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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 5:00 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Quick likely to start as Sutter faces old team

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks are coming off a 7-2 win Wednesday over Tampa Bay. They jumped to a 5-0 first-period lead, scoring the five fastest goals in team history. But the last time they faced Los Angeles, the Kings and goaltender Jonathan Quick shut them out 2-0. Quick stopped all 33 shots he faced.

After the Kings' optional skate at HP Pavilion, new coach Darryl Sutter said he never reveals his starting goaltender before game time. But backup Jonathan Bernier was on the ice for nearly an hour, and Quick, who was in goal Thursday night in the Kings' 3-2 shootout win over Anaheim, didn't skate. It's likely that Quick was resting up for another start.

Sutter coached the Sharks four-plus seasons before being fired 24 games into the 2002-03 season by former San Jose and current Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi. Only one current Sharks player -- Patrick Marleau -- played in San Jose for Sutter, who was hired later that season as Calgary's coach. Sutter said that after being gone for so long, returning to San Jose this time doesn't feel like a homecoming.

"I think I've been here enough, been through enough with San Jose -- the Flames, the playoffs, all those things," Sutter said. "It's a long time, but it's still good being back and seeing people outside the game. That's still the best part."

Former Shark Owen Nolan dropped by HP Pavilion on Friday morning to visit Sutter.

This is Sutter's second time taking over a team during a season.

"The toughest part is because you are new to the group," Sutter said. "You only know a handful of guys. The only advantage you have is if you have some experience with it and some experience with the League. You might not know them personally, but you know pretty much what type of players they are. So you try and get something happening right away.

"This is a different situation than the last time I did it. I was going to a team that was basically out of it. They were in a total restart. We're trying to do it a little bit quicker and you believe that it is a good group, so you're trying to get them to believe it. You put in what you can to help them along the way."
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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 4:58 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Havlat expected to miss 6-8 weeks after surgery

SAN JOSE -- Two days after undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn tendon on his left hamstring, winger Martin Havlat came by the Sharks' dressing room at HP Pavilion. He was on crutches and had a large brace on his left leg. General manager Doug Wilson said a good "ballpark" estimate is that Havlat will miss 6-8 weeks. The Sharks initially feared he had a complete tear and could miss most, if not all of the season.

"After surgery better news than what we heard before, so hopefully it's going to be good," Havlat said. "I think everybody's pretty pleased with the results, with what they saw in there."

Havlat was injured Saturday against Edmonton while jumping over the boards at HP during a shift change. He said his skate got caught on the hard rubber protective padding on top of the new boards.

"They've got to change the boards here," Havlat said. "I'm just kidding. It just got stuck there a little bit. Then I put all my weight, when I was going down, on my leg, and my ankle twisted a little bit. … It is disappointing. I was trying to get my game back, and I was a little better the last couple games, but unfortunately this is what happened, and I'll have to deal with that."

Havlat, who came to San Jose from Minnesota in an offseason trade for Dany Heatley, has recovered from numerous shoulder injuries and surgeries before, but he said this is the first major leg injury he has suffered during his career.

"This is just another hurdle I have to jump over," he said. "I just have to do everything I can to get back as quick as I can."

Joe Pavelski was back on the ice Friday morning after missing practice Thursday because of the flu. He said he felt "a little bit" better. "Game time comes around, no one cares how you feel," Pavelski added.
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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 4:54 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Sharks recall Niittymaki off conditioning assignment

SAN JOSE -- Antero Niittymaki was recalled Friday from Worcester of the AHL after his three-game conditioning assignment, giving the Sharks three goaltenders on their active roster.

Niittymaki joins No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss, who has been the backup this season while Niittymaki recovered from offseason hip surgery.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the team's immediate plan is to have Niemi start Friday night against Los Angeles with Greiss as his backup in the team's final game before its two-day Christmas break.

"After Christmas we'll have to sit down as an organization and determine which direction we're going," McLellan said. "Our schedule is not going to be friendly January through April, and we will need two, maybe three goaltenders at that point. It's a luxury to have right now, that depth at that position, and we'll manage it as we move forward."

