Goals have been at a premium in the season's first two meetings between the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames. The games could have gone either way, but Antti Niemi outperformed Miikka Kiprusoff in each - something that has regularly been the case.
The Sharks look to beat the Flames for a sixth straight time when they meet Wednesday night at HP Pavilion.
These teams played in Calgary in their final game before the All-Star break Jan. 24, with Benn Ferriero scoring with 8:25 remaining in San Jose's 1-0 victory. Niemi stopped 25 shots while Kiprusoff made 26 saves.
In the clubs' first meeting one week earlier Jan. 17, the game was tied at 1 through the end of regulation and overtime with Niemi making 27 saves and Kiprusoff turning aside 30 shots. Michal Handzus and Brent Burns scored on Kiprusoff in the shootout while Niemi stopped both shootout attempts he faced in the Sharks' 2-1 win.
Niemi has led San Jose (29-15-6) to victory in the last five meetings with the Flames, posting a 1.94 goals-against average and defeating Kiprusoff each time. He is 8-1-0 with a 2.07 GAA lifetime against Calgary (24-22-7).
Niemi, expected to be in goal after getting a night off Thursday and having a three-day break since his last start, is coming off a shaky performance. After recording consecutive shutouts, he stopped 19 of 23 shots in a 5-3 loss to Phoenix on Saturday.
Logan Couture scored his team-leading 22nd goal, Patrick Marleau notched his 20th and Jamie McGinn established a single-season career best with his 11th goal for the Sharks, whose three-game winning streak was snapped.
"It wasn't lack of offense,'' coach Todd McLellan said. "We had a number of chances and ended up with three at the end. We were not competitive at the times we needed to be competitive.''
Some of that criticism could be directed at Niemi after he allowed three goals on six shots in the second period.
That kind of subpar showing has been a little disconcerting for the Sharks, who have been receiving inconsistent play from Niemi lately. In his last nine starts, he's posted a 0.24 GAA and three shutouts in four wins, but surrendered four goals in each of his five losses.
Kiprusoff, one victory shy of becoming the 27th goalie in history with at least 300 regular-season wins, has been much more efficient lately. He's recorded a 1.60 GAA with one shutout while going 6-3-2 in starting the last 11 games for the Flames.
Although he was solid in the first two games against the Sharks, he hasn't enjoyed much luck in the series, recording a 2.92 GAA during the losing streak. Kiprusoff, drafted by San Jose in 1995, hasn't missed a game against his former team since the lockout, starting all 26 in this series since the start of 2005-06.
Kiprusoff got off to a rough start Monday against Anaheim, allowing two first-period goals before settling down and helping the Flames earn a point in a 3-2, eight-round shootout loss. He stopped 31 shots and Alex Tanguay scored in the second period before Jarome Iginla tied the game in the third for Calgary, loser of three of four.
"If we would have been sharp in the first period, we probably would have come out with a win,'' center Mikael Backlund said.
Iginla scored on a breakaway to extend his streak of consecutive seasons with 20 or more goals to 13 - the longest among active players. He has three goals in six games against the Sharks since the start of last season.
Marleau has scored in each of the last three games for San Jose, but has only two goals in his last 12 versus the Flames.