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A season-opening defeat was a disappointing result for the San Jose Sharks, but it paled in comparison to the team's last loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
In their first meeting since the Ducks upset the Sharks in the opening round of the playoffs in the spring, the Pacific Division rivals square off in Anaheim's season opener Saturday night at the Honda Center.
Despite outshooting Colorado 40-20, including 19-1 in a scoreless third period, the Sharks suffered a 5-2 season-opening loss to the Avalanche on Thursday night.
"We were sloppy in our own zone in the second period, and the power play needs to contribute," captain Rob Blake said after San Jose converted one of its six opportunities with the man advantage.
It wasn't how the Sharks expected to open the season after winning a franchise-record 53 games and earning their first Presidents' Trophy with 117 points. But it wasn't nearly as disappointing as their latest playoff flop. Top-seeded San Jose lost in six games to No. 8 seed Anaheim, failing to get past the second round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The Sharks fell 4-1 at the Honda Center in Game 6.
The Ducks were one of the NHL's hottest teams heading into the postseason after going an league-best 10-2-1 over the last 13 games. Their playoff run ended with a Game 7 loss to Detroit in the second round.
The Ducks are hoping some young talent can get them back to the playoffs in 2009-10. Anaheim traded veteran defenseman Chris Pronger to Philadelphia in June for forward Joffrey Lupul, defenseman Luca Sbisa and draft picks.
"We lost Prongs and (defenseman Francois) Beauche (to Toronto), but we have some guys in here that can step up," said center Ryan Getzlaf, who had offseason sports hernia surgery after scoring a career-best 91 points in 2008-09. "So we've definitely got the tools in here to fill those roles, but we're going to need some defensemen to play bigger minutes."
After making the Ducks' opening-night roster, Sbisa - the 19th overall pick in 2008 - will be expected to help captain Scott Niedermayer log those minutes.
"In this situation for him, (Sbisa) has shown us he's above what we would deem a normal junior-age hockey player," coach Randy Carlyle told the club's official Web site. "He's a 19-year-old competing for a position in the National Hockey League and he doesn't look out of place doing it."
Lupul, who played for Anaheim from 2003-06, scored 25 goals for the Flyers last season. He is expected to be on the Ducks' second line with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, who was signed in July.
"(The young guys are) going to run the bus here," said Selanne, 39. "They're doing a great job. We've got so many young guys who can really do some damage in this lineup. Getz's line is our No. 1 line, and that's how it should be. But obviously our line wants to play well and do our part. Last year we didn't have enough depth offensively to support the top line (of Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan)."
The Ducks' goaltending duties will be shared by Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Hiller, who started all 13 of the Ducks' playoff games last season.
Hiller went 4-2-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average and two shutouts in the playoffs against San Jose.
Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov had a 2.82 GAA in that series, but he's 10-5-2 in his career in Anaheim during the regular season.
Coming off a career-best 38-goal season in 2008-09, San Jose's Patrick Marleau scored twice in the season opener. The veteran left winger, however, struggled in the playoffs against the Ducks, totaling two goals and one assist in six games.
San Jose was 2-0-0 when Marleau scored in the postseason and 0-4-0 when he didn't.
The Ducks dropped their first four games in 2008-09, including a 4-1 loss at San Jose in their season opener.