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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
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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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 5:54 PM

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

Preds' Klein almost ready to return

SAN JOSE - Nashville Predators defenseman Kevin Klein will likely miss his seventh straight game Thursday night against San Jose with an upper-body injury. However, barring a setback, he'll return to the lineup Saturday night at Los Angeles.

"He could play tonight, but I think I'm just going to keep him out," Predators coach Barry Trotz said after his team's morning skate at HP Pavilion. "If he doesn't play tonight he'll play the next game."

Klein was one of the last Predators off the ice Thursday morning.

"(I) had (Brian McGrattan) lean on me a little bit today, which was nice," Klein said. "We were battling. Felt pretty good. Little bit of contract, nothing too crazy. Probably ramp it up tomorrow, maybe take a few hits and see how I feel."

Klein said he expects to play Saturday, which can't come soon enough for him.

"I've been out for probably about three weeks now. Getting a little crazy. Eager to be back, eager to make this run toward the playoffs," Klein said. "If there's no setbacks I can see myself playing Saturday. It will be nice to be back playing games, that's for sure."

Injured defenseman Roman Josi (upper body) "probably" won't rejoin the team during its road trip, which ends Sunday at Anaheim, Trotz said. He's hopeful that Josi will be ready to play Tuesday at home against Edmonton.

The Alexander Radulov watch continued for the Predators, but Trotz said he "should have a better idea by the weekend" whether the winger will return to Nashville for the rest of the season. He is currently on the roster of the Kontinental Hockey League's Salavat Yulayev Ufa. His KHL contract runs through April 30, and he reportedly needs his team's OK to leave early without forfeiting two-thirds of his salary.

Radulov left the Predators in July of 2008 to sign with Ufa.

"It's really in his court," Trotz said. "If he wants to come over, they'll get the road blocks out of the way and that would be great. … Until I see the whites of his eyes, I'm not going to worry a whole lot about it."

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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 4:52 PM

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

Sharks hope getting Havlat back provides spark

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks have been looking for a spark on offense, and they'll get one Thursday night against Nashville when winger Martin Havlat returns to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 17 when he injured his left hamstring against Edmonton.

Havlat underwent surgery to repair a partially torn tendon and missed 39 games. He's been practicing with his teammates for a few weeks, but tonight he'll jump back into the middle of a heated playoff race.

"Everything is a challenge after you come back after a long injury," Havlat said. "Everybody's going 100 mph. I just have to get in and try to be helpful. Every game right now until the end is very important.

"Basically now every game is a playoff game. Any point is very important, and we're playing a great team. They've been great the whole season. It's not going to be easy."

Havlat will skate on the second line with center Patrick Marleau and winger Ryane Clowe.

"Marty's a creative player," Clowe said. "We can use every goal we can get right now. Marty creates chances. Obviously on the power play he'll give us a little bit more depth on that second unit. I think his creativity, speed, his offensive awareness -- a high-end player like that, you're going to miss him when he's out. We had a little bit of chemistry there at the start of year. So hopefully we mingle good again."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he'll have to "manage" Havlat's minutes tonight and monitor his physical condition.

"It's hard to step in at this time of the year with the way the pace is going and the intensity of the games," McLellan said. "It's certainly not October hockey, and it's definitely not December hockey, and that's the last time he played, and this team tonight can really skate. They play the game fast, and he'll have to integrate himself quickly and we'll have to keep an eye on him."

The Predators will being keeping an eye on Havlat, too. He has 37 points in 30 career games against Nashville.

"He has great one-on-one skill," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "In the past we probably haven't paid enough attention to him."

Trotz, though, said it won't be easy for Havlat to get up to speed in his first game back after such a long layoff.

"His skill level will be there. He's a gifted player. He skates naturally. It's tough. It's hard to catch the train when you've been out for a while," Trotz said. "The pace is going to be really high, got people leaning on you. It's different. It's hard. I think you always need a couple games to get back in."

Havlat, who came to the Sharks from Minnesota in a trade for Dany Heatley in July, missed the entire preseason and the first four regular-season games while recovering from shoulder surgery. He was just catching his stride when suffered a freak injury against Edmonton, catching a skate on the boards he was trying to get back on the ice during a line change at HP Pavilion.

Havlat had a goal in that game and a pair of assists in his previous game against Colorado. For the season, he has 2 goals and 13 assists in 26 games.

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when these teams meet at HP Pavilion:

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

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

PREDATORS
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Craig Smith
Jordin Tootoo - Nick Spaling - Colin Wilson

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis
Hal Gill - Jack Hillen

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 4:48 PM

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

Sharks get McLellan back for key game with Oilers

SAN JOSE -- After missing three games with a concussion, San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan will return to the bench for Tuesday night's game against Edmonton at HP Pavilion.