Trading Niittymaki or Greiss is one obvious option if the Sharks decide they can't afford the luxury of carrying three goaltenders.

Niittymaki went 1-2 with a 3.38 goals against average and an .878 save percentage with Worcester. More importantly, his hip passed that physical test.

"I'm ready," Niittymaki said after the Sharks' optional morning skate. "I feel good. The hip feels good. A couple of those games were good tests. A lot of post-to-post stuff. Hip held up pretty good. That's why I went there, to see how it feels and get a couple games. I'm happy how it went."

Niittymaki signed with the Sharks as a free agent on July 1, 2010, and was expected to be their No. 1 goaltender last season. But they signed Niemi that September, and the two goaltenders shared the job early in the season. But after Niittymaki was sidelined by a lingering lower-body injury, Niemi grabbed the starting job and earned a four-year contract extension. Niittymaki is in the final year of his contract, while Greiss re-signed this season for two years after playing last season in the Swedish Elite League.

"It's a good problem to have, much like having eight defensemen," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Wednesday, looking ahead to Niittymaki's return. "You can go from eight defensemen down to five pretty quickly, and you can go from three goalies down to one pretty quickly."
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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 4:46 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Kings

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

Benn Ferriero - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Patrick Marleau
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Brent Burns - Jason Demers
Justin Braun - Colin White

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Brad Richardson - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Simon Gagne - Mike Richards - Trevor Lewis
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Kevin Westgarth

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 5:26 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Khabibulin back in net for Edmonton

SAN JOSE – After getting a week off to rest, Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will go back to work Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.

Oilers coach Tom Renney didn’t make it official, but Khabibulin was the first goaltender off the ice Saturday morning from the Oilers’ optional skate at HP Pavilion, while backup Devan Dubnyk continued working.

“I feel pretty good, I feel rested,” Khabibulin said.

Khabibulin didn’t play in the Oilers’ 3-0 loss last week to Calgary or their 4-2 loss Thursday night to Phoenix. He has also missed a few recent practices. His last start was on Dec. 9, a 4-1 win over Colorado, when he stopped 28 of 29 shots.

“Just a little bit of rest,” Khabibulin said of his time off. “I was ready to play in Phoenix, but it was Tom’s decision not to. I don’t go into that. He decides who’s playing.”

Khabibulin, who turns 39 next month, is having a stellar season. He ranks fifth in the NHL with a 1.95 goals against average, and he has a .933 save percentage to go with a 10-6-3 record. He’ll face a Sharks team that has been struggling but rallied from a 4-2 third period deficit to beat Colorado 5-4 on Thursday night at the Shark Tank.

“They have a lot of firepower, that team,” Khabibulin  said.  “Probably one of the top teams in the conference – it’s going to be a good test for us.”

Sharks coach Todd McLellan has been juggling his lines, trying to find some combinations that will ignite his offense. Against Colorado he dropped Patrick Marleau to the second line with center Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe. Torrey Mitchell jumped from the third line to take Marleau’s spot on the top line with center Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Martin Havlat dropped from the second to the third and skated with center Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn. The fourth line of center Andrew Desjardins and wings Andrew Murray and Brad Winchester remained intact.

Those four lines earned another shot, McLellan said.

“We’ve been flipping cards around for quite a while. Again, you’ve got to go with what you saw in the third period and the effort that certain individuals gave you with others,” McLellan said after his team’s optional skate. “I liked what I saw in that situation. Can they repeat it? Can they get the job done again tonight? If they can, then we’ve found something. If they can’t, then we’ll keep moving pieces around until we do.”

Couture and Clowe each scored a goal against Colorado, and Marleau had an assist.

“We need to score goals,” Couture said. “There’s too much talent in this room to get shut out or score only one or two goals every night. We need to find some chemistry with our linemates. Playing with [Marleau] and [Clowe], Patty’s got the speed, the quickness on the shot. Clowie holds onto pucks, protects them well. All three of us had some chemistry last game. So we need to keep that going.”

