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Posted On Wednesday, 04.30.2014 / 3:20 PM

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

Sharks turning back to Niemi; Vlasic out for Game 7

SAN JOSE -- After a one-game break, San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi will return to the starting lineup Wednesday at SAP Center for Game 7 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, PRIME, CSN-CA).

Backup Alex Stalock replaced Niemi in Game 6 and made his first start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles at Staples Center. Niemi was pulled for Stalock early in the third period of Game 4 and early in the second of Game 5.

"I think the break was good for [Niemi]," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after an optional morning skate. "He got a chance to work on some things in his game that the goaltending coach wanted to work on. He got a chance to rest. Our team did need a change heading into Game 6 into L.A. Unfortunately, we had to pull him twice, but that wasn't all on Nemo's shoulders. It's pretty evident and obvious, I hope I've made that clear. But moving forward with Nemo, we want to give Nemo an opportunity."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.29.2014 / 7:05 PM

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

Sharks still confident as they prepare for Game 7

SAN JOSE -- Three years ago, the San Jose Sharks were one loss away from the making the wrong kind of Stanley Cup Playoff history.

The Sharks took a 3-0 lead in their second-round series against the Detroit Red Wings, but the Red Wings won the next three, forcing a Game 7 at San Jose. The Sharks won 3-2 and avoided becoming the fourth team in NHL history to lose a best-of-7 series after taking a 3-0 lead.

The Sharks find themselves in a similar situation this spring after bolting to a 3-0 lead then losing three straight to the Los Angeles Kings in their Western Conference First Round series. Game 7 is Wednesday night at SAP Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, PRIME, CSN-CA), and the Sharks are drawing heavily on their 2011 experience against the Red Wings


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Posted On Tuesday, 04.29.2014 / 6:31 PM

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

Sharks' Vlasic sits out practice with upper-body injury

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who missed Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday with an upper-body injury, did not practice Tuesday.

Vlasic's availability for Game 7 on Wednesday at SAP Center remains in doubt (10 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS2, NBCSN, PRIME, CSN-CA).

"[Vlasic is] getting treatments, and when he's better, he'll play," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Tuesday.


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Posted On Saturday, 04.26.2014 / 4:44 PM

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

Kings need rare win at San Jose to stay alive

SAN JOSE -- The Los Angeles Kings survived one win-or-go-home game in their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series against the San Jose Sharks, staying alive with a 6-3 victory Thursday at Staples Center.

Now the Kings, who trail 3-1 in the series, will try to survive Game 5 on Saturday at SAP Center (10 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, RDS2, FS-W, CSN-CA), a place Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter called "the cage" after his team's victory.

The cage has not been kind to the Kings. They're lost five straight playoff games at SAP, three last year in their second-round victory and two this year. Including regular-season games, they've played 12 games at San Jose since the start of the 2011-12 season and have one victory (a 1-0 shutout Jan. 27 by goaltender Jonathan Quick).

"It's tough to win in this building," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said after the morning skate. "We know what we have to do, and we know how to beat this team. The bottom line is we need to have a good start like always. We want to get that first goal, and we've been letting them back in the game by letting them get one next. We need to build on that lead and push them out of the game."

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Posted On Sunday, 04.20.2014 / 4:47 PM

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

Kings look for better start vs. Sharks in Game 2

SAN JOSE -- For San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan, the third period of his team's 6-3 win Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series turned out to be a valuable "teaching tool."

The Sharks built a 5-0 lead through two periods, then allowed three straight goals in the third before Brent Burns scored an empty-net goal. The Sharks were reminded what could happen Sunday night in Game 2 if they lose their aggressiveness against the Kings.

"If you play on your heels, you stand back, you give them time and space and the ability to generate speed and get their forecheck going, you have no chance of winning," McLellan said after the Sharks' morning skate at SAP Center."


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Posted On Saturday, 04.19.2014 / 4:54 PM

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

Sharks' Brown relishes physical play, role as agitator

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Mike Brown said it was a case of hit or be hit early in the first period of Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

After firing a shot at goaltender Jonathan Quick from close range on a rush, Brown saw Kings defenseman Slava Voynov headed his way at full speed, trying to cut him off.

So Brown did what came natural. He put his left shoulder into Voynov and sent him flying into Quick. Voynov wound up on the ice and Quick wound up sprawled in the back of his net, sparking a scrum.

"It's just like bowling," Brown said wryly. "Strike's better than a spare."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.17.2014 / 4:38 PM

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

Niemi named Game 1 starter for Sharks

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan finally made it official after the morning skate Thursday at SAP Center. Goaltender Antti Niemi will start Thursday night for the Sharks against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, FS-W, CSN-CA).

"He's our go-to guy," said McLellan, explaining his choice of Niemi over Alex Stalock. "He's been our go-to guy for four years. He's our go-to guy in Game 1. I can tell you this, there wasn't near the amount of debate with the four of us in the coaches' room as there was with a whole bunch of you outside the coaches' room. But it was fun."

Niemi, who won the Stanley Cup in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks, has struggled at times this season, but he had one of his best games on April 3 against Los Angeles, making 26 saves in a 2-1 victory at SAP Center.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.16.2014 / 5:36 PM

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

Sharks plan to break out greatest hits against Kings

SAN JOSE -- The last time the San Jose Sharks faced the Los Angeles Kings, they had a franchise-record 52 hits and captured a 2-1 victory April 3 at SAP Center.

The Sharks matched the Kings' physicality and actually gave more than they took that night, doling out 20 more hits than Los Angeles.

When the Sharks open the Stanley Cup Playoffs against Los Angeles on Thursday at SAP Center in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, FS-W, CSN-CA), they know the hits have to keep coming.

"We have to be physical against this team," Sharks defenseman Jason Demers said Wednesday after practice. "They're a bigger team, but also we have size and can skate with them. I think we've just got to show we can push back too. Obviously we can't get carried away and take too many penalties because of their very good power play. We're emphasizing finishing our checks and just making it a hard series.

"A lot of people are saying it's going to go long, so might as well make it a long, hard series on them and make them earn everything they get."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.15.2014 / 5:55 PM

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

Sharks could move Pavelski down, to center

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski was on the move Tuesday at practice, dropping from top-line wing to third-line center.

Where Pavelski winds up Thursday at SAP Center for Game 1 of the Sharks' first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Los Angeles Kings is anyone's guess (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, FS-W, CSN-CA).

Pavelski led the Sharks with career highs of 41 goals and 79 points this season and spent most of his time at left wing on the top line with center Joe Thornton and right wing Brent Burns.

But now that rookie wing Tomas Hertl has returned from a knee injury that sidelined him for nearly four months, the Sharks are considering moving Pavelski back to third-line center and having Hertl take his spot on Thornton's line for the opener of the Western Conference First Round.

Moving Pavelski would make the Sharks stronger down the middle and better prepared to face a Kings team that has centers Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis.

"The debate isn’t a raving one in the coaches’ locker room," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We feel equally comfortable going either way. The wild card is Tomas and making sure that he’s capable of handling minutes against the other team’s key players, and [Raffi Torres'] potential return to the lineup. A lot of that will dictate which way we’ll go."

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Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 4:10 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Hertl set to rejoin lineup vs. Avalanche

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl will be in the lineup Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche for the first time since Dec. 19, when he suffered a major injury to his right knee during a game against the Los Angeles Kings.

Hertl underwent surgery Dec. 31 to repair two ligaments that were damaged by a knee-on-knee hit from Kings forward Dustin Brown. Hertl had 15 goals and 10 assists in 35 games before being injured.

"I'm very excited because it's four months not playing hockey," Hertl said after the Sharks' morning skate. "I'm very happy. I hope it's all good, the knee is OK. I hope I'm ready to play and ready to play in the playoffs."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 3:40 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks know they can't let chance slip vs. Predators

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks got some help Friday night in their quest for a Pacific Division title when the Nashville Predators defeated the first-place Anaheim Ducks 5-2.

With 107 points, the Sharks trail Anaheim by one point and can move into first place with a victory Saturday night against Nashville at SAP Center.

The question is whether the chance to jump Anaheim will provide a motivational boost to the Sharks, who are coming off an emotional win Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings and have struggled this year against teams that don't appear to be headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"That's the million dollar question," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate. "We've been in this situation a couple times against non-playoff teams and we haven't taken advantage of it. We'll throw our best effort out there and we'll see where it goes. I'd like to think that our team can come out and do everything we can to get the win. If we can get a leg up on Anaheim it forces them to win. Right now they don't have to. That will be a goal of ours tonight."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.03.2014 / 4:28 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks host Kings in potential playoff preview

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks appear likely to adjust their bottom three lines for their game Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings at SAP Center in a matchup that could be a Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference First Round preview.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he might "shuffle the lines around a little bit," and the odds are good that third-line wing Tommy Wingels will move up one line, trading places with rookie Matt Nieto to skate with center Logan Couture and left wing Patrick Marleau.

Fourth-line wing Tyler Kennedy will likely move up one line, trade places with Marty Havlat, and skate with center James Sheppard and Nieto. Havlat will join a line with center Andrew Desjardins and right wing Mike Brown.

"They're shifting quite a bit," Nieto said. "Just trying to balance the lines out and trying to get production from everyone. We'll see how it goes.

"I don't mind it at all. Playing with [Sheppard], he's been doing really well lately. [Kennedy] has been doing well. I'm excited. It should be fun."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.01.2014 / 4:56 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks know there's no room for letdown vs. Oilers

SAN JOSE -- No one has to tell center Logan Couture that the San Jose Sharks can't afford a letdown Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers if they hope to win the Pacific Division.

Couture watched on television Monday night as the first-place Anaheim Ducks rallied from a 4-0 hole to beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-4 in overtime. The Ducks moved three points ahead of the Sharks and have a game in hand. They also own a significant edge in non-shootout wins, the No. 1 tiebreaker once the regular season ends.

With six games left to play, the Sharks appear to be in must-win territory when it comes to winning the Pacific Division and avoiding a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.27.2014 / 4:44 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Couture 50-50 for game vs. Jets

SAN JOSE -- Center Logan Couture was on the ice for a portion of the San Jose Sharks' morning skate and said his odds are 50-50 for being available to play Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.

Couture injured a foot blocking a shot Monday against the Calgary Flames and missed the Sharks' game Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers.

"It feels better [Thursday] than it did [Wednesday]," Couture said. "So we'll see. I'm going to take warmup, I think -- at least that's my plan -- and see how it feels then."

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Posted On Saturday, 03.22.2014 / 5:25 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks look to clinch 10th straight playoff berth

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks grabbed first place in the Pacific Division with an emotional 3-2 home victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night. But they should have enough incentive to avoid a letdown Saturday night when they face the Washington Capitals at SAP Center.

After all, the Sharks could clinch their 10th straight berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win and some help.

The Sharks are in if they earn two points against the Capitals and either the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars in any fashion or the Phoenix Coyotes lose in regulation to the Boston Bruins. San Jose can also clinch if they earn one point against Washington and the Stars lose to Ottawa in regulation.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.20.2014 / 5:08 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Injury-plagued Ducks set to face Sharks for first

SAN JOSE -- The Anaheim Ducks' depth will be tested Thursday at SAP Center when they face the San Jose Sharks with first place in the Pacific Division on the line.

Center Nick Bonino (bruised foot) and left wing Matt Beleskey (illness) will miss the game. The Ducks recalled left wing Emerson Etem and center Rickard Rakell from the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League, and they're expected to be on the fourth line.

The Ducks are also without defenseman Cam Fowler, who will miss his third straight game and is expected to be sidelined for 3-5 weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said another Anaheim player is questionable for the game but declined to provide his name.

Etem and Rakell were on the ice for the morning skate.

"I'm just happy to be here and be back with the guys," said Etem, a first-round pick (No. 29) in the 2010 NHL Draft. "It's a big game tonight. It's a huge game to just come right into. That's the exciting part. I'm going to be playing a bump-and-grind role, and I'm perfectly fine with that."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.18.2014 / 5:19 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Red-hot Niemi helps Sharks chase seventh straight

SAN JOSE -- Goaltender Antti Niemi, coming off a 1-0 shutout against the New York Rangers, will make his third straight start Tuesday night when the surging San Jose Sharks face the Florida Panthers at SAP Center.

The Sharks have won six straight games and Niemi has gone 5-0-0 during that stretch. He made 41 saves Sunday against the Rangers in arguably his best game of the season.

"It gives you lots of confidence, but it's a new game and you've got to refocus," Niemi said after the Sharks' morning skate.