"I'm going to give the bench my full attention," McLellan said after the Sharks' optional skate Tuesday morning. "I'll see how it goes from there. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm anticipating that I'm going to feel good and that I'm going to be alert and I'm going to be sharp. When we ask the players to do that and contribute for a full 60 minutes, we better be able to do that as a staff. So I'm going to be as sharp as I possibly can."

McLellan hasn't been on the bench since being hit hard in the head by a stick during the Sharks' 4-3 loss at Minnesota on Feb. 26.

McLellan was on the ice and conducted practice Friday but didn't respond well and missed his third straight game Saturday night game against St. Louis. McLellan conducted practice Monday and had better results.

"Friday I did not feel good at all," McLellan said. "Yesterday I felt better. I didn't feel 100 percent yet, but I felt much better. Wore down a little bit later in the day and had a good sleep. I feel good this morning. Again, we're flying by the seat of our pants. We're going to go out there and see what happens."

While McLellan was out, the Sharks beat Philadelphia 1-0, then lost 1-0 to Buffalo and 3-1 to St. Louis. They've gone 2-7-1 in their past 10 games and enter tonight's game in eighth place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of Los Angeles and Colorado and three in front of Calgary.

With just 17 games left to play, the Sharks are officially in desperation mode.

"We're letting some games slip away and not picking up enough points," forward Logan Couture said. "Sitting eighth in the conference with L.A. a point behind us, it's going down to the wire. We need to find some way to get some sort of points out of games, almost every game from now until the end of the year. It starts tonight against a good Edmonton team."

Getting forward Ryane Clowe untracked would go a long way toward getting the Sharks out of their offensive funk. He has 1 goal and 7 assists in his past 15 games and just 11 goals and 24 assists for the season. Last season, Clowe had 24 goals and 62 points, both career highs.

"I know if I produce a bit more the team's going to have a better chance of winning, for sure," Clowe said. "It's time to make it happen. We're in a position now where every game counts. I'm in the same position. Every game counts for me. I've got to make sure to start producing a bit more."

According to McLellan, Clowe's trouble scoring goals stems in large part from him trying to do too much to help his struggling team.

"Clowie's a very noble, honest guy, and I think right now he's taking more on than he needs to," McLellan said. "If he just does what Ryane Clowe does -- and that's protect pucks and get to the net -- I think he'll have some success. But if there's one or two guys in there that really take struggling to heart, he would be one, and the tendency is to try to do more, and often you get less.

"But Clowie knows that. I thought the other night when he scored against Philadelphia that weight of the world would be off his shoulders, but it seems to be back there again. We have a ton of confidence in this young man. He's a very important part of our team and he will continue to be."

The Oilers will be playing the second game of a back-to-back after losing 4-2 Monday night at Anaheim. What's more, they're well out of the playoff race with a 25-34-6 record and just 56 points. The Sharks, though, know better than to take Edmonton lightly. They suffered a 2-1 shootout loss in Edmonton on Jan. 23 and slipped past the Oilers 3-2 at HP Pavilion on Dec. 17.

"They played us hard both times we played them," Couture said. "They play tough, they play fast. They're a young team. They're going to come out and they're going to give effort. We know what to expect when we play them."

The Sharks can plan on seeing an Edmonton power play that ranks No. 1 in the NHL.

"They're very creative," McLellan said. "They have a youthful creativity to their game, and that shows through on the power play. Their young players have a lot of confidence and courage with the puck. They're not afraid to err with it, and sometimes that allows them to be very successful offensively, and we see that on the power play."

San Jose's penalty kill ranks 28th in the NHL, which is one reason why the Sharks acquired Dominic Moore, Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi before the trade deadline. All three have been solid penalty killers, and McLellan said he's ready to start giving them more time on the PK now that they've had more time to learn the Sharks' system.

"Some of them have had some minutes already," McLellan said. "We're hoping to get to the point where we potentially could throw a pair of them out together. But they will get some minutes. Hopefully we're not penalty killing and we won't have to worry about that."


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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

Probable lineups for Sharks vs. Oilers

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the San Jose Sharks face the Edmonton Oilers at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Daniel Winnik - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell
TJ Galiardi - Michal Handzus - Jim Vandermeer/Andrew Desjardins

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Jason Demers - Colin White

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi was the first goalie off the ice after Tuesday morning's skate and is expected to make his fourth straight start. He allowed a combined four goals in his past three games, a stretch that included a shutout of Philadelphia.

