Sharks host Canucks in conference finals rematch

A pair of teams coming off shutout victories clash for the first time since last season's conference finals as the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks both put winning streaks on the line tonight at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks come in having won four straight, one shy of their season high, while the Canucks are riding their first three-game winning streak of the season.

The balance in this series has shifted the Canucks' way over the past season. San Jose was 10-2-0 versus Vancouver over the previous three seasons before losing three of four to Vancouver in 2010-11. The Canucks and Sharks then squared off in the Western Conference finals, with Vancouver winning in five games.

San Jose will be the fresher of the two teams tonight, having been off since a 1-0 victory over Chicago on Wednesday. Former Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi earned his first shutout of the season and 14th of his career with 34 saves.

"That's why we pay the big bucks to Nemo," said San Jose forward Ryane Clowe after the Sharks' sixth victory in seven games.

On some of the better Chicago chances, Niemi liked knowing the player skating against him.

"For whatever reason," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said, "he likes playing against his former team and we're thankful for that."

Jason Demers scored his first goal of season, and seventh of his career, on a power play late in the second period after the Sharks won a faceoff in the Chicago zone. San Jose also killed off four Blackhawks power plays.

Vancouver extended its winning streak last night with a 5-0 win over Phoenix. Cory Schneider made 21 saves in his second straight shutout and third of his career. The backup goaltender stopped all 24 shots fired his way in Colorado on Wednesday.

Schneider got plenty of support last night and was quick to credit his fellow Canucks afterwards.

"There's not really much I can say about what I did tonight. It's more about my teammates," said Schneider. "I just did what I have to do and I felt like a passenger most of the night because we played such a great game."

It is unknown if Schneider, who is 3-0 with a 0.32 goals-against average in his past three starts, or Roberto Luongo will start this game. Luongo hasn't played since Nov. 13 because of an upper-body injury, but has been serving as the backup.

Sami Salo, Ryan Kesler and David Booth scored second-period goals over a 2:12 span after a scoreless opening stanza, while Alexandre Burrows and Maxim Lapierre added tallies later on.