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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 7:54 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Sharks series blog

Mitchell returns to practice, will play in Game 1 for Sharks

SAN JOSE – Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell returned to the ice Monday after missing the regular-season finale Saturday night against Los Angeles with an undisclosed injury, but forward Ryane Clowe and defenseman Brent Burns missed practice as the Sharks began preparing for their first-round series against St. Louis.

The series opens Thursday night at the Scottrade Center.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Clowe and Burns had "maintenance" days and added, "They'll both be ready to play."
 
Torrey Mitchell
Center - SJS
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 19
SOG: 100 | +/-: -6
Mitchell was injured Thursday night at Los Angeles when he took a hard hit from Colin Fraser in the first period. He left that game and didn't return. Mitchell declared himself "good to go" after Monday's practice.

"I felt fine," Mitchell said. "I biked two days ago and I felt fine. I'm pretty much ready to go."

Clowe didn't play in the third period or overtime of San Jose's 3-2 victory against Los Angeles on Saturday night at HP Pavilion. Neither did defenseman Colin White, who practiced on Monday. After that game, McLellan said Clowe and White needed a "maintenance period" and granted them one.

Clowe declined to say whether he suffered an injury against the Kings, but he said he "was fine" with McLellan's decision to keep him off the ice for the end of Saturday's game and Monday's practice.

"I stayed off. I feel good," Clowe said.

Before the series opens Thursday night at St. Louis, the Sharks will have had three full practices and a morning skate to prepare for the Blues. After losing all four regular-season games to St. Louis in regulation, the Sharks have plenty of tactical work to do. McLellan said he also wants to make sure his team keeps the sharp edge it developed during its playoff push. The Sharks won their final four regular-season games, beating Dallas and Los Angeles in back-to-back, home-and-home series sweeps.

"We do that physically and mentally," McLellan said of both goals. "Visually, we see some video of us and them, we talk about how we want to play, and that's been established since the beginning of the year. It's just maintaining it, and then physically just practice situations, as much game situation play as we possibly can that's both unique to our team and maybe to what we'll see in the series."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he won't name his starting goaltender – Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott – until Thursday, but the Sharks likely don't have a preference. They lost twice to Halak and twice to Elliott. Each one shut them out once.

"They're just both elite goaltenders," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "You're going to have to work to get your goals. It's going to be a low-scoring affair. It's going to be 2-1 games, 1-0 games, and that's what we have to expect."

The Sharks will wear their alternate black jerseys for their home playoff games. They were 12-2-0 this season when dressed in black.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 4:49 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks, Kings could play for division title

SAN JOSE – Just two days after playing one of the wildest and strangest games of the season in Los Angeles, the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings will meet again Saturday night, this time at HP Pavilion.

The contest Thursday night had three fights, a combined 63 penalty minutes and seven power-play goals – four by the Kings and three by the Sharks – as well as a strange-but-true moment in the third period when Sharks forward Ryane Clowe reached over the bench with his stick and knocked the puck away from Kings center Jarret Stoll.

San Jose prevailed 6-5 in a shootout, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan and Kings coach Darryl Sutter agreed that the last thing they need in their final playoff tuneup is an instant replay.

“We can’t have an undisciplined game like that again from now until the end of the season or it will cost us immensely,” McLellan said. “To give up four power-play goals and win a game, I don’t know how that happens in today’s game, but it did. We can look at the penalty kill. There are some areas, again, that we can be better at, but quite frankly to me it’s the march to the box that was disappointing.

“And from what I understand, Darryl was saying the same thing. It’s two coaches trying to get their teams to play with some focus and some discipline, not cross the line on so many occasions, and get ready to play in the playoffs.”

Phoenix can clinch the Pacific Division title with a win at Minnesota in a game that starts at 5 p.m. PT, but if the Coyotes lose, then the Sharks and Kings will be battling for the division crown and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.

Sutter said that no matter what’s on the line as far as playoff positioning, he’s more concerned about getting his team prepared for the postseason and playing the right way.

“Quite honestly I want us to do some things better that prepare us for the first game of the playoffs, that we didn’t do as well as we should have last game,” Sutter said.

Stoll said he expects to “a little bit better discipline” from both teams.

“Way too many penalties -- this late in the year you want to be playing hard, heavy hockey, but you want to be disciplined,” Stoll said. “We know if we play our style of game, our way, we’ll be fine. We started off that way in L.A. the last game. Penalties got in the way and some loose play got in the way. A little bit of a track meet started. We know how we need to play. It’s strong defensively. It’s smothering them, being all over them, being hard and heavy on the forecheck and staying out of the box.”

