that as a little segment. We'll take a break and then try and break down the month of February. There's only so many games left, and these four-point hockey games are paramount for us to climb into the playoff picture."

DeBoer similarly points toward the break.

"We're trying to give them as much rest as possible. (The schedule) is obviously testing your depth and your energy, but we know there's a break right around the corner here. We've just got to keep plugging," DeBoer said after the win over the Penguins.

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