Series (Game 1 of 4)

Series tied 2-2

Game 1: Friday, October 8th
Blue Jackets2
Game 2: Saturday, October 9th
Blue Jackets3Final
Game 3: Saturday, November 20th
Blue Jackets3Final
Game 4: Wednesday, February 9th
Blue Jackets2

Sharks 3

(1-0-0, 2 pts)

Blue Jackets 2

(0-1-0, 0 pts)

Coverage: NBCSN

3:00 PM ET, October 8, 2010

Ericsson Globe

1 2 3 T
SJ 2 0 13
CBJ 2 0 02

R. Clowe (Sharks - LW): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

K. Huselius (Blue Jackets - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

J. Pavelski (Sharks - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

Sharks-Blue Jackets Preview


Playoff failure has become synonymous with the San Jose Sharks. They're determined to finally put those disappointments behind them this season.

The Sharks try to get 2010-11 off to a strong start when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first of two games in Stockholm, Sweden.

San Jose has finished with at least 99 points each of the last six seasons, winning four Pacific Division titles and one Presidents' Trophy. However, that success has been muted due to early playoff exits as the club continues to chase its first Stanley Cup.

The Sharks led the Western Conference with 113 points last season, but saw their playoff run end in the conference finals after being swept by eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago.

"I used the analogy of us driving a car up a hill and it got to the point where it stalled last year," coach Todd McLellan said. "We're there right now. We can either grow and get that momentum going again and try to keep climbing. Or if we let that momentum slip, the car will start rolling down the hill and it's going to be a tough one to stop. We need growth."

McLellan is entering his third season with the Sharks, who will again lean on veterans Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle.

Thornton, who replaces the retired Rob Blake as captain, had a team-high 89 points during the regular season, but just one assist in the series against the Blackhawks as he continues to be scrutinized for his playoff struggles.

Perhaps the Sharks most important offseason moves came in the search for a new goaltender after longtime starter and postseason goat Evgeni Nabokov departed for Russia.

San Jose inked Antti Niemi to a one-year deal after he backstopped the Blackhawks to their first Cup in 49 years by going 16-6 with a 2.63 goals-against average in the playoffs. Chicago walked away from a salary arbitrator's $2.75 million award.

Niemi spent his first full NHL season by going 26-7-4 with a 2.25 GAA and seven shutouts, and eventually saw more playing time over Cristobal Huet. Niemi may find himself in a similar situation with the Sharks, who signed fellow Finn Antero Niittymaki after he went 21-18-5 with a 2.87 GAA for Tampa Bay.

"I need to find more out about these individuals, find out how they respond to back-to-back games, how their teammates will play in front of them," McLellan said. "For me to sit here and say they're going to be 50-50 and alternate games, I'd be lying to you. I don't know what we're going to do yet."

While the Sharks are a playoff fixture, the Blue Jackets are hoping to return to the postseason after a difficult 2009-10 campaign.

Columbus finished at the bottom of the Central Division with 79 points -- 13 fewer than the franchise record set the previous season when they reached the playoffs for the first time.

Scott Arniel debuts as the seventh coach in Columbus' 10th season, and he's set making the playoffs as a goal despite few roster changes. He's hoping the jaunt overseas will help him become more familiar with his new club after four seasons coaching Manitoba of the AHL.

"When you're out together you get to know the player, you get to know more than the hockey player," Arniel said. "You get to know the personalities, all that stuff and that's where the jokes happen and the fun things come about."

Arniel is installing an up-tempo offense that could pay dividends for a top line expected to consist of Rick Nash, Antoine Vermette and Kristian Huselius.

Nash saw his production drop last season, but the All-Star right wing still led the team with 33 goals and 67 points.

If the Blue Jackets are to challenge for a playoff spot, they'll need a better season from Steve Mason. He went 20-26-9 with a 3.06 goals-against average and five shutouts last season -- a sharp drop from winning the Calder Trophy in 2008-09 when he was 33-20-7 with a 2.29 GAA and 10 shutouts.

Columbus and San Jose will alternate as home team at Globen Arena. The Sharks will act as host Saturday.