Clowe was not penalized for his pokecheck from the bench, and the NHL did not issue any supplementary discipline. Stoll said the Kings aren’t thinking about on-ice paybacks.
“We move on past that game, past that day and refocus for this one,” Stoll said. “It’s over with now, and we’re moving on.”

Clowe said he doubts that the Kings will target him on the ice.

“If I get targeted, I’m more than willing,” Clowe said. “I’m ready.”

The Sharks will be without third-line wing Torrey Mitchell, who suffered an undisclosed injury Thursday night on a first-period hit by Kings forward Colin Fraser.

Michal Handzus, who played the previous four seasons with Los Angeles, will return to the lineup after missing five games. Handzus is expected to center the third line, with Dominic Moore moving from center to wing.

“We liked the way our four lines were playing, the energy that we got from them. That kept Michal out of the lineup,” McLellan said. “It also gave him some time to heal. Now, him drawing an assignment  … tonight gives us a big body, it gives us a faceoff guy, which we were poor in in L.A. for most of the game. It gives us a guy that can play on the penalty kill and the power play, and it also gives him an opportunity to get his game together, at least once, before the playoffs start.”

This game gives Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who has 10 shutouts and a 1.93 goals against average, a chance to regroup for the playoffs after one of his worst games of the season.

“It’s a big challenge when you play San Jose. San Jose has a goaltender (Antti Niemi) that’s won a Stanley Cup and quietly goes about his business and doesn’t get much credit, just criticism,” Sutter said. “And we have one that gets a lot of credit.”

Sutter was asked if Quick gets too much credit.
"I’m not getting into that, because you know what happens when you answer those questions. You have to prove it, right?” Sutter said. “That’s’ what it’s about.”

Here’s how the lineups could look Saturday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Los Angeles Kings at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Patrick MarleauJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski
Ryane CloweLogan CoutureMartin Havlat
TJ GaliardiMichal HandzusDominic Moore
Daniel WinnikAndrew DesjardinsTommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard VlasicDan Boyle
Colin WhiteBrent Burns
Jason DemersJustin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

KINGS

Brad RichardsonAnze KopitarDustin Brown
Dwight KingMike RichardsJustin Williams
Dustin PennerJarret StollTrevor Lewis
Jordan NolanColin FraserKyle Clifford

Rob ScuderiDrew Doughty
Willie MitchellSlava Voynov
Alec MartinezMatt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 4:47 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Slumping Sharks hope facing Stars is remedy

SAN JOSE – After losing back-to-back games and falling from third place to ninth in the Western Conference standings, the San Jose Sharks will take good news wherever they can find it.

Based on the numbers, having back-to-back games against the Dallas Stars certainly qualifies as good news for the Sharks.

The Sharks have gone 3-0-1 against Dallas entering Game No. 5 in the season series Saturday night at HP Pavilion. They’re 2-0 against the Stars at HP Pavilion, winning those games by a combined score of 10-4. In their three wins, the Sharks have outscored Dallas 14-5.

“For whatever reason they bring out the best in us,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after San Jose’s morning skate at HP. “We’ve always played well in their building, and this year we’ve kind of had their number in our building. Hopefully we’ll continue that trend tonight.”

The Stars certainly won’t lack motivation. They can clinch a playoff berth with back-to-back regulation wins over San Jose – Saturday night in San Jose and Tuesday night in Dallas. But the Stars are also playing their second game in two nights after falling 5-2 Friday night at Vancouver. Dallas is 1-10-2 this season in the second game of back-to-backs.

After arriving in San Jose late Friday night, the Stars held an optional skate Saturday morning with only six players on the ice. Most of the team remained at the hotel, getting some much-needed rest.

Dallas owns seventh place in the West with 89 points, while the Sharks are two spots back with 88 points. Both teams have four games left to play.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said one key reason why his team has had so much success against Dallas this season is that it’s been able to grab early leads.

“We’ve been able to establish that in most of the games,” McLellan said. “The special teams, our penalty kill’s been pretty good there. We haven’t given up many goals. And just getting timely goals from people when we need them -- pretty simple formula, and we’ll need that again tonight.”

The Sharks scored only one goal in its past two games, a 3-1 loss at Anaheim and a 2-0 defeat at Phoenix. Some of their top goal scorers have gone ice cold. Patrick Marleau ranks third on the team with 28 goals, but he has scored just two goals in his past 18 games. Logan Couture, who leads the Sharks with 30 goals, has gone nine games without a goal.

Marleau was asked if tries to change his game plan or approach when he’s in a scoring drought.

“Depends on how the game’s going,” Marleau said. “If I’m not getting chances or I don’t find myself in the right spots, obviously I’m going to change that up, but if I’m creating scoring opportunities for my linemates or getting them myself, you got to stick with it.”
During the Sharks’ morning skate, defenseman Douglas Murray was on the ice, and there’s a chance he could return tonight after missing one game with a lower-body injury.

“If he is able to play at 100 percent, we will have him,” McLellan said. “If there’s a risk of him not being able to finish and us being put into a position to play five [defensemen], we won’t.”

Murray was injured in the first period against Anaheim on Wednesday and didn’t play in the second or third periods. He said he felt “good” during practice on Saturday but didn’t sound as if he’s 100 percent healthy.

“I probably felt I could have kept playing the other night, too,” Murray said. “It’s an important time right now, and if you’re somewhat affected by something and you can’t make the play you need – one goal could be the difference. This might have been a little bit different if it was Game 40.”

Here’s how the lineups could look Saturday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Patrick MarleauJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski
Ryane CloweLogan CoutureMartin Havlat
TJ GaliardiDominic MooreTorrey Mitchell
Daniel WinnikAndrew DesjardinsTommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard VlasicDan Boyle
Colin White/Douglas MurrayBrent Burns
Jason DemersJustin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi, the first goalie off the ice Saturday morning, is expected to make his 18th consecutive start. He is 2-0-1 with a 1.96 goals against average this season against Dallas.

STARS

Loui ErikssonMike RibeiroMichael Ryder
Steve OttJamie BennTomas Vincour
Brenden MorrowVernon FiddlerAdam Burish
Ryan GarbuttJake DowellReilly Smith

Sheldon SourayStephane Robidas
Adam PardyTrevor Daley
Alex GoligoskiPhilip Larsen

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Lehtonen is expected to make his eighth consecutive start. He is 1-0-0 with a 2.77 goals against average this season against San Jose. Lehtonen is 14-8-2 on the road with a 2.18 goals against average and .933 save percentage.
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Posted On Monday, 03.26.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

McGinn returns to San Jose as scoring sensation

SAN JOSE -- It's been 28 days since the San Jose Sharks sent forward Jamie McGinn to Colorado in a trade deadline deal for wingers Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi.

McGinn left as a solid third-line winger, but will return Monday night to HP Pavilion as one of the NHL's hottest players when he faces his former Sharks teammates for the first time.

McGinn has 8 goals (2 game-winners) and 4 assists in 13 games for the Avalanche. He has a pair of 2-goal games, and he reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career Saturday night when he scored on the power play against Vancouver.

Has he ever been this hot on the ice?

"Maybe in junior hockey," McGinn said after Colorado's morning skate at HP Pavilion. "It's nice. It's been a while, but I'm not going to think about it too much. I'm just going to continue to go out there and take every game like it's a new game and continue to work hard. I can't worry about that. You don't want to jinx it or anything. You just continue to work. That's all it is."

McGinn, who was drafted by the Sharks in the second round in 2006, said retuning to San Jose has been "surreal" for him. He went out to dinner Sunday night with former Sharks teammates Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe, Torrey Mitchell, Jason Demers and Colin White.

But after catching up with "a few of the boys," McGinn said it will be all business Monday night and he'll play the same high-energy, hard-hitting game he always does.

"You have to continue to play hard every night no matter who you're against," McGinn said. "It's hockey. Trades happen. You can be buddies off the ice, but once you're on the ice you've got to forget about it and worry about what's at hand. There's five games left, so every point's important. I can't take a night off."

McGinn has been getting more ice time with Colorado than he did in San Jose, which explains some of his newfound success. He's also a top-six forward in Colorado, and Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said McGinn found instant chemistry with center Paul Stastny and forward David Jones.

"With him and Jones on the wing you've got two bigger guys that hound the puck, that get after it on the forecheck, and you have a very smart centerman in the middle there who can make plays, distribute the puck to those guys," Sacco said. "Both wingers have good shots. Both guys use their size effectively, and when you have that guy in the middle who can make plays, sees the ice well, it's been a good fit for everyone."

McGinn didn't have a point in his first two games with Colorado, but in his third game he had 2 goals, including the game-winner, against Minnesota. Two nights later in a rematch with the Wild, McGinn had the game-winning goal and an assist.