The Sharks’ problems go well beyond finding the right line combinations. Their penalty kill ranks 29th in the NHL, and their typically dangerous power play ranks in a tie for 12th.

“Penalty kill and power play are concerns for us right now,” McLellan said. “I think we lost 2-1 to (Minnesota), 1-0 in St. Louis, overtime goal to Chicago and a shootout to Colorado. Your power play or penalty kill in that situation can make a huge, huge difference, and it didn’t in those games. That’s the difference between winning and losing. Penalty kill has a huge, huge factor in our games right now.

“We’ve changed some things systematically and it’s helped a little bit. We’ll rotate players we use in different pairs around a little bit more now to try and change that also, but some of it’s just confidence. When that situation comes you’ve got to believe that you can get the job done from the goaltender though the D men and out to the forwards. We have the proper personnel. It’s a matter of getting it done.”

McLellan said the Sharks regained some but not all of their confidence Thursday night with their third-period comeback.

“For me, confidence is feeling good about yourself first, about the team and the game that you’re playing,” McLellan said. “We don’t have enough players that can honestly say that now. We’re gaining more back. I would say that we’re coming out of it. We’re gaining more back, so as we build on that a little bit more, we should feel better about ourselves and our game should improve.”

The Sharks are 3-5-2 in their past 10 games. After a fast start, the Oilers have hit a slump, too, going 3-6-1 with two straight losses. They were outshot 42-20 by Phoenix on Thursday night, and there’s a decided sense of urgency approaching Saturday night’s game.

“Yeah, definitely,” Edmonton rookie center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “We definitely need that. We need to get back on track here, so I think we’re going to be intense. Tonight’s a huge game for us.”

The Oilers are expected to shake up their line combinations, too, with Taylor Hall returning to the top line with Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

“We have some plans to get the young line back together and move some people around so we can actually create a little bit more and also have a physical component that helps with the energy level in general,” Renney told the Edmonton Journal.

Here’s how the lineups could look like Saturday night:


Torrey MitchellJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski
Ryane CloweLogan CouturePatrick Marleau
Jamie McGinnMichal HandzusMartin Havlat
Brad WinchesterAndrew DesjardinsAndrew Murray

Dan BoyleMarc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason DemersBrent Burns
Colin WhiteJustin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss


Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle
Ryan SmithSam GagnerAles Hemsky
Eric BelangerShawn HorcoffRyan Jones
Ben EagerAnton LanderDarcy Hordichuk

Ladislav SmidTom Gilbert
Ryan WhitneyJeff Petry
Theo PeckhamCorey Potter

Nikolai Khabibulin
Devan Dubnyk
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 6:44 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Injuries force Sharks to shake up defense

SAN JOSE -- After his team's defensive meltdown in Saturday night's 5-3 loss to Florida, Sharks coach Todd McLellan considered shaking up his blue line. Now he has no choice.

Defenseman Douglas Murray will miss Tuesday night's game against the Minnesota Wild with an upper-body injury, McLellan said after the Sharks' optional morning skate at HP Pavilion. Murray missed the previous two practices and had his right hand heavily wrapped.

Murray is typically in the top pairing with Dan Boyle. His absence will force McLellan to make multiple changes.

"They'll be all over the map," McLellan said of his defensive corps. "We'll start a certain way, and until we find something we like we'll move them around. We practiced (Monday) with some pairs that we'll likely start with. Then we'll move from there."

Based on Monday's practice, the Sharks will likely begin the game with Marc-Edouard Vlasic paired with Boyle, Brent Burns with Jim Vandermeer and Jason Demers with Colin White. Justin Braun, who was recalled Tuesday from Worcester, is another option. McLellan said he might dress seven defensemen against Minnesota.

"Everybody's pretty comfortable playing with everybody," Demers said. "With Cranky out, it throws a little bit of a wrinkle into things. Guys are just going to have to step up and take that role because those are big shoes to fill for sure."

If Braun is in the lineup, McLellan said he wants to "see him play his game" against Minnesota.