"I've felt really good ever since the (Olympic) break. I feel very good in practice. I'm seeing the puck well. So I feel pretty good. It's a long season, so there's ups and downs, but overall I'm pretty happy where I'm at."

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.11.2014 / 5:02 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Torres game-time decision vs. Maple Leafs

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks could be without forward Raffi Torres when they face the surging Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday in the finale of their three-game homestand at SAP Center.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Torres will be a game-time decision against Toronto.

Torres played his fifth game of the season Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens after being sidelined by right knee surgery until after the NHL break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He wasn't on the ice Tuesday for an optional morning skate and didn't practice Monday.

"He's a little bit sore and it may be a night where he has to take off just to recuperate a little bit," McLellan said. "It's taxing on that body and on his legs. We may look at doing that tonight."

McLellan was asked if Torres' soreness was related to his knee surgery or just to playing hockey after a long layoff.

"A little bit of everything," he said.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.08.2014 / 5:21 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Murray, with Canadiens, returns to face Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Douglas Murray is braced for an emotional homecoming Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks when he faces his former team for the first time since being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins last March.

"It's special," Murray said after the Canadiens morning skate. "Can't really describe it yet. I think I've got to go through it to understand it. I obviously had a great 7-1/2 years here and loved everything about it. Have a lot of close friends in the area. It's exciting."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.06.2014 / 5:36 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins see multiple options with Goc, Stempniak

SAN JOSE -- Forwards Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak joined their new Pittsburgh Penguins teammates at SAP Center and likely will be in the lineup Thursday against the San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Goc and Stempniak, acquired Wednesday at the NHL Trade Deadline, arrived after the Penguins were off the ice following an optional morning skate. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said his lines and lineup would be "game-time" decisions, but the Penguins have 13 forwards on their active roster and one of them, Joe Vitale, stayed late on the ice, indicating he likely will be a healthy scratch.

When asked what he would tell his two new players, Bylsma sounded as if Goc, acquired from the Florida Panthers, and Stempniak, who arrived in a trade with the Calgary Flames, would make their Penguins debut against San Jose.

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.04.2014 / 5:10 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks stick with Stalock against Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks backup goaltender Alex Stalock will get a second straight start for the first time in his NHL career Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes at SAP Center.

Stalock is 10-4-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. He won two games on the Sharks' recent three-game road trip, beating the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils while allowing a combined five goals on 53 shots.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he's playing the hot hand but is also giving No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi more time to adjust after his return from the 2014 Sochi Olympics with Finland's bronze medal-winning team.

"He's playing well right now," McLellan said of Stalock. "He's won some games for us. He looks comfortable in the net. Gives [Niemi] time to come home. When you think of his trip back from Europe, he hasn't had any practice time. So it gives him a day here to skate and another one tomorrow."

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Posted On Friday, 02.07.2014 / 3:32 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks likely to get Demers back; injury has Nieto out

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Jason Demers expects to return to the lineup Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at SAP Center after missing three games with a groin injury.

Demers returned to practice Tuesday but did not play Wednesday against the Dallas Stars.

"I kind of was ready to go against Dallas, but they thought it best just to get another practice in and get my legs under me a little bit more," Demers said after the Sharks' optional morning skate. "It's a big game tonight for sure, a tough test. Sure I would have loved to play against Dallas, but it was nice to get the extra day and just get another practice, get a little sharper."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he believes Demers will play against Columbus but left his options open.

"If there's any risk at all of Jason being sore or injured tonight, he won't play, but if there is no risk he will," McLellan said.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.05.2014 / 4:30 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Burish eager to make up for lost time

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Adam Burish will make his season debut Wednesday night against the Dallas Stars after missing the first 57 games with a herniated disk in his back that required surgery.

The slumping Sharks have lost four of their past five games and are coming off one of their worst performances of the season, a lackluster 5-2 loss Monday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Burish is known for his passion and intensity on the ice, two ingredients that were missing against Philadelphia. He said he'll try to give the Sharks what he's given teams throughout his NHL career, which included stints with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Stars.

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Posted On Monday, 02.03.2014 / 5:02 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks hoping to solve Flyers' Mason

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks will try to snap out of their goal-scoring slump Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers and red-hot goaltender Steve Mason.

The Sharks ended a three-game losing streak Saturday with a 2-1 shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks, but they've scored two goals in regulation in their past four games and have been shut out twice.

Mason has shutouts in two of his past three games, making 33 saves in a 5-0 victory Jan. 28 against the Detroit Red Wings and 35 saves in a 2-0 win Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.

"Every night's a good challenge obviously, but when goalies are playing well and feeling strong, getting a couple shutouts, you got to put a little extra emphasis in getting in front and getting those shots through and making sure life's a little bit harder for him to find those pucks in traffic," Sharks forward Patrick Marleau said.

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Posted On Monday, 01.27.2014 / 5:29 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks, Kings prepared for physical battle

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings will resume a rivalry Monday (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) that's become even more heated in the wake of their latest encounter.

Early in Los Angeles' 4-1 victory Dec. 19 at Staples Center, Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl sustained a serious injury to his right knee during a collision with Kings captain Dustin Brown. Brown received a major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct but no supplemental discipline from the NHL. Hertl underwent knee surgery and could be lost for the season.

"You never want to see anybody get hurt, especially an exciting, young player," Brown said Monday after the Kings' morning skate at SAP Center. "Hopefully he can get healthy."

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Posted On Saturday, 01.25.2014 / 9:06 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Niemi back in net vs. Wild

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks backup goaltender Alex Stalock has shutouts in two straight starts after a 1-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, but he'll have to wait to make back-to-back starts for the first time in his career.

No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi will be back in net Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild at SAP Center.

Even though Stalock has returned to the bench after each of his first two career shutouts, which came one week apart, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Stalock has made his goaltending decisions more difficult throughout the season.

"In September when he made the team, he made it difficult because he had a very good skill level there," McLellan said. "We were very confident. We don't take making goaltender decisions lightly. We talk about it. We consult the goaltending coaches. We look at the lineup. And believe it or not, we do have a plan. We're executing it as we move forward."


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Posted On Thursday, 01.23.2014 / 5:06 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Stalock starts as Sharks, Jets match four-game runs

SAN JOSE -- One week after recording his first NHL shutout, backup goaltender Alex Stalock will make his ninth start of the season Thursday for the San Jose Sharks against the Winnipeg Jets at SAP Center in a battle between teams on four-game winning streaks.

Stalock made 24 saves in the Sharks' 3-0 victory against the Florida Panthers in his previous start, improving to 6-2-0 while lowering his goals-against average to 1.80 and raising his save percentage to .938.

"Obviously the goal for me is to stay sharp all the time," Stalock said. "You never know when you're going to get a chance. When you do you want to give the team a chance to win. That's my plan every night going into the game, trying to get two points every single game."

Stalock has had limited action this season but his numbers are better than No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi's. Niemi is 26-10-6 with a 2.38 GAA and .913 save percentage.

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Posted On Monday, 01.20.2014 / 5:28 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Russell, Jones return for Flames

SAN JOSE -- The Calgary Flames will have defenseman Kris Russell and forward David Jones back in the lineup Monday night against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

Russell has missed 13 games with a knee injury while Jones was out for eight with an eye injury.

"Anytime you get hurt it's brutal," Jones said after the Flames' morning skate. "I think this one just lagged on. I think we were a little too optimistic about how quickly it was going to turn around. That's the most frustrating part about it. I was thinking I'd be able to play the next day. My vision just wasn't getting any better. It was a little scary there for a while. I was worried that it was going to be worse than it was. Fortunately now it's 100 percent. It's nice to be back."

To make room for Russell on the active roster, the Flames placed forward Mike Cammalleri on injured reserve. He has missed the past four games with a concussion.

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Posted On Saturday, 01.11.2014 / 4:27 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Bruins' Eriksson, Thornton returning against Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Shawn Thornton and Loui Eriksson will be in the lineup Saturday night for the first time in more than a month when the Boston Bruins face the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

Eriksson sustained a concussion on a hit from the Pittsburgh Penguins' Brooks Orpik early in the first period of a Dec. 7 game in Boston. Later in that game, Thornton retaliated against Orpik, tripping him from behind and then punching him in the face twice while Orpik was on the ice. Orpik also ended up with a concussion, and Thornton was suspended 15 games by the NHL.

Thornton served the final game of his suspension Thursday night when the Bruins lost 4-2 against the Los Angeles Kings.

"I'm excited to be back, obviously," Thornton said after the Bruins' morning skate. "It was a tough night to sleep, for other reasons this time, which is good. I was a little excited. It's been a long time. I can't wait to get it going."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.09.2014 / 5:46 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wingels, Kennedy back in Sharks' lineup

SAN JOSE -- Forwards Tommy Wingels and Tyler Kennedy will return to the lineup Thursday night for the San Jose Sharks against the Detroit Wings in a battle between injury-depleted teams at SAP Center.

Wingels missed five games with an upper-body injury and Kennedy was out four games with the flu. They will provide reinforcements to a team that is without five injured forwards. Logan Couture underwent surgery Wednesday on his right hand. Tomas Hertl (knee surgery), Raffi Torres (knee surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery) and Martin Havlat (lower body) are also sidelined.

"They look good and ready to go," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Kennedy and Wingels. "That's a nice thing to have them back, and now they have to produce."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.02.2014 / 5:03 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Dubnyk starts for Oilers, Yakupov back in lineup

SAN JOSE -- The last time Edmonton Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk started a game was Friday, when he had a 27-save shutout against the Calgary Flames at ScotiaBank Saddledome.

Six days and three games later, Dubnyk will try to continue that momentum Thursday against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

"You're not going to have that feeling rolling off like we played last night, obviously," Dubnyk said after the Oilers' morning skate. "It's not going to have that. But at the same time that's the last game I played. When the puck drops [Thursday], I'll just be working off that good feeling. I had some good days in practice. Just continue that confidence. You can't think too much because every game's different. You don't know how the game's going to go. Anytime you can use any sort of advantage to your favor, and this is an opportunity to do that, I'll certainly try."

Ilya Bryzgalov started the past two games for Edmonton, a 4-3 shootout loss against the Philadelphia Flyers and a 4-3 overtime road loss against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Dubnyk will face a Sharks team that is 14-1-3 at home and will be trying to get back on track after a 6-3 road loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.

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Posted On Sunday, 12.29.2013 / 5:08 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Kearns to get his chance with Sharks

SAN JOSE -- One day after being recalled from Worcester of the American Hockey League, Bracken Kearns will center the third line Sunday night at SAP Center for the San Jose Sharks when they face an Anaheim Ducks team that has won a franchise record 10 straight games.

Kearns has played one game for San Jose this season, Oct. 17 against the Dallas Stars, but he had 18 points and 13 assists (each team highs) at Worcester. Last season, Kearns played in one regular-season game for San Jose but was in the lineup for all seven against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference semifinals.

"He was a very important player in that series, considering the injuries we were going through and suspensions," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate. "He was very capable of playing against a very good hockey club, and he's thrown into the fire again tonight that way against maybe the best team in the League right now."

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Posted On Monday, 12.23.2013 / 4:34 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Hertl to undergo knee surgery

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl will undergo surgery on his right knee next week, the team announced Monday.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson initially said that Hertl would miss at least a month. Now that surgery has been scheduled, the Sharks expect Hertl to be sidelined for more than a month. They'll have a more definitive timetable after Hertl undergoes surgery.

Hertl was injured Thursday night in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings during a knee-on-knee collision with Kings captain Dustin Brown at Staples Center.

In the wake of Hertl's injury, the Sharks unveiled new-look lines Saturday night against the Dallas Stars.

The Sharks beat the Stars 3-2 in a shootout, but coach Todd McLellan has made more changes for his team's game Monday night against the Colorado Avalanche at SAP Center.


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Posted On Saturday, 12.21.2013 / 4:51 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks rookie Hertl out month, maybe longer

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl will miss at least a month and possibly longer with an injury to his right knee, general manager Doug Wilson said Saturday morning.

“There is still some swelling in the knee," Wilson said. "Preliminary report is he’ll be out at least a month, and then we’ll have some more tests that will be ongoing, and see what the extent is and go from there. That will take a little bit of time for that evaluation to take place.”

Hertl was injured Thursday in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings during a knee-on-knee collision with Kings captain Dustin Brown. Brown received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct but no supplementary discipline from the NHL.

Wilson said it's too early to tell whether Hertl's injury could be season-ending.