"You want to be an impact player right away," McGinn said. "It's new fans, new teammates. You don't want to be coming in and kind of sitting back just watching. I want to be an impact player, I want to be a part of it, I want to be a guy they can look to to maybe put the puck in the net.  I was pretty excited to get the first one out of the way early."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he's not surprised by McGinn's success.

"Well, he's a hell of a player," McLellan said. "He's having a career type year. He's scoring goals and he's given an opportunity to play a few more minutes there with a young team. He gets a little more on the power-play unit, perhaps first line power-play minutes vs. second. He went there, he established himself, and he's a confident player right now. And that's Jamie McGinn. We all liked him when he was here, and now our job is to go out and beat him when he’s over there."

Winnik started heating up just in time to face his former team. He scored a goal in each of the past two games, his first two goals since coming to the Sharks. Winnik, center Andrew Desjardins and winger Tommy Wingels have found some chemistry and given McLellan some offensive production outside of his top two lines.

"You can see that he's found a home and he feels comfortable there," McLellan said of Winnik. "Rewarded with a couple goals. We'd like to keep him going, as well."

Sacco said he's not surprised that Winnik is "popping in some goals here and there" for the Sharks.

"He's a good solid player. He's a good penalty killer, he's a good defensive foreward," Sacco said. "He's strong on the puck, he cycles it well. He gives you some good grind time. And I think with Winny, scoring is a bonus."

Galiardi, who has yet to score a goal for the Sharks, will miss his sixth straight game with an upper-body injury and won't get to face his former team Monday night.

After missing three games with back spasms, Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson will return to the lineup against San Jose, Sacco said, replacing defenseman Tyson Barrie.

Johnson practiced Sunday, and after going through Monday morning's skate, he said he was good to go.

"It was definitely hard being out," Johnson said. "An injury like a back, you kind of have to make sure you're ready to go. I didn't want to take two steps forward and then one step back. It was an injury that wasn't really fun to have, and especially this time of year, it was really bad timing for it."

Johnson said he's ready to resume his roles on the power play and penalty kill, as well.

"I feel good enough to play as much as they want me to," Johnson said. "I'll accept those minutes how they're given to me. Obviously you'd like to play as much as you can, and hopefully I can do that tonight and use the ice time effectively."

Here's how the lineups could look tonight:

SHARKS
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Dominic Moore - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Jason Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi will make his 15th consecutive start for the Sharks. He's 4-1-2 with a 2.49 goals against average and one shutout in his career against Colorado.

AVALANCHE
Steve Downie - Ryan O'Reilly - Gabriel Landeskog
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Mark Olver - Matt Duchene - Milan Hejduk
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew

Matt Hunwick - Ryan Wilson
Jan Hejda - Ryan O'Byrne
Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson  

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastian Giguere

Varlamov will be in goal for the fifth straight game. He is 2-1-0 with a 2.93 goals against average in his career against San Jose.


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Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 7:32 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks need fast start vs. Coyotes

SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks forward Daniel Winnik played for Phoenix two years ago during coach Dave Tippett's first season with the Coyotes.

Winnik said he'd always hear opposing players say how "hard and frustrating" it was to play against the Coyotes, but he didn't truly understand why until he was traded to Colorado the next year and had to face Tippett's team.

"They're extremely patient," Winnik said after Saturday morning's optional skate at HP Pavilion. "The way (Tippett) coaches, they don't care if they ice the puck seven times in a row, their whole bench isn't getting frustrated. They try and slow the game down and make it boring enough that you get disinterested and try plays that create turnovers, and that's where they score their goals.

"It's kind of like playing St. Louis in a sense where they don't give you much, you don't get many shots. That's how St. Louis beats teams as well -- thrive off your turnovers and you getting frustrated by not being able to get to the net and to plays inside."

The Sharks lost all four of its games against St. Louis this season, and they've lost three of four to Phoenix entering Saturday's night's game against the Coyotes at HP Pavilion.

San Jose (84 points) and Phoenix (86) are both fighting for a playoff spot in a wild Western Conference race, and the Sharks need to solve the Coyotes' frustrating defensive puzzle or risk falling farther back.

Phoenix has defeated San Jose three straight times by a combined score of 11-3. Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith had two 3-0 shutouts during that stretch. The Sharks' only win in the series came in the season-opener on Oct. 8, a 6-3 victory at HP.

"After the first game of the year where we got dominated, I think our guys have really tried to hunker down," Tippett said. "You can't give away a lot of free chances. They're a really good team. If you give them extra time in your zone or give them outnumbered rushes, they're going to hurt you. Those are things we have to do to make sure we play a sound game. Again, that's whether it's the Sharks or whoever it is. We've had some success against the Sharks because our goaltending has been very good and we've been able to play a good defending game."

The Coyotes will play their second straight game without captain Shane Doan, who was suspended three games for elbowing Dallas' Jamie Benn in the head on Monday night. With Doan out of the lineup on Thursday night, Phoenix jumped to a 3-0 lead and held on to beat Colorado 3-2.

"He's one of their best players, but the way they play it's a team game, and I think probably out of all the teams in the league they're the least affected by losing a top player just because everyone seems to fill in real well for Tippett," Winnik said. "But he is a big loss. On the power play, they lose his one-timer on that side. He's been a threat for them there. He's really like the heartbeat of the team and obviously the organization because he's been there forever."

Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris, who will play in his 999th career NHL game tonight, said it takes a total team effort to compensate for Doan's absence.

"His leadership he brings in our room is huge," Morris said. "He's on the trip right now with us. He's around because he's the leader of our team. None of us expect any of us to replace him, but we expect all of us to be a little bit better. We can't rely on Shane to score a big goal for us or make a big play for us. The rest of us have to do it ourselves. If we can get five percent more out of each guy to fill in while Shane's out, that will be even better when he comes back."

Smith has been a force Phoenix's past three wins against San Jose, and not only because of his stingy play in goal. He is one of the NHL's most skilled goaltenders in terms of handling pucks and getting them quickly to his defensemen.

"It's definitely helped out," Morris said. "With the new game you see a lot of guys now are just dumping pucks and going and getting them. If they make them a little bit far we know that we don't' have to go back there and get in that battle with that guy because Smitty's going to make a good play out of the zone. We just got to get open for him. You don't even have to yell at him. He sees the play as it's coming in. He knows what he's going to do with it."

The Sharks always stress the importance of getting off to a fast start, but defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said starting quickly is more important against Phoenix than against most teams.

"They try to lull you into their system, their way of playing," Vlasic said. "Especially when they get the lead they're really good at holding the lead. You really want to jump all over them right off the start, maybe the first 10 minutes, jump all over them, get the lead. They're a different team when … they're trailing. When they have to come back, they're opening their system up more, the game more. It's a totally different (team) when they have the lead or don't have the lead."

The Sharks are coming off a 2-1 win Thursday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins that snapped a two-game skid. Their final eight games are against Western Conference teams, including two against Phoenix.

The Sharks will be without forward TJ Galiardi (upper body) for the fifth straight game, but he returned to the ice Saturday morning for the first time in nearly a week.

"Nice to get back out there," Galiardi said. "I don't really know the timetable yet, just kind of playing it day by day, see how it feels. But getting better."

Here's how the lineups could look Saturday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat

Dominic Moore - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Brent Burns

Jason Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Niemi will make his 14th straight start tonight. He's 0-2-0 against the Coyotes this season with a 3.56 goals-against average.

COYOTES

Mikkel Boedker - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata

Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Lauri Korpikoski

Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival

Rostislav Klesla - Michael Stone

Mike Smith

Jason LaBarbera

Smith is 3-1-0 with two shutouts and a 2.27 goals against average vs. the Sharks this season. … Phoenix recalled center Alexandre Bolduc from the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 6:11 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks look for turnaround against Bruins

SAN JOSE -- Two teams headed in opposite directions will collide Thursday night when the struggling San Jose Sharks face the surging Boston Bruins at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks have lost back-to-back games and have tumbled to 10th place in the Western Conference standings. After a four-game skid, the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins have won two straight, including an 8-0 thrashing of Toronto on Monday night, and own the No. 2 seed in the East.

The Sharks, naturally, are in desperation mode, but coach Todd McLellan said they've got find a way to loosen up and stop being so tight on the ice.

"First of all, we understand where we're at," McLellan said after his team's morning skate. "There's an anxiousness around our team which should be there. I feel at times it's a nervousness that holds us back. We have to be able to go out and play free. It's not about one or two individuals carrying the weight of the team on their shoulders, it's about distributing it evenly … and when you do that your team plays well. When you take too much on or not enough on, you have a tendency not to play well."

The Bruins don't have to worry about making the playoffs, but they're fighting to hold off Ottawa, which stands just three points back in the Northeast Division.

"I know they're in a battle for a playoff spot," Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the Sharks. "This is a good team across the ice from here. The one thing I do know is that we've gone through the same situation of really struggling to find our game, and eventually when you do, you see what kind of team you really are.

"It's a matter of them doing the same thing, and right now our focus is not to let them have that happen against us - do it against somebody else. But we have to be ready. Everybody's in a fighting mode here and everybody's in a situation where they want to finish as high as they can and some are battling for playoff spots."

Boston will open a three-game California road trip against the Sharks, hoping to build on the strides it made with a 3-2 shootout win against Philadelphia and a rout of the Maple Leafs. Even though they scored eight goals against Toronto, the Bruins pointed to improved defensive play for their two-game turnaround.

"I think we were just playing more Bruins-style hockey, playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulders, going out and competing, winning battles, and I think that's really where we start playing well, when we start competing hard and winning all those little battles wherever they may be," forward Tyler Seguin said. "When we stay consistent with that, after having a good game in Philly, and regardless of the score against Toronto, just to see us competing hard and doing the little things right, that's what makes us happy."

Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said one "challenge" they'll face against San Jose is to avoid being "too high" after their 8-0 win.

"You want to focus on what you did well that game and try to bring it into a game tonight and just build on what you've done well," Seidenberg said. "The last two games have been better. We're still trying to get our consistent game back that we had before our slump the last couple months. Everybody knows we're not out of it yet and we have to keep building."

The Sharks thought they had busted out of their slump when they beat Nashville and Detroit last week. But they followed those two wins with a 5-3 home loss to Anaheim on Monday and a 5-2 loss at Los Angeles the next night.

"We know we're behind the eight-ball and we've got to win some games to get in the playoffs," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, a former Bruin. "It has to start tonight. We're facing a really good team, so we have to be on our toes, ready to go.

"They're just a complete team, right from the goaltender out. They're flying high off that eight-nothing win last game. We'd like to score early, get some confidence and go from there.''

The Sharks beat Boston 4-2 in October during a 5-1 road trip when they were riding high.

"When we have fun, we usually play well," Thornton said. "We've got to get back to that tonight."

Forward Logan Couture said no one in the Sharks' dressing room has lost faith.

"Everyone in this room believes we're going to be in the playoffs," Couture said. "We're going to make this push down the stretch. We've got nine games to play well and make the push."

The Sharks announced that rookie forward Tommy Wingels is the team's nominee for the Masterton Trophy.

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Boston Bruins at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat

Dominic Moore - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Daniel Winnik

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Brent Burns

Colin White - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Niemi, despite back-to-back rough games, will make his 13th straight start in goal for the Sharks. Handzus will likely return to the lineup after missing the past six games with a lower body injury. McLellan said there's a chance Wingels (upper body) could return after missing five games. Forward Ryane Clowe and defenseman Dan Boyle didn't practice Thursday morning but will play tonight, McLellan said.

BRUINS

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jordan Caron

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin

Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston

Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg

Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk

Greg Zanon - Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas

Marty Turco

  • Thomas, the first goalie off the ice Thursday morning, will start for the 13th time in the past 14 games and make his 14th consecutive appearance. He's coming off his fifth shutout of the season but faced just 13 shots against Toronto.
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 5:13 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected Ducks, Sharks lineups

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle will reach a bit of a milestone Monday when the Sharks host the Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN), playing his 300th game with the team.

"I didn't know that," Boyle said of the milestone. "It's been fun. It's been a challenge, but I've been lucky to be with a very good organization and some great players, so it's been fun.''

After missing one game with an upper-body injury, Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman will return to the lineup against San Jose, said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau.

Sharks forward Tommy Wingels (upper body) will miss his fourth straight games and forward TJ Galiardi will miss his second straight.

Here's how the lineups could look Monday when the San Jose Sharks face the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Patrick Marleau - Martin Havlat
Daniel Winnik - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Benn Ferriero

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Jason Demers - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi will be in goal, with Thomas Greiss the backup.

DUCKS
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Bobby Ryan - Nick Bonino - Kyle Palmieri
Niklas Hagman - Rod Pelley - Devante Smith-Pelly

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Toni Lydman - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller likely will be in goal, with Jeff Deslauriers the backup.
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 5:09 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Will Hiller's streak continue?

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The big question around the Ducks is whether goaltender Jonas Hiller will make his 33rd consecutive start. Boudreau refused to reveal his starter but did say that backup Jeff Deslauriers -- the only Ducks goalie on the ice Monday morning -- will get a another start at some point before the season ends.

"He's worked too hard in practice and everything else, and (Hiller has) done everything and anything a goaltender could be asked to do," Boudreau said. "So at some point he's going to get a rest."

The fact that Hiller was resting Monday morning could be seen as a sign that he'll be in goal Monday against the Sharks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN). He already has crushed the previous franchise record for consecutive starts of 23. His streak is the second longest in the NHL since the start of the 2010-11 season, surpassed only by San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi's 34-game starting streak from Jan. 15-April 4, 2011.

"It's something special, and the way he's played and what he's had to do to keep us in the games," Boudreau said. "I think it's special. I haven't seen it done before. Maybe they have here because Niemi did it, but they had a pretty good team last year in front of him, too. Not that we don't. I'm just saying they probably had less chances-against and they had more firepower so Niemi had a little bit more breathing room in the games. When we win, it's 2-1. If we get three goals, it's a lot. He has to keep us in the game every night, and so to be mentally on top of that for all these games is quite an amazing streak."

Niemi, who has been on a hot streak, will make his 11th consecutive start.
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Posted On Monday, 03.19.2012 / 5:05 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks can't take slumping Ducks lightly

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks haven't enjoyed the view from atop the Pacific Division since Feb. 25, but they can reclaim first place Monday night with a victory Anaheim (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at HP Pavilion.

Just don't expect the surging Sharks to use that as a rallying cry.

"Winning is the motivating factor," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after his team's morning skate. "Not standings or Pacific Division, because tomorrow we'll be talking about it again. Just flat-out winning has to be their motivator, and what a great motivator. That's what we set out to do in Game 1 and we set out to do in Game 72."

The Sharks tumbled out of the Pacific lead that night when Phoenix beat Edmonton and they lost to Nashville in the next-to-last game of a disastrous nine-game road trip.

The Sharks have won two straight games and have earned at least one point in six of their past seven games, but they have more work to do in their final 11 games to secure a playoff spot. With 82 points, they're ninth in the Western Conference, one point behind Phoenix and Colorado. By beating Anaheim, the Sharks would jump over second-place Phoenix and first-place Dallas (82 points) for the Pacific lead and the conference's No. 3 playoff spot.

The Sharks and Ducks are the only Pacific Division teams in action tonight.

"The standings will take care of themselves," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "It's in our hands. We're aware of that. If we take care of our business, we'll be where we want to be at the end of the season."

After making a strong run as they tried to dig their way out of a huge early hole, the Ducks have won just once in their last six games (1-5-1) and are all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Even so, the Sharks know better than to take their division rivals lightly. The Ducks have won three of the first four games in the series this season.

"They always play us hard," McLellan said. "It's a natural rival. Their leadership group kind of matches our leadership group. They provide a lot to their team. They count on three or four guys to do a lot of their scoring. We do the same thing here in our organization. It's always a real intense battle.

"Having played them so much over the years, you have a ton of respect for their competitiveness, the Corey Perrys and the (Ryan) Getzlafs. So I don't think we're going to see a team that's going to take their foot off the gas pedal. In fact, they may push it a little bit harder tonight."

The Ducks, facing the second game in a back-to-back, will have to summon enough energy to push the pedal harder. They're coming off a 3-1 loss to Nashville on Sunday. Most of the Ducks' regulars opted to skip Monday morning's optional skate in order to rest.

"It's a challenge," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's our fifth game in eight days again. I think sometimes the guys are mentally tired and need a break, but we'll get it when we get it."

Boudreau knows there will be no rest for his weary team against San Jose.

"They're good. They go to the net. They're four lines deep and six defense deep," Boudreau said. "That's the challenge, and they play hard. And they're in a desperate situation. The challenge is survival and getting through. We know we've got a huge battle on our hands. That's the challenge."
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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 5:35 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Datsyuk back for Wings, but Franzen out

SAN JOSE – The Detroit Red Wings will have center Pavel Datsyuk back in the lineup Saturday night for the first time since Feb. 19, but they’ll be without forward Johan Franzen when they face the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.

Datsyuk missed 11 games with a knee injury that required surgery on Feb. 21. Franzen suffered back spasms during practice Friday and wasn’t on the ice for Detroit’s morning skate. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he doesn’t know when Franzen will return to the lineup.

“He spasmed up. He’s not feeling like he could play, so he’s not playing,” Babcock said of Franzen, who will miss his first game of the season. “I don’t’ know what the timeline is on something like that.

“Obviously we would have liked to have to Mule, but those are things that happen. There’s no sense worrying about who’s not here. Let’s just play hard. They’re a desperate team, and we’re a desperate team. We both need wins bad.”

With 91 points, Detroit isn’t desperately fighting just to make the playoffs the way the Sharks are with only 80. But the Red Wings have lost three straight games on the road and five of their past six overall. Datsyuk’s return is some good injury news is a sea of bad for Detroit.

“It’s great to have Pavel back,” Red Wings forward Danny Cleary said. “It’s an understatement to say how important he is to our team. We’re the walking wounded around here these days. One guy in, one or two guys out. So Pav’s a big help for us.”

With Holmstrom out, Cleary, one of the “walking wounded,” will skate on the top line with Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi. Cleary has been battling a painful knee since December that he said will require surgery after the season. He said he’s had two injections of a “gel type” substance with one to go next week in hopes that it will lubricate the knee and reduce pain.

“I’ll know by the first week of April if it’s set in,” Cleary said.

If it doesn’t set in, then Cleary said he’ll just keep playing through pain in the playoffs.

The Red Wings will be without All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who returned to Detroit earlier in the trip and will miss his eighth straight game with an ankle injury.

Backup goalie Joey MacDonald is also out after suffering back spasms and pain down one of his legs Wednesday night against Anaheim. He said he’ll undergo an MRI on Monday.

“Kind of concerned about that a little bit,” MacDonald said of the pain in his leg. “We can’t really do anything until we get a picture and see how it is.”

MacDonald has good reason to be concerned. In 2006 he had back surgery to repair a bulging disk in his back.

“It’s not quite the same feeling, so hopefully it’s a little different,” MacDonald said.

Jordan Pearce, who was recalled Friday from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, will back up staring goaltender Jimmy Howard against San Jose.

The Sharks, coming off a 2-1 shootout win Thursday night against Nashville, expect Detroit to get a big boost from Datsyuk’s return.

“They’ve been waiting for him for a while,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. “I’m sure he’s going to jumpstart their team. He’s arguably, probably the top guy with the puck in the whole League, in the world. You can’t bite on anything. If you bite on any of the moves there’s a very good chance you’re going to get beat. It’s just important to keep him between yourself and your goalie and try to keep him on the outside the best you can.”

Datsyuk said he’s feeling “every day better” but knows that the big test will come on the ice playing multiple games. The Red Wings have 11 more regular-season games, and the question is whether that’s enough time for Datsyuk to round into playoff form.

“I think so and I hope so, but we’ll see,” Datsyuk said. “It’s hard to say. Sometimes it’s enough. Sometimes it’s not. But I hope so.”

The Sharks beat the Red Wings in back-to-back Western Conference semifinals and have won two out of three games this season. Boyle, though, said the Sharks recent dominance of the Red Wings is a mystery to him.

“It’s like Washington. We’ve beaten Washington 16 out of 17 times. Why? I don’t know,” Boyle said. “Detroit, a few years ago, it was the other way around. San Jose couldn’t’ beat Detroit. The last few years it’s been in our favor, but this team is obviously among the top in the game. We just play hard, we’re ready for them. We usually have a very good effort against them. I don’t’ expect anything different.”

Here’s how the lineups could look Saturday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Logan CoutureJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski
Ryane ClowePatrick MarleauMartin Havlat
Daniel WinnikDominic MooreTorrey Mitchell
TJ GaliardiAndrew DesjardinsBrad Winchester

Marc-Edouard VlasicDan Boyle
Douglas MurrayBrent Burns
Jason DemersJustin Braun

Antti NIemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi will make his 10th straight start for the Sharks. Forward Tommy Wingels (upper body) will miss his third straight game.

RED WINGS

Todd BertuzziPavel DatsyukDanny Cleary
Valterri Filppula – Henrik ZetterbergJiri Hudler
Drew MillerDarren HelmJustin Abdelkader
Tomas HolmstromCory EmmertonJan Mursak

Niklas KronwallBrad Stuart
Kyle QuinceyIan White
Brendan SmithDoug Janik

Jimmy Howard
Jordan Pearce
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Quote of the Day

Because of the way they play and their skill set I don't think they're fourth-line players, so in my mind I'm looking at one of those guys I'll have to move over to the wing.

— Capitals coach Barry Trotz on his four-player battle for second-line center