"What is that? He's a very good retrieval guy," McLellan said. "He goes back and gets the puck and initiates breakouts. He's got a tremendous shot and can get it through to the net. So we want to see him use that. He's a big man. He can be physical when he has to be. We sent him down after the L.A. game (Nov. 28) just to get some games under his belt. We weren't going to use him in the Montreal game (Dec. 1). So it would be another week of him watching. He was able to get three games in, which is going to polish him up a little."

With or without Murray, the Sharks know they can't afford another turnover-filled effort against Minnesota, which enters Tuesday night's game with an NHL-best 37 points. The Wild have won 14 of their past 18 games and four straight road games. In its past three road wins, Minnesota overcame two-goal deficits. The Wild have 11 wins this season after giving up the first goal.

"No, it's not the plan," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of falling behind early. "We'd like to try getting the first goal a little more frequently. But certainly the plan is to stay with it. Regardless of whether we score or they score, we have to continue to go out and play our game shift after shift.

"We preach it all the time. It doesn't matter what the score is. It doesn't matter if we're up 3-1 or they're up 3-1 or what period we're in or how the momentum of the game has shifted. We want to go out and play our game, and we have to. Because we still haven't built it yet. I think we have a good understanding of what our game is, but as far as a group, we're still trying to create our identity. We're still trying to really forge our foundation as a team."

The Sharks and Wild will meet at HP Pavilion for the second and final time this season. San Jose beat the Wild 3-1 on Nov. 10, the Sharks' eighth win in a 10-game stretch. This time, the Sharks have lost three of their past four games, including Saturday's night's defensive debacle. Florida scored three times in the second period, taking advantage of turnovers by Boyle, Burns and White. Instead of getting their scheduled day off Sunday, the Sharks held a rugged practice.

"They're going to be hungry," Wild forward and ex-Shark Dany Heatley said. "Lost a few so they're going to be ready to go tonight, and we're going pretty good right now. So it should be a good one."

The Wild will have Josh Harding in net again, Yeo said. He came off the bench in Friday night's 4-2 win against New Jersey when Niklas Backstrom suffered a minor groin injury. Harding started Sunday's 5-3 win at Anaheim. Although Backstrom took part in Tuesday morning's skate, Yeo said that Matt Hackett would likely back up up Harding again.

Yeo said he always "looks for a reason" why his team's opponent will be at its best, but he didn't have to search hard this time.

"Certainly we're expecting a team to come out very well prepared, very hungry, very determined," Yeo said. "And on top of that, this is just a really good team that we're playing. So we're going to have to be sharp."

Wild winger Casey Wellman certainly won't lack motivation against the Sharks. He grew up in the Bay Area and played for the San Jose Junior Sharks, occasionally taking part in youth games during intermission at Sharks games.

This will be Wellman's first NHL game at the Shark Tank and will mark the first time his parents – Jodi and Brand Wellman, a former San Francisco Giants infielder – will see him play professionally. He expects to have around 20 family members at the game.

"I'm really excited about it," said Wellman.

Wellman is one of only four active NHL players born in California and one of 27 in League history.

"People always ask me where I'm from," Wellman said. "I tell them I'm from California. They don't believe I'm a hockey player. It's great to be a part of this. I used to play at the intermission here when I was a mite. It's good to play the real thing."

Wellman will see at least one familiar face on the Sharks. He played hockey with Braun at UMass Amherst and stayed with him at his mother's house in Minnesota last summer, sleeping in a room in the basement.

"It was two rooms. The back one was his," Wellman said. "I just had a little futon in the little room before his. He actually just bought a place, so next summer we'll be moving into that thing. I've already picked out a room."

When the Sharks and Wild met earlier this season, it marked the first game between the two teams since they made three trades with each other during the offseason, including two huge deals. The Sharks sent Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota as part of a package for Burns. They traded Heatley to the Wild for Martin Havlat.

After an emotional reunion game, it's been business as usual for the ex-Sharks and ex-Wild.

"Now it's out of the way," Setoguchi said of his first game at the Shark Tank since being traded. "It's just another road game. It's always fun coming back. Hopefully this time we can get a couple points out of here."

Here are the possible lineups for Tuesday night's game between the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild at HP Pavilion:


Patrick MarleauJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski

Ryane CloweLogan CoutureMartin Havlat

Jamie McGinnMichal HandzusTorrey Mitchell

Brad WinchesterAndrew DesjardinsAndrew Murray

Dan BoyleMarc-Edouard Vlasic

Brent BurnsJim Vandermeer

Jason DemersColin White

Antti Niemi


Devin SetoguchiMikko KoivuDany Heatley

Pierre-Marc BouchardMatt CullenCasey Wellman

Nick JohnsonKyle BrodziakCal Clutterbuck

Darroll PoweCody AlmondBrad Staubitz

Nick SchultzMike Lundin

Greg ZanonClayton Stoner

Jared SpurgeonMarco Scandella

Josh Harding
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Posted On Saturday, 12.03.2011 / 5:13 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Backup goalies set to duel at Shark Tank

SAN JOSE – Saturday night’s game between the San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers is shaping up as a battle of backup goaltenders.

Thomas Greiss will definitely start for San Jose, Sharks coach Todd McClellan said after his team’s morning skate. Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said whether Scott Clemmensen starts will be a game-time decision, but the Miami Herald is reporting that Clemmensen will “definitely” open against San Jose.

“I haven’t made my final call yet,” Dineen said. “We’ll … see how the California air treats these guys.”

Backing up Antti Niemi, Greiss is 4-3 with a 1.99 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. In his last start on Nov. 20 at Colorado, he gave up one goal on 37 shots in a 4-1 Sharks win.

“Thomas is playing. We’re excited about that,” McLellan said. “He’s played well for us. We trust him to give us a good night.”

Clemmensen has made only one start this season in place of Jose Theodore, stopping all 25 shots he faced in a 6-0 shutout of Dallas. For his career, he’s 51-39-14 with a 2.63 goals against average. .910 save percentage and seven shutouts.

Panthers forward Kris Versteeg said he doesn’t know much about Greiss but did play against him in the AHL.

“He’s a quick goaltender and he has great reflexes,” Versteeg said. “He’s maybe not the biggest guy, but he can get post to post pretty quickly. You’re going to have to bear down on those second opportunities.”

Versteeg, the team’s leading goal scorer, will return to the lineup Saturday night. He missed one game after taking a forearm to the head from Carolina’s Derek Joslin on Tuesday.

He ended up with a broken nose and a strained neck, but Versteeg said he sat out Thursday night’s game at Los Angeles because he had headaches and was concerned that he had a concussion.

“I was definitely worried,” Versteeg said after the Panthers’ morning skate at HP Pavilion. “I think everyone, we were worried, and it was precautionary. Like they said, when you’re getting some headaches and you’re not sure what’s it’s from, you don’t really know. But I’ve done all that (testing) and it’s good to go, and I feel good.”

Versteeg said he still has a “pretty bad stiff neck” from the hit Tuesday night.

“That’s nothing you can’t play through. I’ve played through a lot, a lot of other injuries before with my two hernias last year and other things like that,” Versteeg said. “I’m not really worried about a stiff neck. But when you get headaches, it’s concerning. I was worried about it and I’m glad it’s OK.”

Evgenii Dadvonov started in Versteeg’s spot on the first line against Los Angeles, but he’ll be a healthy scratch against San Jose, Dineen said. Bracken Kearns will remain on the fourth line with winger Tim Kennedy and center Mark Cullen.

Forward Marco Sturm, who played the first seven-plus seasons of his NHL career with San Jose, will face the Sharks with the Florida Panthers for the first time Saturday night. The Sharks traded Sturm to Boston on Nov. 30, 2005, as part of the blockbuster deal for Joe Thornton. Since then he has made other NHL stops in Los Angeles, Washington and Vancouver, which traded him to Florida on Oct. 22 in a four-player deal.

Sturm said he was surprised when Vancouver traded him and surprised by how well the Panthers have played this season. One season after finishing last in the Eastern Conference with 72 points, Florida leads the Southeast Division with 30 points with a new coach in Dineen and with a revamped roster.

“It’s great,” Sturm said. “Obviously to have the big change in the summer – I was really surprised when I got here, how good the team is and how fast they clicked. It’s a good group of guys and it’s a lot of fun with a new coach. He’s been great so far. I’m glad to be a part of it. I came early enough to kind of grow up with the guys again. It’s been great. The guys made it really easy for me. It definitely helps.”

Sharks second-line winger Martin Havlat was a plus-three during Thursday night’s 4-3 shootout win against Montreal with an assist, and McLellan called it his best game of the season.

“It was a good game,” Havlat said Saturday. “It was better than the other games I played in the last two weeks. I think we played really well as a whole line. We were moving the puck well, having a good forecheck. Overall it was a good game and everybody worked hard.”

Havlat said it helped being reunited with center Logan Couture, who returned after a stint as a first-line wing. Couture, Ryane Clowe and Havlat opened the season together.

“We played together the first nine, 10 games and then (Thursday),” Havlat said. “We played some pretty good games together. We’ll see how it goes. It’s up to the coaches, but the last game was pretty good.”

Patrick Marleau returned Thursday to the first line as a winger after his stint as a second-line center. He was a minus-2, while first-line center Joe Thornton and winger Joe Pavelski were each minus-3.

“They had a bad night,” McLellan said. “They didn’t perform very well. They know that. Their teammates bailed them out. They’ve done that for their teammates many nights. I have no problem putting them back on the ice tonight expect much better from them.”

Marleau said he struggled a bit making the adjustment back to wing after playing center.

“I think sometimes as a winger you get stuck on the board a little bit,” Marleau said. “You got to remind yourself to get skating and push the pace a little bit and create things that way. As a center you’re always in and around the play. As a winger you’ve got to make sure you go to it.”

Defenseman Colin White said he hadn’t received the official word but that he thinks he’s going to be in the lineup Saturday night, paired with Jason Demers. White, who spent some time away from the team after a death in his family, hasn’t played since Nov. 20 at Colorado, a stretch of four games.

“I definitely want to get back in,” White said. “It’s no fun sitting out, that’s for sure. This is all new to me.”

McLellan said he’ll decide at game-time whether White or Jim Vandermeer starts in the third defensive pair. Vandermeer has started the past four games.

Here are the possible lineups for Saturday night’s game between the San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers at HP Pavilion:


Patrick MarleauJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski
Ryane CloweLogan CoutureMartin Havlat
Jamie McGinnMichal HandzusTorrey Mitchell
Brad WinchesterAndrew DesjardinsAndrew Murray

Dan BoyleDouglas Murray
Brent BurnsMarc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason DemersColin White

Thomas Greiss


Tomas FleischmannStephen WeissKris Versteeg
Sean BergenheimShawn MatthiasTomas Kopecky
Marco SturmMike SantorelliJack Skille
Tim KennedyMark CullenBracken Kearns

Ed Jovanoski – Erik Gudbranson
Jason GarrisonBrian Campbell
Dmitry KulikovMike Weaver

Scott Clemmensen
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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 4:31 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Sharks, Canucks ready after verbal jousting

SAN JOSE – The San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks exchanged a few verbal shots earlier this week, which could add even more spice to the game Saturday night at HP Pavilion, a rematch between last year’s Western Conference finalists.

Vancouver won that series in five games, all but one of them decided by two or fewer goals.

Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray and forward Ryane Clowe added fuel to the rivalry Friday morning when asked by Bay Area reporters if they disagreed with ex-Bruin Mark Recchi’s assessment of Vancouver when he said it was “the most arrogant team” and “the most hated team” he had played against in his long career.

“No,” Murray said. “No. I don’t think so. But it’s not the whole team either. It’s certain individuals that give them that reputation. I’m not going to sit here and call out names, but you guys know. It’s so obvious for anybody that watches the game.”