OILERS
Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Lennart Petrell - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ryan Jones
Linus Omark - Eric Belanger - Ben Eager

Corey Potter - Ryan Whitney
Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Nick Schultz - Andy Sutton

Devan Dubnyk
Nikolai Khabibulin

After playing Monday night at Anaheim, the Oilers held an optional skate Tuesday morning with only a handful of players taking the ice at HP Pavilion. Khabibulin started the past two games, but Dubnyk is expected to be in net against the Sharks. He is 13-16-1 with a 2.93 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 9:48 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues-Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the San Jose Sharks face the St. Louis Blues at HP Pavilion:

BLUES
Vladimir SobotkaDavid BackesT.J. Oshie
Andy McDonaldPatrik BerglundChris Stewart
Chris PorterJason ArnottChris Stewart
B.J.Crombeen – Scott NicholRyan Reaves

Carlo ColaiacovoAlex Pietrangelo
Barret JackmanKevin Shattenkirk
Kent HuskinsRoman Polak

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock juggled his top three lines in order to spread his firepower throughout the lineup. McDonald moved from the first line to the second, with Sobotka jumping from the third to the first. Stewart dropped from the second to the third line.

SHARKS
Ryane CloweJoe ThorntonLogan Couture
Daniel WinnikPatrick MarleauJoe Pavelski
TJ GaliardiDominic MooreTorrey Mitchell
Brad WinchesterMichal HandzusJim Vandermeer

Marc-Edouard VlasicDan Boyle
Brent BurnsDouglas Murray
Jason DemersColin White

Sharks coach Todd McLellan will miss his third straight game after suffering a concussion Sunday at Minnesota when he was hit by a stick, the team announced. Assistants Jay Woodcroft and Matt Shaw will fill in behind the bench. The Sharks had an optional skate Saturday morning, so there were no line rushes, and Woodcroft said the lines had yet to be set. Couture is expected to return to the lineup after missing two games with a lower body injury, and Murray might be back after missing eight games since being hit in the throat with a puck.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 5:52 PM

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

Blues, Sharks savoring Saturday's test


SAN JOSE – It’s safe to say that the St. Louis Blues have had San Jose’s number this year.

The Blues are 3-0 against the Sharks entering the fourth and final game of the series Saturday night at HP Pavilion. They beat the Sharks 4-2 in San Jose when Davis Payne was still the coach, and they shut them out 1-0 and 3-0 in St. Louis under coach Ken Hitchcock.

The numbers don’t lie, but the Blues are approaching Saturday night’s game as if they were looking up at San Jose in the Western Conference standings rather than the other way around. Hitchcock said there’s zero chance of his team having a letdown on the final leg of its six-game road trip because of the “respect” it has for the Sharks.

“San Jose plays us tough,” Hitchcock said after the Blues’ morning skate at HP Pavilion. “They’re a hard team for us to play against. They’ve got weight, they’ve got size up front. They lean on you pretty hard. They get our attention all the time. In a lot of ways, I know they’re a difficult opponent, but our players really like playing against them because it really tests your competitiveness.

“I think both teams play with similar structure, we use similar terminology, we use a similar style of game. We measure ourselves. Any time it’s Vancouver, Detroit, San Jose or Chicago, we measure ourselves to see if we’re ready for the test, so any time we play these teams, those four teams, we get pretty excited.”

The Blues enter Saturday night’s game with 87 points and the fourth spot in the West – three places ahead of San Jose, which has gone 3-6-1 in its past 10 games and is coming off a 1-0 loss Thursday night to Buffalo. St. Louis is 4-1 on its road trip, but suffered a 2-0 loss Thursday at Vancouver.

The Sharks see Saturday night’s game against St. Louis as a chance to prove they’re still one of the West’s elite teams, despite their recent slide.

“They’ve been the hottest team in the League since Hitch took over there,” Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. “We need a game like that tonight to get us back on track, just a sound game against a real good team. It’s going to be a great test and we all know that. We got to pass that test. If we can create some chances and prove to ourselves that we are a dominant team, too. Especially if we get power-play opportunites – they’ve had our number in that area. We got to get that going tonight if we get those opportunities.”

During their 3-0 loss on Feb. 12 at St. Louis, the Sharks went 0-for-4 on the power play while the Blues scored a pair of power-play goals. The Blues killed all six penalties during their 1-0 win against San Jose on Dec. 10. The Blues PK units come into the game on a hot streak. St. Louis has killed 24 straight penalties during a span of nine-plus games.

Jaroslav Halak was in goal for the Blues during that Feb. 12 shutout, and he’ll be in goal Saturday night against San Jose and goaltender Antti Niemi. Halak has six shutouts this season to go with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Niemi (2.43, .914) has five shutouts and allowed just one goal in his past two games, snapping out of a slump.