"Ask me in a week, or two or three," Wilson said. "I think right now the prognosis is a month but we are prepared that it could be longer. How much longer, I don’t know.”

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Posted On Thursday, 12.12.2013 / 4:56 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Bulmer could get next crack on Wild's second line

SAN JOSE -- Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo has been searching for someone to step up and add some punch to his second line.

Brett Bulmer, a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, might get the next chance to audition for that job.

Minnesota recalled Bulmer from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, and he is expected to be in the lineup Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

Yeo said he hasn't finalized his lines, but he has an opening at right wing on his second line. Jason Zucker, who played that spot Wednesday night in a 2-1 loss against the Anaheim Ducks, will be a healthy scratch Thursday.

Yeo said "there's been talk" of dropping first-line right wing Jason Pominville to the second line, but he'd like to avoid that if possible.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.10.2013 / 5:10 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks return home determined to fix power play

SAN JOSE -- After losing the final three games on their four-game road trip, the San Jose Sharks will try to get back on track Tuesday night at SAP Center against the New York Islanders, a team winless in 10 consecutive games and 10 straight on the road.

The Sharks led the powerful Pacific Division when they hit the road. Now they trail the Anaheim Ducks (47 points) by four points, and are just one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and two points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks.

"You look at it and everybody's right there now," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after his team's morning skate. "Last week we were ahead of everybody. Now we're right with the pack. It's a big game for us to put us back where we want to be. These guys, they've been struggling, but they're really dangerous. I like how they played against [the Pittsburgh Penguins] last year in the playoffs. They looked fast. It should be a good test for us tonight."

Job No. 1 for the Sharks is to fix their broken power play. They went 0-for-4 Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild and were 1-for-13 on the road trip. The Sharks' only power-play goal came during a 4-2 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the Sharks' past 10 games, they've gone 3-for-35 with the man advantage.


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Posted On Saturday, 11.30.2013 / 4:39 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks, Ducks ready for first-place showdown

SAN JOSE -- When San Jose Sharks forward Brent Burns arrived home Friday night after his first career hat trick in a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues, his driveway was lined with hats and there was a 35-foot congratulatory banner hanging near his house, the work of some young neighbors.

"It was pretty crazy," Burns said. "Twitter was crazy, text messages."

One of those text messages was from former Minnesota Wild teammate Marian Gaborik, now with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gaborik congratulated Burns on his hat trick then reminded him, "'You got 13 more to catch me,'" Burns said. "I said, 'Oh my God.'"

Less than 20 hours after scoring his third goal against St. Louis, Burns was back on the ice during an optional skate Saturday morning, working on his shot as the Sharks prepared for their first game of the season against the Anaheim Ducks, their Pacific Division rival.

"Got to work on it all the time," Burns said.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.27.2013 / 4:52 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Irwin returns to Sharks lineup, determined to stay

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin was a near constant in the lineup last season as a rookie, skating with veteran Dan Boyle. Irwin scored six goals, had six assists and earned a two-year contract for his impressive play.

This season Irwin hit the first nasty speed bump of his young career. After going without a goal in the Sharks' first 13 games, he was a healthy scratch for three straight, returned for one game, then sat the past six.

Irwin will return to the lineup Wednesday when the Sharks face the Los Angeles Kings at SAP Center and will be paired with Boyle.

"It's been a while since I've played," Irwin said after the Sharks' morning skate. "I've been chomping at the bit the get back out there, obviously, and help the team. Now that I've got my opportunity, I've got to seize the moment and keep it simple and play my game."

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Posted On Saturday, 11.23.2013 / 5:08 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Hertl excited to face idol Jagr

SAN JOSE -- While growing up in the Czech Republic, San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl had a poster of his countryman and hockey idol Jaromir Jagr on his bedroom wall.

Hertl, who turned 20 on Nov. 12, played two games against Jagr in the Czech Extraliga last year during the NHL lockout. But he'll face the 41-year-old Jagr for the first time in the NHL on Saturday night when the Sharks face the New Jersey Devils.

"I'm very excited," Hertl said after the Sharks morning skate at SAP Center. "He's a very, very strong guy."

Hertl said he's never talked to Jagr, but Jagr is well aware of the rookie after facing him twice during the lockout and following his fast start in the NHL.

"He's a good player, no question about it, for the age he is," Jagr said of Hertl, who has a team-high 12 goals. "There's a lot of guys in Europe who've got a lot of talent, but when they come here in the U.S. they might have a tough time because they don't know how to play on the boards and in the corners. That's not his problem. He was playing that kind of style in Europe. You knew it was just a matter of time of when he was going to be good in the NHL. Some guys they have a problem. They come in the League, the rink is smaller. And his advantage is he was playing at the arena where there was smaller ice. He didn't have to get used to it. That's the only arena [in the Czech Republic] that has small ice. They did it for the NHL games and they kind of liked it so they kept it."

While growing up, Hertl would watch highlights on television of Jagr's NHL exploits and an occasional game during the playoffs. He emulated Jagr's style of play, using his big body to protect the puck and also to get to the net.

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Posted On Thursday, 11.21.2013 / 4:48 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Burns expected to return for Sharks against Lightning

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Brent Burns was activated from injured reserve and is expected to be in the lineup Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at SAP Center in San Jose.

"He's going to come off of IR, so there's a real good chance that he will play," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate. "We'll see how he is when he comes to the rink, but he's telling me now that he's ready. He looks ready, and right now he is."

Burns has missed 13 games with an unspecified facial injury and hasn't played since Oct. 19 against the Calgary Flames. He took a high-stick in the mouth on Oct. 12 from Ottawa Senators goaltender Robyn Lehner, but played three more games before missing more than a month of action.

The Sharks started 7-0-1 with Burns in the lineup and averaged 4.88 goals per game. Without him, they've gone 6-3-4 and averaged 2.5 goals per game.


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Posted On Thursday, 11.07.2013 / 4:53 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wingels retains spot on Sharks' top line

SAN JOSE -- It was midway through the second period of the San Jose Sharks' 5-4 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night when coach Todd McLellan began shuffling lines, looking for a spark.

Tommy Wingels jumped from the third line to the top line, trading places with Tyler Kennedy. Wingels joined center Joe Thornton and rookie forward Tomas Hertl. Wingels went on to score a third-period goal, as did Hertl and Kennedy.

Not surprisingly, McLellan will stick with the new-look lines that worked so well Tuesday when the Sharks play the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday at SAP Center at San Jose.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.05.2013 / 5:13 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Burns making progress in recovery

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks injured forward Brent Burns will miss his seventh straight game Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres, but he took another step forward in his recovery from a head injury.

Burns took part in the Sharks' morning skate at SAP Center at San Jose, going through team drills for the first time in 16 days.

Burns was injured Oct. 12 against the Ottawa Senators when he was hit in the face by a high-stick by goaltender Robin Lehner, losing a number of teeth. Burns played three more games but has been sidelined since Oct. 19.

"That's a great step," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Burns' return to team drills. "I don't know if you're going to qualify it as little or big, but getting closer, feeling better, back out there with his teammates. I didn't know who he was when he came out because he doesn't look the same, but it's nice to see him out there."

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Posted On Saturday, 11.02.2013 / 4:43 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Defenseman Boyle back in Sharks lineup

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle will return to the lineup Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes after missing seven games with a concussion.

Boyle hasn't played since being knocked out Oct. 15 during a game against the St. Louis Blues. Maxim Lapierre hit Boyle from behind and sent him face-first into the boards.

Boyle has been skating for 10 days and took part in two regular practices during that span. He said he feels 100 percent healthy, but he hasn't taken a real hit since being injured.

"I was pretty lucky," Boyle said after the Sharks' morning skate. "It was a pretty scary incident, but the symptoms were pretty mild. I think it's important for me to get out there and get involved physically early, hopefully, and try and put that image that I have behind me."

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Posted On Saturday, 10.19.2013 / 5:02 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Flames' Ramo hoping for better results this time out

SAN JOSE -- Calgary Flames goaltender Karri Ramo will make his second start of the season and face the San Jose Sharks for the second time in his career Saturday at SAP Center (10 p.m. ET, CBC).

Ramo can only hope the outcome is better than in his Flames debut and in his first career start against San Jose.

Ramo gave up four goals in a season-opening 5-4 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals and then backed up Joey MacDonald for the next five games. Ramo allowed seven goals on 42 shots in a 7-1 loss to Sharks at San Jose on Jan. 13, 2009, when he played for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ramo won't be able to ease back into action after his five-game layoff. He'll face a 6-0-1 Sharks team that leads the NHL in goals with 33 and in goals per game at 4.71.

"Everyone is ready to go," Flames coach Bob Hartley said after his team's morning skate. "We work hard every day. Karri Ramo has played very well in training camp, played well in Washington, then Joey MacDonald got us on a roll. So hopefully Karri Ramo can do the same thing as [MacDonald]."

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Posted On Saturday, 10.12.2013 / 4:58 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Spezza returns to Ottawa lineup

SAN JOSE -- Captain Jason Spezza will return to the lineup after missing one game with a groin injury, and backup goaltender Robin Lehner will make his first start of the season Saturday night when the Ottawa Senators face the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

Spezza, who sat out Ottawa's 4-3 overtime loss Wednesday to the Los Angeles Kings, centered the top line with Milan Michalek and Bobby Ryan during the Senators morning skate. He skated Thursday and practiced with the team in San Jose on Friday.

"I've had two really good practice days," Spezza said. "We skated pretty hard on the off day then had a good practice day yesterday. No ill effects, so I imagine hopefully it will be somewhat smooth sailing from here on in.

"I feel like it's behind me, but I'll feel better after getting through the first game. Then you get some confidence in it, but we've skated hard on it, so I'm pretty confident that it's all gone."

Spezza has more goals (229), assists (393) and points (622) than any other current Senator. Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said Spezza has been "one of the best players in the League for a while" and his return makes the Senators a "much better team, a much deeper team and a more dangerous team."

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Posted On Tuesday, 10.08.2013 / 3:40 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks defenseman Stuart set for season debut

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks veteran defenseman Brad Stuart will make his debut Tuesday night against the New York Rangers after missing every preseason game and the first two regular-season games with a lower-body injury.

"I feel good," Stuart said after the Sharks' morning skate at the SAP Center. "Feel as good as I can without having played a game. That's the next step. I'm excited just to be able to get out there.

"Obviously it's going to be a bit of an adjustment for me going from just practicing to having to play in a game. Try to use my experience and try to get up to speed as quick as I can."


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Posted On Thursday, 10.03.2013 / 4:30 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Canucks hope any mistakes are "over-aggressive"

SAN JOSE -- The Vancouver Canucks have had less than a month to learn new coach John Tortorella's systems and adjust to his demands for a faster, more aggressive style of play.

Ready or not, the new-look Canucks will face their first real test Thursday against the San Jose Sharks (10 p.m. ET, TSN), the team that swept them out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round last season.

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Posted On Thursday, 10.03.2013 / 4:28 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Demers thrilled to be paired with Hannan

SAN JOSE -- Brad Stuart has been practicing but won't be ready to play when the San Jose Sharks open their season with a home game against the Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET, TSN).

With Stuart out, Jason Demers will be paired with Scott Hannan.

"I love playing with him," Demers said of Hannan. "I like his style. He makes the right play, and I always know where he is. He looks to keep it loose out there like me. We have a nice chemistry."


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Posted On Thursday, 09.12.2013 / 6:35 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Havlat, Stuart sidelined as Sharks open camp

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Martin Havlat has been skating on his own for weeks but he wasn't cleared to practice Thursday when the team opened training camp and there is no timetable for his return.

Havlat had bilateral pelvic floor reconstruction surgery in early June. He was injured in the first period of the Sharks' Stanley Cup Playoff opener against the Vancouver Canucks. Havlat came back for Game 3 in the next round against the Los Angeles Kings but was reinjured in the first period, ending his season.

Havlat said he's feeling pretty good but doesn't know when he'll be cleared to practice.

"We'll see," Havlat said. "Right now we're working together with the medical team. We're doing everything as fast as we can [to] be back with the boys again."

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Posted On Thursday, 09.12.2013 / 3:45 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Healthy Burish eager for second season with Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Forward Adam Burish reported to training camp on Thursday with a healthy right hand and hopes of having a stronger second season with the San Jose Sharks.

Burish broke the hand last May in Game 4 against the Vancouver Canucks, when the Sharks completed a first-round sweep.

"All good. The hand's good," Burish said after his first training camp practice. "I feel great. Nothing to tell you about. It's all good. "I just kind of let it heal. I did a little bit of therapy with the hand. I did some hand therapy stuff. Other than that, I just kind of let it heal and tried to get some grip strength stuff back, but all good."

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Posted On Sunday, 05.26.2013 / 3:56 PM

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

Burish to return for Sharks in Game 6

SAN JOSE - One day after returning to his regular spot at right wing on the fourth line for practice, Adam Burish received the news Sunday from San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan he was hoping to hear. Burish is back in the lineup.

Burish hasn't played since breaking his right hand in Game 4 of the Sharks sweep of the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

But he'll be in the lineup Sunday night for Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinal series against the Los Angeles Kings at HP Pavilion. The Sharks trail 3-2 in the series and face an elimination game for the first time in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"The plan is I'm going to play," Burish said. "Unless something changes. Unless I eat some bad chicken."

Burish will skate on a line with center Andrew Desjardins and left wing Bracken Kearns. He'll also spend time on the penalty kill.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.25.2013 / 5:35 PM

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

Burish skates on fourth line, says he's ready to return

SAN JOSE -- Forward Adam Burish has been playing a game of beat the clock from the moment he broke his right hand while blocking a shot in Game 4 of the San Jose Sharks' sweep of the Vancouver Canucks in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Team doctors initially ruled him out for the semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings, but Burish kept pushing to return for the series. And most signs point to him being back for Game 6 on Sunday night at HP Pavilion (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS), just in time to give the Sharks a boost of energy as they try to stave off elimination.

Burish skated at right wing on the fourth line during practice Saturday and said he's good to go. He's just waiting for coach Todd McLellan to give him the final OK.

"I feel ready, yeah," Burish said. "I guess it's Todd's call, but yeah, I feel pretty darn good."


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Posted On Friday, 05.24.2013 / 6:48 PM

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

Sharks expect better effort in do-or-die Game 6

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture was angry and frustrated Thursday night in the wake of a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center in Game 5 of their Western Conference Semifinal.

Couture's mood hadn't improved much, if any, by Friday afternoon, after a brief team meeting as the Sharks tried to regroup from their worst performance of the postseason.

That might be a good thing. Couture, for one, said he plans to use his frustration as motivation Sunday against the Kings at HP Pavilion when the Sharks face an elimination game for the first time this year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (NBCSN, RDS, TSN).

"I know I will. I hope everyone else does as well," Couture said. "I wasn't happy with the way I played personally. It's going to motivate me for Sunday's game. I hope it motivates the rest of the guys as well."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.21.2013 / 5:04 PM

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

Kings look to take control of series on road in Game 4

SAN JOSE -- Playing the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion is never easy, but Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said he welcomes the chance to put a hammerlock on their Western Conference Semifinal series Tuesday night in Game 4 (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN).

"They live off playing in their own arena," Doughty said after the Kings' optional morning skate there. "To be able to get a win in their home rink I think will be a little deflating for them. We know how tough it's going to be to steal one here tonight, but we're determined to do it. If we go back to Staples [Center] up 3-1, we know there's a good chance we can close out the series. Right now it's just one game at a time, and tonight's the most important."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.18.2013 / 9:20 PM

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

Havlat in Sharks lineup for Game 3

SAN JOSE -- Just minutes after the San Jose Sharks' morning skate ended Saturday, coach Todd McLellan got the news he had been waiting for regarding injured forward Martin Havlat.

"He came to see me and said he's ready to go," McLellan said. "So we'll find a spot for him."

The Sharks trailed the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in their Western Conference Semifinal series heading into Game 3 Saturday (NBCSN, TSN, RDS). With Havlat back in the lineup, the Sharks' lines have a new look at HP Pavilion.

Havlat had been out with a lower-body injury since midway through the first period of Game 1 of the Sharks' Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Vancouver Canucks.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 12:38 AM

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

Sharks trying to stay physical during down time

SAN JOSE -- After two days off, the San Jose Sharks got back to work Friday, and coach Todd McLellan put them through the gauntlet.

Actually, "the old gauntlet" drill," as Sharks forward TJ Galiardi called it.

One by one, each player fought his way past every other teammate, who was lined up along the boards.

"It's a fun drill," McLellan said. "Most of them enjoy doing it, have a lot of fun with it. We haven't practiced for so long, and the physicality part of the game right now is something you can't lose. After taking a couple days off we wanted to bump and grind."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.07.2013 / 10:17 PM

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

Canucks have faith in Schneider

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Vancouver Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider is back in net Tuesday at HP Pavilion for Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks (CNBC, TS, RDS).

The Canucks trail 3-0 in the best-of-7 series, and Schneider gave up five goals on 28 shots before being pulled 4:07 into the third period of a 5-2 loss Sunday in Game 3 after missing the first two games with an undisclosed injury.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said it wasn't a hard decision to stick with Schneider instead of turning back to Roberto Luongo, who relieved Schneider in Game 3 after losing Games 1 and 2.

"Cory, in my opinion, is our MVP," Vigneault said after the Canucks' morning skate. "He's one of the reasons why we got into the playoffs. He's had great bounce-back games and he's been outstanding this year, and I think our group has total faith in both goaltenders, but they've got a lot of faith in Cory and I've got a lot of faith in him. That's why we're going with him tonight."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.07.2013 / 6:15 PM

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

Pavelski regains playoff form for Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski gave just a taste of the Stanley Cup Playoff highlights to come in his second postseason game six years ago as an NHL rookie.

Pavelski scored early in the second period against the Nashville Predators, giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead and sparking them to a 3-1 win in Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal.

The next year, Pavelski had five goals and four assists in 13 playoff games. Two years later, he scored nine goals and added eight assists in 15 postseason games. In 2011, he scored five goals and had 10 points in 18 playoff games.

"There are certain players that have the ability to elevate their play," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Pavs' competitiveness and smarts allow him to do that. He lays it on the line every night. He goes to the spots you need to go to score."

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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 7:39 PM

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

Sharks know they can't become overconfident

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks are sitting on a 3-0 Western Conference Quarterfinals series lead against the Vancouver Canucks, but they know better than to become overconfident.

After taking a 3-0 lead against the Detroit Red Wings in the semifinals two years ago, the Sharks lost three straight and were pushed to the limit in Game 7 before securing a 2-1 win.

Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart played for the Red Wings in that series.

"It can be a lesson for sure," Stuart said Monday morning at Sharks Ice, where San Jose had an optional practice. "Each game in the series, each victory is harder to get. The third victory is harder than the second and the fourth victory is always the hardest. We have to remember this will be the toughest game to win, and we have to approach it like that. If you don't, things can turn quickly.

"I was on the other side of it two years ago. You lose that momentum and all of a sudden, you get 3-2 and you're a little nervous and then it's 3-3 before you know it. You want to come out with the mindset of finishing a team off as quickly as you can. Playing those extra games catches up to you even if you do advance."


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Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 4:52 PM

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

Schneider starts Game 3 for Vancouver

SAN JOSE -- Vancouver Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider will start Sunday night against the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Schneider missed the first two game with a mysterious "body" injury, but he declared himself "100 percent" healthy after taking part in the Canucks' morning skate at HP Pavilion.

"I'm playing so I'm 100 percent," Schneider said. "When you play, you're good."

Before Game 1, Schneider said he was healthy enough to play, but Roberto Luongo started the first two games at Vancouver. Luongo allowed only three goals in each game, but the Sharks won both times, 3-1 in Game 1 and 3-2 in overtime in Game 2.

"I felt like I could play, but I took a little bit of time off and that seemed to help," Schneider said. "Fortunately we had the luxury of a guy like Roberto here, so I wasn't pressed into action. That's not something that every team has. Louie's probably been our best player the first two games."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.04.2013 / 8:40 PM

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

Marleau comes alive for Sharks

SAN JOSE -- After scoring one goal in his final 16 regular-season games, San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau woke up when the bright lights of the Stanley Cup Playoffs came on.

Marleau scored a goal in each of the Sharks' first two playoff games against the Vancouver Canucks, helping San Jose take a 2-0 lead as the series moves to HP Pavilion for Game 3 on Sunday night (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Marleau scoring goals in the postseason should come as no shock. He has scored 54 playoff goals, a franchise record and the most by any active NHL player other than Jaromir Jagr. Marleau is tied for 40th all-time in playoff goals.
Not bad for a player who has often been criticized for not producing enough in the postseason.

"You just have to look at the stats," Sharks forward Brent Burns said. "The guy is incredible. The only knock on him is he just makes it look too easy. I wish I could do that. He's an unbelievable talent and he's one of the hardest working guys here. It's pretty incredible to see and just follow a guy like that."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.04.2013 / 7:14 PM

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

Sharks could welcome Canucks' goalie change

SAN JOSE -- The Vancouver Canucks have the San Jose Sharks guessing which goalie they'll face Sunday night at HP Pavilion in Game 3 of their first round Stanley Cup Playoffs series (10 p.m. ET, RDS, TSN, NBCSN, CSN-CA).

Goaltender Cory Schneider, who missed the first two games with a mysterious "body" injury, was on the Canucks' flight Saturday to San Jose. Of course, so was goaltender Roberto Luongo, who started and lost the first two games of the series at Vancouver.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan was asked Saturday how Schneider being in net would change the series.

"It might be a great thing for us," McLellan said. "I think Luongo's been tremendous. I really do. I think he's made some great saves in the series, just as [our Antti] Niemi has. If they want to take that quality of goaltender out of the lineup and go to the other one, we'll take our chances with that as well."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 4:50 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Sharks trying to stamp ninth straight trip to playoffs

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks can clinch their ninth straight trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with one point Tuesday night in their final regular-season home game against the Dallas Stars.

The Sharks, who are in fifth place in the Western Conference with 55 points, know that point won't come easily against a team that has defeated them three straight times this season and is fighting for its playoff life.

"They played well against us all year," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "I think our power play and penalty kill kind of struggled against them all year. Tonight would be the battle of the special teams. If we could win that, we'll probably get the two points."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 3:48 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Tensions could run high when Sharks, Wild meet

SAN JOSE -- It was 15 days ago that the San Jose Sharks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 at HP Pavilion in a game that ended with a nasty confrontation between Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Wild forward Dany Heatley.

Vlasic and Heatley took swings at each other with their sticks then started wrestling. Heatley, a former Sharks player, landed hard on the ice with Vlasic on top of him and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery.

The Sharks and Wild meet again Thursday night at HP. Will there be any carryover?

"I think it will be an emotional game," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said after the Wild's morning skate. "I think that both teams are focused on getting two points at this time of the year. That's what it's about. Whatever you can use to get you motivated. I don't know that we need a whole lot of extra motivation right now, but, again, I think it will be an emotional game."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.16.2013 / 4:34 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Kings' Greene hopeful to return prior to playoffs

SAN JOSE -- Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Greene said he still doesn't have a target date for his return, but he took what looked to be another step in that direction Tuesday morning at HP Pavilion.

Greene, who underwent back surgery in late January to repair a herniated disk, was on the ice for the Kings' optional skate and stayed long after most of his teammates had left.

Greene was cleared for contact Monday, but he spent most of his time Tuesday skating hard and getting back into shape.

'You want to try to get into as good of shape as you can be if you want to get a chance to come back," Greene said. "It felt good. It's feeling better and better every day. It's just getting more and more used to skating. Getting a little bit of timing back, but I think it's still going to be a battle."

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Posted On Friday, 04.05.2013 / 4:17 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Torres debut with Sharks will have to wait

SAN JOSE -- Raffi Torres' debut with the San Jose Sharks is on hold until at least Sunday when they end their seven-game homestand against the Dallas Stars.

After San Jose's morning skate at HP Pavilion, coach Todd McLellan said Torres won't be in the lineup Friday night against the Calgary Flames for the Sharks, who have won six straight games.

"I didn't make the decision. Mother Nature made the decision," McLellan said. "He wasn't feeling real good last night. Feeling a little bit better today, but he won't play tonight, due in large part to that. But I also struggled sleeping last night whether or not we would put him in. The right thing to do for the individual is to put him in and make him feel comfortable right off the bat. But we have to do what's right for the team, and there's been a lot of guys that have played well lately and have to continue that reward."

Talking to reporters before McLellan's announcement, Torres didn't mention being ill, but he said he wouldn't mind if he wasn't in the lineup two days after being traded from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Sharks.

"If it was up to me, I probably wouldn't want to see myself play, just because you don't want to mess with a good lineup when it's winning," Torres said.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.03.2013 / 4:54 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Wild

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look Wednesday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Minnesota Wild at HP Pavilion:

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Posted On Saturday, 03.30.2013 / 4:55 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Burns could move back to defense for Sharks

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Jason Demers has been ruled out for Saturday night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes, likely forcing the return of Brent Burns to the blue line.

"He's not going to play tonight," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Demers. "Not feeling good today."

Demers took a hard shoulder-to-head hit from Detroit Red Wings center Cory Emmerton in the first period Thursday night. Although Demers finished the game, that hit raises obvious questions about a potential concussion. McClellan was asked whether Demers is out because of the Emmerton hit.

"He's not going to play tonight," McLellan repeated. "He's not feeling good today."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.28.2013 / 4:13 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Niemi to make 11th straight start for Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Less than 24 hours after shutting out the Anaheim Ducks, San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi will make his 11th straight start Thursday night when the Sharks face the Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion.

Niemi loves a heavy workload, and he said he has no problem playing back-to-back games.

"Especially when the first game goes pretty good, it's pretty easy to go in the second game," Niemi said Thursday morning after the Sharks' optional skate and brief team meeting. "Just keep on doing what I did last night."

Niemi stopped all 22 shots he faced Wednesday night in the Sharks' 4-0 victory, recording his second shutout of the season and 21st of his career. He improved his record to 14-8-5, lowered his goals-against average to 2.22 and improved his save percentage to .922.

"Nemo's our guy," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He had a day off in Anaheim, played, day off coming home. Back-to-back, but he (slept) in his own bed. He should be fine."

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.27.2013 / 3:53 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Sharks' Clowe set to return from shoulder injury

SAN JOSE -- After missing four games with a shoulder injury, San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe will return to the lineup and skate on the third line Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion.

Clowe hasn't played since the first period against the Los Angeles Kings on March 16 when he aggravated a nagging shoulder injury.

"I feel good," Clowe said after the Sharks' morning skate. "I probably felt pretty good last game, but I just needed a couple extra skates. ... I had a little skate yesterday. I feel good today."

Clowe will skate on a line with center Joe Pavelski and left wing TJ Galiardi. James Sheppard will drop from the third line to the fourth line, bumping Adam Burish out of the lineup.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 4:51 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Quick expected to start for Kings

SAN JOSE -- Jonathan Quick was the first goaltender off the ice at the Los Angeles Kings' morning skate and is expected to make his sixth straight start Thursday night at HP Pavilion against the San Jose Sharks and goaltender Antti Niemi.

Quick allowed five goals on 29 shots in a 5-2 road loss Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes. Last season he went 0-1-2 with a 2.56 goals-against average against the Sharks at HP Pavilion. He's 8-4-4 lifetime against San Jose with a 2.52 GAA.

Niemi is 8-3-2 for his career against Los Angeles with a 2.15 GAA.

Brent Burns, typically a defenseman, skated at right wing on the Sharks' top line with center Joe Thornton and left wing Logan Couture. He played forward Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues for the first time this season, opening on the third line but moving up to the first line late in the second period.

Sharks forward Martin Havlat was on the ice during the morning skate but remained on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Havlat has made significant progress in his recovery.

"He's getting better," McLellan said. "It's nice to see him skating at almost full speed."

Sharks backup goaltender Thomas Greiss remained on injured reserve with a strained neck but "skated a little bit" Thursday morning, McLellan said. "Won't play tonight. I think he's a little bit further down the road, but getting better."

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the Sharks face the Kings at HP Pavilion:

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Posted On Saturday, 03.02.2013 / 4:56 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Sharks plan to take more shots at Predators

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan continued pounding home the same message Saturday morning to his struggling team: When in doubt, shoot.

The Sharks, who face the Nashville Predators on Saturday at HP Pavilion, have won two of their past 12 games with 15 goals during that span.

"We have to have a shoot-first mentality," McLellan said after the Sharks' morning skate. "We have to attack the net with some authority to score. Teams that aren't scoring are talking about this on a daily basis. We're stressing it. We have to have everybody with that type of mentality. We can't be a pass-first-and-react-off-of-that type of team."

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Posted On Thursday, 02.28.2013 / 5:27 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Stuart expects 'strange' game against former mates

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart has played in 894 NHL games over 13 seasons. He's played for five teams -- he's in his second stint with the Sharks -- and is no stranger to playing games against former clubs and teammates.

Yet Stuart knows that when he takes the ice Thursday night at HP Pavilion for the first time against his former Detroit Red Wings teammates, his emotions will be running stronger than usual. This won't be just another game.

"It will be a little strange," Stuart said after the Sharks' morning skate. "Probably not as bad as if I was in Joe Louis [Arena]. That will be a little stranger. It should be fun too. I've got a lot of good memories of being part of that organization. I've moved on, but it's still going to be a little weird to play against these guys."

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Posted On Thursday, 02.28.2013 / 4:14 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Gustavsson set to make first start for Red Wings

SAN JOSE -- Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson's long wait will end Thursday night when he makes his first start for the Detroit Red Wings against the San Jose Sharks.

"I'm really excited," Gustavsson said after taking part in an optional morning skate at HP Pavilion. "It's been a long time since I've started in this league. This is something I've been looking forward to during the lockout and during the summer. So I'm really excited."

Gustavsson, a former Toronto Maple Leafs player, signed a two-year contract with Detroit as a free agent in July, but a nagging groin injury has limited him to two appearances in relief of starter Jimmy Howard.

"Obviously it wouldn't hurt to see him play, and I think it's important that your starting goalie doesn't have to play every night," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "The other thing about it, a real good opportunity for him. We need a win on the road, and he's capable of doing that. So, get in there and play like he can."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.26.2013 / 5:01 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Landeskog not seeking revenge in return to San Jose

SAN JOSE - It was exactly one month ago today that Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog took a crushing hit from San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart midway through the first period of a 4-0 loss to the Sharks at HP Pavilion.

And as luck would have it, tonight also marks the first time Landeskog, who missed the next 11 games with a concussion and didn't return to action until Friday against the Los Angeles Kings, will meet Stuart since that collision.

Landeskog said he's not out for revenge, but Stuart admitted he'll be ready for whatever the Avalanche send his way.

"I want to get out there and show them that I'm fine, that I can take a hit," Landeskog said after Colorado's morning skate. "Even though it was a hard hit, I don't have any grief against Brad Stuart or anything. He apologized after the hit and said he had no intention of hurting me. So no hard feelings there, but I'm excited to get out there and show them what I can do and show them that I can take that."

Just seconds after Stuart leveled Landeskog, Avalanche defenseman Ryan O'Byrne instigated a scrap with the Sharks defenseman, who was not suspended by the NHL for his hit.

"I think that score's been settled, as far as I'm concerned," Stuart said. "If they want to concern themselves with that, that's good for them. I'll be ready to play the game. We saw how that worked out for us last time."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.26.2013 / 3:53 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Battle of attrition as Sharks host Avalanche

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche will both be shorthanded Tuesday night when they meet for the second time this season at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks placed defenseman Brent Burns (lower body) on injured reserve and recalled defenseman Matt Irwin from Worcester of the American Hockey League.

Sharks second-line forward Ryane Clowe will be out as he serves the second game of his two-game suspension for coming off the bench on a line change and immediately getting into an altercation with the Chicago Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw on Friday at the United Center.

Third-line forward Tommy Wingels, who went headfirst into the boards late in Saturday's game at the Dallas Stars, also will miss Tuesday's game, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate.

Colorado will be without top-line center Matt Duchene, who is sidelined by a groin injury. Duchene leads the Avalanche in assists (11) and points (17). With Duchene out, Paul Stastny is expected to skate on the top line between Jamie McGinn and PA Parenteau, while John Mitchell centers the second line with forwards Gabriel Landeskog and David Jones.

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Posted On Saturday, 02.09.2013 / 4:02 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Sharks' Burns activated, set for season debut

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Sharks activated defenseman defenseman Brent Burns from injured reserve, and he'll make his season debut Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes. Burns underwent hernia surgery in May, suffered an apparent setback during his recovery and was placed on injured reserve on Jan. 23.

To clear a roster spot for Burns, the Sharks sent defenseman Matt Irwin to Worcester of the American Hockey League. Irwin appeared in nine games, posting two points with one goal and one assist. He scored his first NHL goal against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 26.

Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray is a scratch for the game.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the Sharks also placed defenseman Nick Petrecki on waivers today.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.05.2013 / 5:39 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Sharks, Blackhawks ready to measure up in showdown

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks are the two hottest teams in the NHL at start of the season.

Tonight at HP Pavilion, the NHL's top two teams will see how they measure up against each other in their first meeting of the 2012-13 campaign.

The Blackhawks (7-0-2) lead the league with 16 points, just one more than the Sharks (7-1-1). San Jose opened the season with seven straight wins, the Blackhawks six. Chicago has yet to lose in regulation.

"Both of us have had good starts to the year," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "We want to see what they have, and I'm sure they want to see what we have. We're looking forward to an exciting game."

Added Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane: "Both teams seem to be really good this year and obviously want to prove something to the world."

The Sharks will have the home-ice edge Tuesday, but the Blackhawks should have an advantage in terms of energy. San Jose played at Anaheim on Monday night, a 2-1 loss to end the Sharks' eight-game run with at least a point. Chicago hasn't played since Saturday night at Calgary.

"Whether it's back-to-back or not, there's no excuses out here," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "We're ready to play. We're going to go from there. There's going to be times throughout the season where everybody's tired. There's no excuses. They're big points early on. We're playing well and so are they, so it should be an exciting game."

Both teams have slowed down a bit since their blistering starts as opponents throughout the League have gotten back up to speed after the lockout. The Sharks averaged 4.6 goals in their first five games and got two goals from Patrick Marleau in each of their first four games. Now they've lost two straight, first 2-1 in a shootout to Nashville then 2-1 in regulation to the Ducks.

Before beating Calgary 3-2 in a shootout Saturday, the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to Minnesota and 2-1 to Vancouver, both times in shootouts.

"I think you could have predicted it was going to be wide open to start and then things would tighten up as the season goes on," Kane said. "They've been playing very good defensively all year, so hopefully we can sneak a few by them tonight. But for us, we've had a lot of success in this room offensively, five-on-five, every year I've been here. That's something we just have to continue to work at."

The Sharks' power play provided much of the offense during their fast start with 12 goals in 32 attempts. In the past four games, San Jose is just 1-for-18 on the power play. The Sharks will try to get back on track against the NHL's top-ranked penalty kill.

"They're going to come hard," Couture said of the Blackhawks' penalty killers. "They've got guys who are short-handed threats. They look for offense on it, so we got to be sharp, keep our shifts short, try to play in their end and just shoot the puck more.

"We just had a meeting to try to get it going. Obviously we started off well. We were supporting each other; we were getting pucks to the net. That's something we haven't done lately. We've left guys on islands by themselves in the zone and haven't gotten many shots on net. That's something we need to change."

The Blackhawks are preparing for a Sharks' power play that traditionally has been tough on opponents, especially at home.

"They have a great PP," Blackhawks center Dave Bolland said. "They're always moving around, they're never in the same spot, they're always moving from side to side. So we've got to be aware of where Marleau, where Joe [Thornton] is or any of them, or [Dan] Boyle. It's going to be a good test for us. It's going to be a great test."

For the Blackhawks and Sharks, this will be a proverbial "measuring stick" contest.

"We know that right now these are the two top teams in the West," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "The last couple years we've always had great games against San Jose, especially in this building. Even though they played last night, we always know it's going to be a high tempo. Regardless of what San Jose's capable of doing as a team, we know we've got to be way better than we were our last game in Calgary. So as a team it's more about us and how we're prepared to play in this locker room. If we get our game back on track, we'll give ourselves a good chance to win."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.05.2013 / 4:18 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Blackhawks relieved to be getting Bolland back

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Second-line center Dave Bolland will return to the lineup Tuesday night for the Chicago Blackhawks against the San Jose Sharks after missing one game with an injury to his lower right leg.

Shortly after the Blackhawks' morning skate at HP Pavilion, Bolland broke the news that he'd be in the lineup, then coach Joel Quenneville confirmed it.

Bolland said he'll have no limitations in Tuesday night's game.

"Feels great," Bolland said.

Bolland was injured Friday night against the Vancouver Canucks when he took a slash from Jannik Hansen in the third period of Chicago's 2-1 shootout loss. He initially feared he had broken a bone and might be out for the season. But after missing Chicago's 3-2 shootout win Saturday night at Calgary, Bolland practiced Monday and skated Tuesday morning at HP Pavilion.