Added Clowe: “I think a lot of teams (that) played against them in the playoffs have similar feelings. We haven’t played them this year so we’ll see.”

Canucks center Ryan Kesler fired back, to the Vancouver Province, after their 5-0 win Friday night against Phoenix.

“We’re going to stay classy and we’re going to play our game and that’s a fast-paced game, and if we do that, I like our chances,” Kesler said. “You know, they can say whatever they want. I don’t understand. We play the game hard and we play it tough. We play their skilled players tough and most don’t like it.”

The question now is how heated and chippy the action will get once the puck drops at the Shark Tank.

“You never know what’s going to happen, but we’re prepared for it in here if it becomes anything like that, but it’s nothing we’re focused on,” Murray said Saturday morning. “If anything, we try to focus on us, how we play.”

Sharks center Patrick Marleau said he just welcomes the chance to play Vancouver again.

“Obviously there’s some carryover,” Marleau said. “You don’t like losing to anybody, that’s for sure. Our team’s changed a little bit, but the players that have been here know what we’re going to be up against tonight. It’s a good challenge.

“You want to win. You want to prove if we had to do it again it would be a different outcome. So that being said, we want to play our best game and come out firing.”
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Posted On Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 3:44 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Canucks stick with Schneider in net

SAN JOSE – Vancouver goaltender Cory Schneider, coming off back-to-back shutouts, will make his fifth straight start Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks, the team announced after an optional morning skate.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo, one of four Canucks on the ice Saturday morning at HP Pavilion, missed back-to-back games with an upper-body injury but suited up at Colorado on Wednesday and at Phoenix on Friday.

Schneider made 24 saves in a 3-0 victory against Colorado and 22 in a 5-0 victory over Phoenix. Before Schneider posted two straight shutouts – and three straight wins -- it seemed likely that Luongo would start against San Jose on the second of back-to-back games.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault did not attend the optional skate, and his decision to start Schneider was announced by a team spokesman.

“Roberto’s a great goalie and so is Schneider,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said earlier in the day before the decision was announced. “So it doesn’t matter who you go against.”

Schneider is 5-4-0 with a 2.02 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. He’s allowed one goal in his past three games. Luongo is 7-5-1 with a 2.97 goals against average and .896 save percentage.

Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, coming off a 1-0 shutout of Chicago, will start his second straight game against Vancouver.

Here’s how the lineups could look for tonight’s game between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks at HP Pavilion:


Joe PavelskiJoe ThorntonLogan Couture
Ryane ClowePatrick MarleauTorrey Mitchell
Jamie McGinnMichal HandzusMartin Havlat
Brad WinchesterAndrew DesjardinsAndrew Murray

Dan BoyleDouglas Murray
Brent BurnsMarc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason DemersJim Vandermeer

Antti Niemi


Daniel SedinHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows
Chris HigginsRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Manny MalhotraCody HodgsonJannik Hansen
Aaron VolpattiMaxim LapierreDale Weise

Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alex Edler – Sami Salo
Andrew AlbertsKeith Ballard

Cory Schneider

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 4:00 PM

By Eric Gilmore - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Backstrom back in net for Minnesota

SAN JOSE -- Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom, coming off a 41-save, 3-0 shutout against Calgary, will make his second straight start Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks, coach Mike Yeo said after his team's morning skate.

Backup goaltender Josh Harding had won four straight games, allowing a combined three goals, before Backstrom returned to the lineup against Calgary.

"It's not a problem," Yeo said of having to choose between two red-hot goalies. "It's two goalies playing well. It's not a problem.

"Certainly it's up to us to manage that and manage both guys and make sure that their heads are in the right place, but both are character guys, both are team-first guys and both have been doing everything they can to help the team win. So to me it sounds more like a blessing than a problem."

Backstrom is 4-3-2 with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. Harding is 4-0-1 with a 1.18 GAA and a .965 save percentage.

Forward Cal Clutterbuck will return to the lineup after missing the Calgary game with an upper-body injury.

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[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing. We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.

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