Ducks, Sharks clash in Anaheim

The Anaheim Ducks seemed like a club without answers following their most recent defeat.

A matchup with the San Jose Sharks could serve as a surprise road map to getting things back on track.

The Ducks look to stretch their winning streak over the Pacific Division contenders to five straight this evening while picking up just their second victory in eight games.

Anaheim has gone 5-18-5 since a 5-3-1 start, switching head coaches from Randy Carlyle to Bruce Boudreau along the way. The Ducks have yet to get it going under their new bench boss and dropped a 4-2 decision to the visiting Avalanche on Saturday after falling behind by three goals midway through the second period.

Lubomir Visnovsky and Bobby Ryan scored goals and Saku Koivu assisted on both tallies in his first game since Dec. 8 due to a groin injury. Jonas Hiller gave up four goals on 26 shots for the frustrated Ducks, who are still looking for that spark to get things going.

"Every time you come to the rink, you expect that this is going to be the game where we turn things around and it's going to be the building block to get us going in the right direction and for whatever reason that's not happening right now," said defenseman Cam Fowler.

"You see glimpses of our team doing the right things and going in that right direction, but I think it's consistency that's bothering us the most right now. We just can't do it for 60 minutes and that's what it takes."

Perhaps the return of veteran winger Jason Blake can help. He hasn't played since Oct. 14, missing the past 34 games due to tendon damage above his left wrist caused when Sharks defenseman Brent Burns accidentally stepped on Blake's arm when he went down for a puck.

"It's obviously the coach's decision. I think I'm ready to go," the 38-year- old Blake said of playing tonight. "I've had a week and a half of good practices, contact and it feels pretty good."

Boudreau said that Blake's return gives him some leeway with his lineup, but he is also unsure what he can get out of the American-born winger conditioning wise. Blake, meanwhile, sounded like he was just happy to get another chance to return to the ice.

"It's been a tough, long road that I had to go down," he said. "It's been an uphill climb and I feel like I finally got to the top of the hill and hopefully back and be able to play."

Anaheim has lost the first two of a six-game homestand and has won just once in its last seven games. However, that was a 3-2 win at San Jose on Dec. 26 and three of the Ducks' 10 wins on the season have come at the expense of the Sharks.

All three of those victories have also come by just a single goal after a 6-2 home win in the final meeting of the 2010-11 season. Anaheim has won two straight and four of its past five at home versus San Jose.

The Sharks will hope to tilt the momentum of this series in their direction and pick up a second straight win following Monday's 3-2 shootout triumph over Vancouver. Patrick Marleau and Benn Ferriero scored in regulation and Michal Handzus scored the shootout winner.

Antti Niemi made 27 saves and stopped all three skaters he faced in the tiebreaker.

"Our special teams was really good out there," said Niemi. "The defense played really well in front of me and kept the second chances away."

San Jose avoided a third straight loss with the win and moved to 5-1-3 in its past nine games. With 44 points, the Sharks are one back of the first-place Kings in the Pacific Division.