In other words, goals should be scarce, as they usually are when St. Louis plays. The Blues lead the NHL in goals-against per game (1.91) shots-against per game (26.2) and shutouts (12). St. Louis will face a Sharks team that has scored just 15 goals in its past eight games and just one in its past two games.

“They’re a tough team to play,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “They come hard on the forecheck. Great defensive team, haven’t given up very many goals all year. To beat them you have to play one of the best games that we’ve played all year and step up tonight.”

Former Shark Scott Nichol, now a fourth-line center for St. Louis, said the Blues are “really buying into” Hitchcock’s defense-first system.

“We all just kind of stick together, playing a hard game, a heavy game,” Nichol said. “It’s been working out for us.”

Hitchcock said he expects to see the Sharks at their best, especially on a Saturday night at HP Pavilion.

“Teams that have been there before, they know when the light’s at the end of the tunnel,” Hitchcock said. “They’ll be there at the end. They’ll play at a high level. It’s hard for teams that keep going back to the same well year in and year out. The players know when to crank it up. There’s a month left in the season, I’m sure they’re going to crank it up and go to another level. That’s why we want to test ourselves. We think they’re going to play at that level now, and we want to test ourselves.”

Here’s how the lineups could look Saturday night:

SHARKS

Ryane CloweJoe ThorntonLogan Couture

Daniel WinnikPatrick MarleauJoe Pavelski

TJ GaliardiDominic MooreTorrey Mitchell

Brad WinchesterMichal HandzusJim Vandermeer


Marc-Edouard VlasicDan Boyle

Brent BurnsDouglas Murray

Jason DemersColin White


Sharks coach Todd McLellan will miss his third straight game after suffering a concussion Sunday at Minnesota when he was hit by a stick, the team announced. Assistants Jay Woodcroft and Matt Shaw will fill in behind the bench. The Sharks had an optional skate Saturday morning, so there were no line rushes, and  Woodcroft said the lines had yet to be set. Couture is expected to return to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury, and Murray might be back after missing eight games since being hit in the throat with a puck.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:17 PM

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

McLellan still suffering concussion symptoms

SAN JOSE – San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan will likely miss his third straight game Saturday night against St. Louis because of a concussion, but he said he’s “feeling better every day” and expects to be back behind the bench “very soon.”

The Sharks, though, should have leading goal scorer Logan Couture back in the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury. And there’s a chance top-six defenseman Douglas Murray will return. He has missed eight games since being hit in the Adam’s apple with a puck against Tampa Bay.

“I still have some moments that aren’t real good,” McLellan said after the Sharks morning skate at HP Pavilion, talking to reporters for the first time since being hit in the head by a stick during Sunday’s game at Minnesota.

“I can tell you I have a much better appreciation for head injuries,” McLellan said. “I was one of those guys that stated that we probably all played with them, we’ve all had them in the past. But until you really get cracked and feel the way I’ve felt over the last five or six days -- you tend to lose that opinion quickly and maybe appreciate a little bit more what a lot of these players have gone through.”

McLellan said he is still suffering “typical concussion symptoms.”

“There’s times where I feel really good, and then a lot of the motion and movement makes it hard for one to focus a little bit,” he explained. “But I am getting better every day.”

McLellan was on the ice Friday and conducted San Jose’s practice.

“I felt really good in the morning and didn’t feel that good after practice,” McLellan said.

McLellan said he doesn’t remember getting hit by the stick of Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, but remembers everything before and soon after that incident.

“A coach takes that risk a lot, trainers do,” McLellan said. “Your focus often isn’t on the puck, it’s on people around you and what’s happening. Trainers are getting skates and gloves, and you’re not always paying attention. For the most part you usually can get your hands up and protect yourself. That was a situation where I couldn’t.”

After taking practice off on Friday, Couture took part in the entire optional skate Saturday morning.

“I think I’m in,” Courture said. “We’ll see when I get to the rink, but felt good in morning skate. Obviously we didn’t do any line rushes or anything like that, but felt pretty good. So we’ll see what happens when I come to the rink. Hopefully I’m ready to play. … I felt pretty good out on the ice. Another day’s rest definitely helped.”

Murray was one of the first defensemen off the ice Saturday morning, a sign that he’ll likely be in the lineup, although he said he was waiting to hear if he has been “officially” cleared by team doctors to play.

“I guess that I’ll be playing pretty soon,” Murray said.

When he returns, Murray will have added protection in the front of his shoulder pads to help shield his throat. The concern has been that if he gets hit in the same area again it will cause dangerous swelling that could affect his breathing.
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Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild