Bad blood will continue for Sharks, Ducks

04/14/2009 12:38 AM

04/14/2009 12:39 AM

If you have a sense of history, the Sharks' first-round matchup with the Anaheim Ducks that begins Thursday at HP Pavilion is significant as the first pairing of California teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs since 1969.

If you're more focused on current events, the significance comes from the fact that when the two teams played eight days ago, things ended with a mini-brawl and 64 minutes in penalties at the buzzer.

"It heats up, whoever you're playing," left wing Ryane Clowe said. "But the fact you're playing a division opponent might make it more of a rivalry, because you see them a lot more. I'm sure it'll be a good series and it'll have no trouble heating up."

The Sharks, who won four of six games against Anaheim this season, enter the playoffs as a No. 1 seed for the first time. They captured the Presidents' Trophy on Saturday but didn't learn until late Sunday afternoon which Western Conference team they would be facing.

Most players very much liked the idea of reduced travel time after first-round series against Calgary and Nashville in recent years.

But all indicated that the Sharks, who once again carry high expectations into the postseason, face a big challenge.

"It's going to be a tough series," right wing Mike Grier said. "A couple of years ago, those guys won the Stanley Cup, and they've got three or four All-Stars in their lineup."

The Ducks also have two players whom Sharks fans have long targeted as villains -- with a third poised to play a similar role.

Defenseman Chris Pronger gets booed by the HP Pavilion crowd because of previous playoff battles with St. Louis and Edmonton. Sharks fans also have been serenading right wing Teemu Selanne since he exercised his option to leave the team in 2003.

But Corey Perry, the right wing on the Ducks' top line, might end up being the flashpoint this time.

On March 15, Perry tangled with Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov and was caught on camera cross-checking the back of the goalie's legs.

Perry countered that Nabokov had kicked at him. In the April 5 game that ended with multiple scuffles, Perry ended up inside the netting, punching Sharks backup goalie Brian Boucher.

"I'm sure those things will happen and he will try to do something again," Nabokov said, grouping Perry with other players who try to get under their opponents' skin. "We just have to be prepared for that. It's not a big deal as long as the refs are on top of it."

Perry plays on the Ducks' top line with center Ryan Getzlaf and rookie Bobby Ryan. The three have provided most of Anaheim's offense during the playoff push. Veteran Scott Niedermayer and Pronger anchor the defense, and former backup Jonas Hiller has earned the starting goaltender job over Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

For at least one Shark, the matchup with Anaheim means facing players who were teammates just six weeks ago.

"I've had three games against them, so I've gotten comfortable playing them now," said left wing Travis Moen, who came to the Sharks in a trade-deadline deal March 4. "We just have to get down to business and get the four wins."

Defenseman Kent Huskins came with Moen in the trade, but he is still recovering from a foot injury, and his status is uncertain.

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