Linemate Patrick Kane said it will be "huge" to have Bolland back on the ice against San Jose.

"I don't know if any of us really knew the extent of the injury," Kane said. "He's a good player. He obviously can play in a lot of different roles -- penalty kills and plays the power play and is a very effective center for us. It's good to have him back, especially these type of games."

Bolland has three goals and one assist in eight games for the Blackhawks.

Quenneville had some more good news on the injury front regarding Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival, who has missed the past five games with a lower-body injury. Quenneville said Rozsival is now healthy enough to play, although it's doubtful he'll be in the lineup tonight.

Sharks veteran defenseman Dan Boyle could be back in the lineup after missing Monday night's 2-1 loss at Anaheim with the flu. Boyle skated on his own Tuesday morning, and Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he'll be in the lineup if he feels healthy enough to play.

Boyle has been battling the flu for a week. He missed San Jose's game against Anaheim on Jan. 29, played the next two games, then was out again Tuesday after a relapse.

Here's how the lineups could look Tuesday night when the Sharks face the Blackhawks at HP Pavilion:

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Patrick SharpDave BollandPatrick Kane

Viktor StalbergAndrew ShawBryan Bickell

Jamal MayersMarcus KrugerMichael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson- Johnny Oduya

Nick Leddy - Sheldon Brookbank

Corey Crawford

Ray Emery

Injuries: Daniel Carcillo

Scratches: Brandon Bollig, Michal Rozsival

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

James Sheppard - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe

Scott Gomez - Michal Handzus - Martin Havlat

TJ Galiardi - Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Brad Stuart - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Injured: Brent Burns

Scratches: Tommy Wingels, Matt Irwin, Nick Petrecki

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 4:50 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Sharks expect Oilers will be looking for payback

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It was just nine days ago that the San Jose Sharks exploded for six goals in the first period and defeated Edmonton 6-3, spoiling the Oilers' home opener.

They meet again Thursday night, and the Sharks expect to face a motivated team looking for payback.

"Obviously, Edmonton's going to play hard," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We kind of embarrassed them in their building. They're coming off a big win last night, so they'll want to kind of get revenge for their loss."

The Oilers beat the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night 2-1 in overtime as they kicked off a three-game road swing. Edmonton improved to 4-2-0 but will face the NHL's last undefeated team. San Jose improved to 6-0-0 with a 3-2 shootout win Tuesday night against Anaheim.

The Sharks beat Anaheim despite being outshot 30-18 and playing what they said was their worst game of the season.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he doesn't expect a first-period replay of San Jose's first game against Edmonton.

"I don't think we're going to see the same start from Edmonton," McLellan said. "They were a young team that was real excited at home in front of their crowd. They made some mistakes. I haven't seen them make those mistakes since that first period. The second and third was a pretty evenly-played match. I think you'll see more of that tonight.

"Our game against Anaheim was not to our standards in a lot of different areas, so we have to get better. That will be our goal, to improve and clean a few things up. It will be more of a speed game, I believe, than it was against Anaheim. That's just how Edmonton is built. They can fly. We'll have to be well aware of that."

McLellan shuffled his bottom three lines in the third period and overtime against Anaheim, and, based on Wednesday's practice, he'll likely open with that new look. The biggest change is Scott Gomez moving to the second line as a wing alongside center Logan Couture with Martin Havlat dropping to the third line.

"He's a good player, sees the ice well, good passer, speed," Couture said of Gomez. "It's going to be fun playing with him and (Ryane Clowe) tonight."

McLellan said he shuffled his lines Tuesday because "a couple lines were very unproductive last game, not even creating anything toward the net, just minute eaters. We need more production from different people, so we moved things around. We'll take a look at how they're going to start, who will be in their lineup, and make decisions from there."

The Sharks' roster will definitely have a different look tonight. They lost forward Frazer McLaren off waivers to Toronto, and that open roster spot will likely go to defenseman Jason Demers, McLellan said. Demers has been recovering from a fractured wrist he suffered while playing in Europe during the lockout.

"Not everybody can stay on a roster," McLellan said. "Unfortunately you're only given 23 spots. Organizations have to make decisions. We had to make a tough one yesterday in putting (McLaren) on waivers. Doesn't surprise me that he was picked up. He's a quality individual, fulfills a role in the League right now and on many teams, and fulfills that role well. He'll do well in Toronto, and we wish him all the best. We're proud he was a Shark at one point."

McLaren, a seventh-round pick by San Jose in the 2007 NHL Draft, racked up 490 penalty minutes for Worcester of the American Hockey League, a franchise record. He appeared in 40 career games for the Sharks, including one this season, compiling 85 penalty minutes, one goal and five assists.

McLellan said there's a chance Demers could be in the lineup tonight. But there's also a good chance that defenseman Dan Boyle will return to the lineup after missing Tuesday night's game with the flu.

Boyle, who missed practice Wednesday, took part in an optional morning skate and said he would play tonight.

Boyle said he felt "better, or I wouldn't be here. Whatever I had kicked my [rear]."

Boyle also missed the entire third period of Sunday's game against Vancouver because of a nosebleed that trainers had trouble stopping. Boyle said he got hit in the nose in the second period but "was fine" when he came off the ice at the end of that period.

"They started playing around up in there and then waterworks came out," Boyle said. "It was nonstop. I've never experienced a nosebleed like that in my life. … I don't know if there's an artery up there, but something. We hit something. It was disgusting is what it was."

Boyle said he's glad to be back on the ice and part of the NHL's last undefeated team -- Chicago fell to 6-0-1 with a 3-2 shootout loss Wednesday to the Minnesota Wild.

"I like being a part of that," Boyle said. "Obviously we're probably going to lose at some point, but it's fun. It's fun to have something like that going for us. See how far we can take this."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.31.2013 / 4:47 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Oilers, Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Here are how the lineups could look Thursday night when the Sharks face the Oilers at HP Pavilion:

OILERS

Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Nail Yakupov - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky

Ryan Smyth - Eric Belanger - Lennart Petrell

Teemu Hartikainen - Anton Landers - Darcy Hordichuk

Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry

Nick Schultz - Justin Schultz

Ryan Whitney - Corey Potter

Devan Dubnyk

Nikolai Khabibulin

Injured: Shawn Horcoff

Scratches: Mark Fistric, Theo Peckham

The Oilers did not have a morning skate, but captain Shawn Horcoff reportedly will miss the game with a strained neck. The Oilers sent forward Magnus Paajarvi to Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League and called up forward Anton Landers. Coach Ralph Krueger has not named his starting goaltender for tonight's game, but it's likely Dubnyk, coming off a strong game Wednesday, will be in net again, despite facing a back-to-back. Khabibulin started the season on injured reserve and has been active for only Wednesday's game.

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Scott Gomez

Tommy Wingels - Michal Handzus - Martin Havlat

TJ Galiardi - Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brad Stuart

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Injured: Brent Burns

Scratched: James Sheppard, Nick Petrecki, Jason Demers

Demers, recovering from a broken wrist, was expected to be activated and might be in the lineup. Boyle, who missed Wednesday's game with the flu, will be a game-time decision. McLellan said Sheppard could potentially be in the lineup for third time this season.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 4:58 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Clowe doesn't plan on giving up any of his intensity

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe has had a day to cool off since his meltdown Sunday night against the Vancouver Canucks when he drew eight penalties, including a game misconduct late in the second period.

Just don't expect to see a kinder, gentler Clowe on Tuesday night when the 5-0-0 Sharks play the 3-1-0 Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion.

"There's no secret how I play," Clowe said. "I'm an intense guy and an emotional guy. I try to play on the edge. Sometimes I go over. I don't make any apologies for that.

"I don't like taking those penalties and that extra penalty where you hurt your team. Obviously that wasn't my plan, but I don't make any apologies for going over the edge."

Clowe tied the franchise single-game record with his eight penalties. Four of them came rapid-fire and ended his night. He was sent to the box for high-sticking at 19:33 of the second period but quickly earned two more minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct when he protested the call. At that point, an infuriated Clowe started smashing his stick in the box, drawing a 10-minute misconduct, then a game misconduct.

Clowe had been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct even before the puck dropped Sunday when he got into a confrontation with Alexandre Burrows. In the first period he received a five-minute major for fighting after a long bout with Zack Kassian and two minutes for holding the stick. In the second, he was penalized for tripping.

Clowe only took serious issue with the high-sticking penalty.

"I was just going up the middle of the ice," he said. "It was a stupid call. I tried to finish a guy. He just skated out of trouble. I don't even know if I got a piece of him. The guy gives me a high sticking. The other two calls before that I didn't say anything. ... It was just a constant march to the penalty box that game. It got frustrating."

Clowe made team history when he went to the box before the puck dropped. The Sharks had never before opened a game skating 4-on-4.

"I don't know what happened," Clowe said. "Burrows and (Logan) Couture got into it a little bit. I just stepped in there. I don't know why we got penalties. It always gets riled up when we play those guys."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 4:33 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

San Jose holds special place in Etem's heart

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Growing up in the Southern California city of Long Beach, Anaheim Ducks rookie forward Emerson Etem played a junior hockey tournament in San Jose and had a chance to watch the Sharks play the Minnesota Wild at HP Pavilion.

Tuesday night, Etem will make his NHL debut at the Shark Tank when Anaheim faces San Jose.

"I grew up watching the Sharks and all the rest of the California teams," Etem said after Anaheim's morning skate. "I went to a Minnesota Wild-San Jose game, maybe in the early 2000s, just on a hockey trip, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I'm finally here and I'm going to be playing in the same building where I watched back in the day. It's just going to be exciting."

Etem said he'll skate on the fourth line with Rickard Rakell and Kyle Palmieri.

"A good line," he said. "Hopefully we build some chemistry early on. We felt good out there today. It's going to be exciting."

Anaheim selected Etem with the 29th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. Last season he had 107 points in 65 games for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, scoring 61 goals and adding 46 assists. This season he had 12 goals and two assists in 40 games for the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League.

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who talked to reporters before Etem revealed he would be in the lineup, said his rookie had "a great camp" this year.

"He was the last cut," Boudreau said. "With a lot of those guys in five days, they were pretty close together, so we're just rotating so they keep playing. If he does play tonight, what you're going to see is a really strong skater and an NHL body. He's got a man's body for a 20-year-old (6-foot-1, 210 pounds). I thought that was really evident in training camp. He's probably very raw as far as a lot of things go, like all young guys are experience-wise, but he's definitely got all the attributes to be a good NHL player in the future."

Etem said he played in a few NHL preseason games last season, including one at San Jose.

"Obviously the NHL regular-season pace is a huge notch above that," said Etem, who hopes to have his parents make the trip from Southern California for Tuesday night's game. "I got a little bit of experience, and I played in this barn last year in an exhibition game. I know a little bit about what it's all about. I just have to go out there and make sure I play a simple game, take it all in and enjoy the moment. Work hard and take advantage of the opportunity I'm given."

Here's how the lineups could look as the Sharks face the Ducks at HP Pavilion:

DUCKS

Matt Beleskey - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Bobby Ryan - Nick Bonino - Teemu Selanne

Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Daniel Winnik

Kyle Palmieri - Rickard Rakell - Emerson Etem

Sheldon Souray - Francois Beauchemin

Cam Fowler - Bryan Allen

Luca Sbisa - Toni Lydman

Jonas Hiller

Viktor Fasth

Injuries: None

Scratches: Devante Smith-Pelly, Sami Vatanen, Brad Staubitz

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Martin Havlat - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe

Tommy Wingels - Michal Handzus - TJ Galiardi

Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - Adam Burish

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brad Stuart

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Injured: Brent Burns, Jason Demers

Scratched: James Sheppard, Nick Petrecki, Frazer McLaren

Boyle, who's battling a cold, missed the morning skate, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he'll definitely be in the lineup. Demers (wrist) and Burns (lower body) took part in the skate. McLellan said Demers is getting very close to being healthy enough to play. Asked if he was encouraged by his progress, Burns said, "I wouldn't use that word. ... I'm doing everything I can. I'm working."

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Posted On Sunday, 01.27.2013 / 3:51 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Sharks aim to stay perfect with Canucks in town

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The San Jose Sharks will put their perfect record on the line Sunday night at HP Pavilion against the Vancouver Canucks, a team that has had their number lately.

The Canucks have won four straight regular-season games at HP, which has typically been tough on visiting teams. Vancouver went 3-0-1 in their series against the Sharks last season and 24-12-5 overall on the road, the best road record in the Western Conference. The Canucks have 71 road wins dating to the start of the 2008-09 season, the most in the NHL.

"They're a good road team," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Sunday morning after a brief team meeting. "They're a veteran group. They're well prepared every night. Their special teams are excellent. I think as we've seen so far this year in most games, specialty teams have won or lost it for a lot of teams. ... Special teams play a big role, and they've always been very, very good in that area."

Despite the Canucks four-game streak at HP, Vancouver center Maxim Lapierre said they're expecting a tough test tonight.

"It's a different year. They're playing really good," Lapierre said of the Sharks. "I think we're ready to go when we play these guys. We know how good they are, and we can't make too many mistakes out there. So I think guys are really focused."

Lapierre said there's no secret formula for the Canucks' success on the road.

"I think we just go out there and try to play the right way," he said. "We don't want to go and put on a show. We just play in the system and play physical. This is how we win some games on the road."

Lapierre, who missed practice Saturday to rest his sore groin, was one of just a handful of Canucks who were on the ice for an optional skate. He said he's good to go for tonight's game even though he's not pain-free.

"I tried to rest it," Lapierre said. "As we know, the schedule is pretty tight. I'll battle through in the games, but it's pretty painful. I'll be ready for tonight."

Sharks center Scott Gomez, who signed with the team on Thursday, will be in the lineup for the second straight game, centering the fourth line.

Gomez said his body felt "good" and he was ready to get back on the ice tonight.

"We all know what the schedule's going to be like," Gomez said. "Talking to guys from the past, it actually sometimes even works to your advantage. You feel good on the ice and you just want to get back out there again. My answer might be different after tonight. We've had a long rest. It's definitely a sprint this year. We just want to keep going this year."

McLellan said playing back-to-back games for the first time this season will be "a test" for Gomez and the entire team.

"The other night when we played Phoenix, they played back-to-back. I thought you could see the team peter out a little bit at the end," McLellan said. "All teams are going to go through that, so this is our first test with that.

"Scotty had a good game. I think 15 minutes of ice time, so that was a good start for him. He accepted his role. We'll just continue to grow our team, and he has to be a part of it and be responsible for what he's given."

Defenseman Brad Stuart, in his second stint with the Sharks, played a huge role in a 4-0 win Saturday over Colorado. His big first-period hit on Gabriel Landeskog jump-started the Sharks, who grabbed a 2-0 lead on a pair of Patrick Marleau power play goals.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Stuart will not face supplementary discipline from the league for his hit.

"I haven't heard anything from anybody," Stuart said. "I'm assuming that's the way it will remain. At the time I thought it was a good hit. I saw it a couple times last night and still thought that."

Here's how the lineups could look Sunday when the San Jose Sharks play the Vancouver Canucks at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Martin Havlat - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe

Tommy Wingels - Michal Handzus - TJ Galiardi

Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - Adam Burish

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brad Stuart

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Injured: Brent Burns, Jason Demers

Scratched: James Sheppard, Nick Petrecki, Frazer McLaren

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Zack Kassian

Chris Higgins - Alexandre Burrows - Jannik Hansen

Mason Raymond - Jordan Schroeder - Dale Weise

Andrew Ebbett - Maxim Lapierre - Aaron Volpatti

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa

Jason Garrison - Alexander Edler

Keith Ballard - Christopher Tanev

Cory Schneider

Roberto Luongo

Injured: Ryan Kesler, David Booth

Scratched: Andrew Alberts, Manny Malhotra, Cam Barker

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Posted On Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 4:57 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Avalanche captain Landeskog returns after hit

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog left Saturday's game against the San Jose Sharks near the end of the first period but returned to the ice in the second.

Landeskog seemed to have suffered a lower-body injury and went to the dressing room with 4:20 to go in the first period after he took a hit from Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart.

Landeskog immediately left the game and appeared to be favoring his left leg as he limped toward the dressing room.

Moments after Stuart's hit, a fight erupted between him and Colorado defenseman Ryan O'Byrne. Stuart received a five-minute fighting major, and O'Byrne, the instigator, received a total of 19 penalty minutes.

San Jose scored twice after the fight to take a 2-0 lead.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 4:28 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Sharks understand importance of focus at home

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks played spoilers on their two-game road trip, ruining home openers for the Calgary Flames then Edmonton Oilers.

Consider those games as two red-flag warnings as the Sharks approach their home opener tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion. As the Sharks learned first-hand, the emotions and distractions surrounding home openers can make it tough on the home teams.

"I don't think the home teams have done well," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after his team's morning skate at HP. "We have to be aware of that. Once the ceremonies are over, we have to be focused."

Thornton said he expects the scene at HP tonight to be "pretty crazy" and that the key for the Sharks will be to keep their emotions in check.

San Jose coach Todd McLellan said the fact he has a mature group of players, most of whom have been through plenty of home openers, should help the Sharks cope with an emotional night.

"I'd like to think we'll be prepared," McLellan said.

After last season, the Sharks certainly won't look past Phoenix. The Coyotes won the season series 4-1-1 and captured the Pacific Division crown, ending San Jose's four-year reign.

Phoenix goalie Mike Smith had three shutouts against San Jose last season, but it's likely the Sharks won't have to face him tonight. Smith has a lower-body injury that forced him to leave the Coyotes' 5-1 victory Wednesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets midway through the first period. Backup Jason LaBarbera took over against Columbus and will likely start tonight.

McClellan said Smith's "puck handling skills are so good" it's like facing "three defensemen instead of two." If LaBarbera starts, the Sharks won't have to be as concerned about "puck placement," McClellan added.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 4:25 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Coyotes

Here are how the lineups could look tonight when the San Jose Sharks face the Phoenix Coyotes:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Martin Havlat - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe

Tommy Wingels - Michal Handzus - TJ Galiardi

James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brad Stuart

Matthew Irwin - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Scott Gomez, who signed a one-year free agent contract Wednesday with the Sharks, won't suit up tonight. Coach Todd McClellan said he wants Gomez to have at least one more practice with his new team before he plays and that there's a chance he could make his debut Saturday against Colorado.

"I'm not here to ruffle feathers," Gomez said. "I'm part of this group now. When you get put in, you get put in."

Fourth-line forward Frazer McLaren was in the lineup for the season-opener against Calgary, but Sheppard took his spot against Edmonton. McLellan said he had yet to decide which one will play tonight.

COYOTES

Steve Sullivan - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Mikkel Boedker - Matthew Lombardi - Radim Vrbata

Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - David Moss

Paul Bissonnette - Alexandre Bolduc - Kyle Chipchura

Zbynek Michalek - Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris

Michael Stone - David Schlemko

Jason LaBarbera

Chad Johnson

After playing Wednesday night, Phoenix didn't have a morning skate in San Jose, although defenseman Rostislav Klesla and forward Martin Hanzal were on the ice. Both missed Wednesday's game with lower body injuries and are day-to-day. After Wednesday's game, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said the team would bring up Johnson from Portland of the AHL as an emergency call-up with Mike Smith nursing a lower-body injury.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 5:22 PM

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

White lending playoff expertise to Sharks' blue line

SAN JOSE -- When the San Jose Sharks made the playoffs this year, it was like a homecoming for defenseman Colin White, a free-agent pickup.

White made the playoffs his first 10 NHL seasons with the New Jersey Devils before missing out last season. He won the Stanley Cup in 2000 with New Jersey as a rookie and again in 2003. In 2001, the Devils reached the Stanley Cup Final but lost in seven games to Colorado.

Overall, White has played in 112 NHL playoff games.

"I missed the playoffs last year for the first time in my career, so it's nice to be back in the playoffs this year," White said Thursday morning after the Sharks' optional skate at HP Pavilion. "It's just great to be back in this atmosphere where it's fun."

White was a healthy scratch the first two games of San Jose's series against St. Louis in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, but he was in the lineup for Game 3 on Monday night and scored his third career playoff goal during the Sharks' 4-3 loss.

White will likely be in the lineup again Thursday night for Game 4 at HP Pavilion, paired with Justin Braun. In such a pivotal game, the Sharks can use White's wealth of experience in pressure situations.

"It's been great all year," Braun said. "We've had good chemistry for most of the year, and I feel like that's carried over. We're usually on the same page for most plays, and if something doesn't go right, we talk about it. He stays calm and helps me stay calm throughout the game. We're down in the series, but he keeps the boys positive."

White said he hasn't addressed the team during the playoffs, but he has passed along plenty of stories during the season about his career, that started at the pinnacle.

"The first year I was on a great team," White said. "I had a very small role on that team, but it's still a role. I think that's the biggest thing I learned that year, was no matter if you were playing 11, 12 minutes a night, it was a very important 11, 12 minutes. I think the next time we won I was playing more minutes, but I realized there were guys still playing 11, 12 minutes that were very important.

"I think over my career that's the biggest thing. Come playoff time you need everybody and everybody's going to get a shot because with injuries and whatnot throughout the playoffs, it takes everybody on a team to win. I think that was the biggest thing I've learned over the years. It takes a commitment by 25 guys, all pulling in the same direction, all believing in the same goal and trusting the guy next to you."

 

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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 4:46 PM

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

Projected Game 4 lineups

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the St. Louis Blues at HP Pavilion in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series:

BLUES
David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

SHARKS

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

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Justin Braun - Colin White

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

Blues playing with proper edge in San Jose

SAN JOSE -- Ken Hitchcock said there's a simple reason why the St. Louis Blues have gone 3-0 at HP Pavilion this season, beating San Jose twice in the regular season and then in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series on Monday night.

"Scared to death," Hitchcock said Thursday after his team's optional morning skate. "I think fear gets your attention. I think this has been a grave site for a lot of teams for a lot of years. I think you just get to a point where you're so afraid of getting blitzed that you get ready and you play on the edge, and I think we're better when we play like that.

"I think when you have a healthy respect, like our players do for their players, you play on the edge. We play better when we're uncomfortable, and we're uncomfortable in this building. It really gets our attention, and I think our players respond the right way."

The Blues built a 4-1 cushion, then held on for a 4-3 victory Monday night at HP Pavilion, giving them a 2-1 series lead entering Game 4 on Thursday night.

"We've got to win," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We're down 2-1. We need to win this home game. That's the bottom line."

Based on how the Sharks practiced Wednesday, they'll likely insert third-line center Michal Handzus and fourth-line wing Brad Winchester into the lineup in place of Dominic Moore and TJ Galiardi. It's also likely that first-line wing Patrick Marleau will move to center on the second line, swapping places with Logan Couture.

"Potentially," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of those changes. "We've got some options we can use as far as injecting some new people into the lineup as well as shuffling lines around a little bit. We're looking for a little more sustained offensive zone time in 5-on-5 situations, a little more finish when we do get some opportunity, and we'll need that to have any type of success."

Hitchcock said he's had plenty of time to prepare for a new look from San Jose's top lines, with Joe Thornton and Marleau split up.

"I don't know how this is going to work. I don't know if [McLellan's] going to stay with it, but we've had a couple days to prepare for it if that's the way he's going to go," Hitchcock said.

"I think we're going to keep the same 12 forwards in, but don't be too surprised if there's tweaks in the lineup that impact the way we are. I like some of the things we did down the lineup, third and fourth lines, but I think we can even help them a little bit more, so depending on how this thing looks through the first rotation, the players are prepared to make a couple of small adjustments and get ready for it. We already know what we're going to do, and we'll be ready for it."

The Blues have a chance to go up 3-1 and put a hammerlock on the series, which returns to St. Louis for Game 5 on Saturday. Any possibility of the Blues being overconfident probably ended when they gave up two goals in the final three-plus minutes in Game 3.

"We're still in a series here against a very good team and we can't take anything for granted," Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "For us, this is the most important game of the series. We're going to expect a very desperate game from them. It's a matter for us to respond and handle it and play the way we can."

As important as Game 4 is, McLellan didn't come close to calling it a must-win for the Sharks.

"Well, the last time I checked, you have to win four," he said. "So, I don't know what that means to you guys, but it still means four to me. It would be great to be 2-2. Three-one is better for them, but four is the magic number.

"If there's a team that should know that, it's us. We just went through a seven-game series after being up 3-0," he added, referring to the Sharks' semifinals victory last year over Detroit. "So you can (put) it anyway you want. I still know that the playoffs are about four games, and we're still three away."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 7:26 PM

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

Sharks won't be only desperate team in Game 4

SAN JOSE - St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the San Jose Sharks won't have a monopoly on desperation Thursday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series.

The Sharks trail St. Louis 2-1 in the series and desperately want to avoid digging themselves into a 3-1 hole. But Hitchcock said Wednesday that the last thing he or his players want is to let the Sharks pull even and turn this series into a long, brutal battle filled with travel nightmares and little time for rest.

"If this thing goes 2-2 then it's, 'Who's got the best bus and who's got the best plane?' -- and that's not good for either team," Hitchcock said after the Blues' practice at HP Pavilion. "We're looking at this the same way they are. They want this thing going where they could start taking it over and we're looking at it as it gets scary after tomorrow. You're talking long flights, not much sleep, [a game] every other day, and who's got the best plane and who's got the best bus will be a big factor here. So we're looking at it like they are too. It's a big factor.

"I was in a lot of these [series] coming in and out of Dallas and they were not easy series. When it got to Games 5, 6 and 7 they were not easy for players, for coaches, for sleep patterns and they really impacted the next series."

After splitting the first two games in St. Louis, the Blues beat the Sharks 4-3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion. St. Louis took a 4-1 lead early in the third period before the Sharks rallied for two late goals.

'The biggest thing for us is knowing that we could win a playoff game on the road," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We have a lot of young guys who haven't had that much experience. We know we can win in this barn; we did it in the regular season. But it's a tough place to win in the playoffs."

Hitchcock said he's still not sure when injured goaltender Jaroslav Halak will be healthy enough to play. Halak hasn't played since suffering a lower-body injury early in the second period of Game 2 when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman accidentally knocked him to the ice. Halak skated Tuesday for the first time since being injured but didn't skate or practice Wednesday, and he will miss Game 4. Brian Elliott will make his second straight start.

"We'll keep him working toward getting back at some time," Hitchcock said of Halak, "but right now he's not available so Brian is the guy."

Elliott went 23-10-4 during the regular season with nine shutouts and led the NHL with a 1.56 goals against average and .940 save percentage.

"We've had confidence in him since Day 1," Hitchcock said. "For us it just feels like one guy is playing a few more games than the other one. I think if it lasts, if it ever went where you stayed with the same guy for a month then it would seem different. I think most teams have this scenario going where they just stay with one guy. It's still early in the picture and we're fully expecting Halak to be a player, hopefully."

Hitchcock said that Elliott impressed him earlier in the season by how competitive he was in practice. Now that Elliott is carrying the full load, Hitchcock is trying to rein him in.

"We're constantly having to [do] like we did today -- stop him, kick him off the ice," Hitchcock said. "He has to get in the mindset that the games are everything, less is more, get enough of your practice in and once your reps are done, get off the ice. He's one of those guys that wants to hang out there until the last shot."

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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:16 PM

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

Sharks feel Blues just as dangerous with Elliott in net

SAN JOSE -- St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak missed practice Monday morning with a lower-body injury and, as expected, won't suit up for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks.

Brian Elliott will be in goal for the St. Louis with Jake Allen, a call-up from Peoria of the American Hockey League, on the bench as his backup, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Hitchcock said he doesn't know how long Halak will be sidelined.

"He's out today. He's day-to-day, and we'll just see how he feels tomorrow and see if we're going to get him back in any short period of time. We're not really sure," Hitchcock said. "It gets better quickly, but obviously not enough to skate today."

Halak was injured early in the second period of Game 2 when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman accidently skated into him, knocking him hard to the ice. Elliott took over and completed the Blues' 3-0 shutout.

Both Blues goaltenders put up stellar numbers this season, and both went 2-0 with a shutout against the Sharks in the regular season. Despite having similar stats, Halak and Elliott aren't clones, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.

"Elliott's bigger," he said. "I think there's an obvious size difference there. Less experienced. You look at what Halak had done in Montreal. Some of the wins he provided that franchise were incredible, really, but other than that they're both tremendous goaltenders. They know that. I don't think they miss a beat one bit by starting Brian Elliott tonight."

Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said Elliott made some key saves "using his long legs" in Game 2.

"I thought he came in last game and we probably gave him a chance to feel comfortable," Clowe said. "We didn't get much action on him early. Tonight if we can sustain pressure and get some chances -- some second chances more than anything -- early, you're going to score. We got to try to get to him."

Elliott had nine shutouts during the regular season, while Halak had six. Elliott posted a 1.56 goals-against average to 1.97 for Halak.

"We have confidence in both our goalies," Blues defenseman Kris Russell said. "They both play the puck well, they both talk to us very well. I feel as a D corps with those goalies we have a connection there. We've done well talking together and working plays out. We have confidence in both those goalies. That's why we have been successful."
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:48 PM

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

Projected Game 3 lineups

SAN JOSE -- Here’s how the lineups could look Monday night when the San Jose Sharks play the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series at HP Pavilion:

BLUES

David Perron - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - Andy McDonald
Vladimir Sobatka - Jason Arnott - Chris Stewart
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

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

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:36 PM

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

Sharks could change lineup to add size, toughness

SAN JOSE -- Something needs to change for the San Jose Sharks after falling 3-0 on Saturday to the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

It could be the Sharks' lineup for Game 3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion.

"We have that option," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after his team's optional morning skate. "We have five extra players that are here. We're debating different line combinations, different players that we can throw in. When the puck drops we'll all know what they are."

If McLellan does make lineup changes, defenseman Colin White and former Blues forward Brad Winchester are the most likely additions. Both would add size and toughness in what has become a very physical series.

"Do we need some size in and around the net?" McLellan said. "Perhaps. Is it in and around their net or in and around our net? We'll have to make a decision there. Do we need some tempo? I didn't think we skated the way we needed to skate in the last two periods to get to the battles. They got their eyes up in the offensive zone and were dangerous, and we never had that chance. In the offensive zone we were a little bit slow. We need to find some tempo in our game as well."

Neither Winchester nor White offered any clues as to whether they'd be in the lineup for Game 3.

"I have no idea," White said. "Your guess is as good as mine."

San Jose's top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski has yet to record a point in the series in two games matched up against the Blues' top line of David Backes, David Perron and T.J. Oshie. But now that the Sharks are home and have the last change, McLellan, if he chooses to, can adjust the matchups and pit Thornton's line against St. Louis' second line of Patrik Berglund, Alexander Steen and Andy McDonald.

"We'll make some decisions as the game goes on," McLellan said. "The Backes-Jumbo matchup is what they want. If you get away from it you fall into the Berglund-Jumbo match. We talked about this in St. Louis. They're just as capable as Backes is. … If you avoid one you take the other one on. The top end players are going to have to play through it and find ways to be effective."

Oshie said he's ready for a curve from the Sharks and wouldn't be surprised if McLellan adjusts the matchups, which would also pit St. Louis' top line against San Jose's second line of Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe and Martin Havlat.

"Something's going to change," Oshie said. "If that's it, the responsibility (against Thornton's line) goes on someone else and we're going to have to deal with Couture, and that's a great line, too. I think our top two lines are pretty similar in the sense they're both hard-working, they both can put the puck in the net."

"I think that's one of the things about our team, is with the depth we have, if Jumbo's not getting us, they're most likely getting Berglund's line. They're very good at playing in the offensive zone. We just try to play in the offensive zone as much as we can on them. They're going to get their chances. We're not going to hold them to no points the whole series. We know that. They're a great line, but as much as we can we want to limit them."

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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:04 PM

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

Stewart back in lineup, hears message 'loud and clear'

SAN JOSE -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock sent an unmistakable message when he pulled third-line forward Chris Stewart from the lineup Saturday night for Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals against San Jose.

Hitchcock sent another clear message Monday morning when he announced that Stewart would be back in the lineup for Game 3 at HP Pavilion.

"He's going to play today," Hitchcock said. "Need him. Need his 'A' game. When he's playing, he's a hard guy to play against. He can play physical. He plays a lot like Milan [Lucic] does in Boston. So we need him in. He's got good hands and can score from the inside. He's a guy that gives us a chance to get way more five-on-five scoring chances, which we're going to need on the road. We're not getting enough of those. So he's going to help us there hopefully."

When he made Stewart a healthy scratch in Game 2, Hitchcock said he needed "more tenacity, more determination, more second and third effort from that position."

Stewart said that after the Blues beat San Jose 3-0 in Game 2, knotting the series at 1-1, he didn't expect the lineup to change. He welcomed the chance to redeem himself.

"The message was sent. It was received loud and clear," Stewart said. "I'm going to go out there and I'm going to work my [tail] off. You see the last game. Those are the games you dream about. End of the game you win and there's line brawls and stuff like that. That's stuff you want to be a part of. I'm obviously disappointed I didn't get to experience that, but that's the good thing about this game, you get a chance right now tonight to redeem yourself. It's, 'What have you done for me lately?' I'm going to go out there and show 'em."

Hitchcock said he hadn't decided which forward Stewart would replace, but during line rushes in the morning skate, Matt D'Agostini appeared to be the odd man out. Stewart skated with center Jason Arnott and wing Vladimir Sobotka. Fourth-line center Scott Nichol skated with Jamie Langenbrunner and B.J. Crombeen.

Hitchcock was asked how much Stewart could elevate his game, just two days after being scratched.

"A lot," Hitchcock answered. "I think we'll get a good player tonight."

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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 8:19 PM

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

Sharks hope to capitalize on their chances

SAN JOSE – Two games. Zero points.

That's not the type of production the San Jose Sharks expected from their top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against St. Louis. But that's the reality approaching Game 3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion. Thornton's line has matched up against St. Louis' top line of David Backes, David Perron and T.J. Oshie, which has produced just three points.

"Both lines have had their chances," Thornton said Sunday after practice. "I think me and [Pavelski] had a couple of chances last night. We're feeling good, we're feeling comfortable. Hopefully we can be on the score sheet tomorrow."

Most of those good scoring chances Saturday night in Game 2 came in the first period.

"I thought our first period was our best period of the series so far and we come out of it [trailing] 1-0," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "They did create some opportunities. Where their polish has to come a little better or a little more is on the power play. If [the Blues are] going to take some penalties, undisciplined penalties, we have to make them pay for it. Last night, we weren't as good as we were in Game 1. We were a little disjointed, so we'll look at fixing that."

The Sharks, who went 1-for-15 on the power play against St. Louis during the regular season, went 0-for-4 in Game 2. They went 1-for-3 in Game 1, a 3-2 San Jose victory in double overtime.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 6:21 PM

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

Moore practices, expected to play in Game 3

SAN JOSESan Jose Sharks forward Dominic Moore practiced Sunday afternoon, one day after suffering a broken nose in Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.

Moore was hurt during a brawl that broke out after the third-period buzzer when Blues winger Vladimir Sobotka took him to the ice and hit him in the face. Sharks coach Todd McLellan called it a "sucker punch."

Moore said he was having some trouble breathing through his nose but that he is available to play in Game 3 on Monday night at HP Pavilion. As for Sobotka's punch, Moore offered no opinion.

"I really don't have any need to comment on it, to be honest," Moore said.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:17 PM

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

Sharks know special teams will be crucial

SAN JOSE – It should come as no surprise that the San Jose Sharks are spending plenty of time working on their penalty kill and power play as they prepare to face the St. Louis Blues in a first-round playoff series that begins Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

San Jose's special teams were a disaster zone during the regular series against the Blues, who won all four games by a combined score of 11-3.

The Sharks went 1-for-15 on the power play. The lowlight came during a 1-0 loss on Dec. 10 in St. Louis, when the Sharks went 0-for-6.

San Jose's penalty kill, which ranked 29th this season, was equally bad. The Sharks killed just 14 of 19 power plays against St. Louis. Five of the Blues' 11 goals in the series came on the power play. In the Blues two most recent wins over San Jose, they scored two of their three goals via the man advantage.

"You definitely can build momentum or lose it at times through special teams," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said Tuesday after a long practice. "We haven't really had a great special teams season against these guys. We're going over a few things, seeing where we can attack them, where they've been really good against us. It's still going to come down to that moment, winning the one-on-one battles, making a play, hitting a shot, all those things that come down to it.  But many series, special teams are pretty important. It's definitely going to go a long ways in this series."

Three of the Blues' power-play goals came when they had two-man advantages.

"We gave them too many 5-on-3s," Pavelski said. "That's never easy. So stay sharp there. Get one early. We don't want to be a couple games behind then find our power play. We need to find it early and put them on their heels."

The Sharks' power play ranked second overall in the regular season, and the Blues' penalty kill ranked No. 7. San Jose knows it will be a challenge to convert when the opportunity arises.

"Their penalty kill is exceptional," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "It's been the best for the last two months, the best in the League. It starts with their two goaltenders and the way they play. They're aggressive. They have a confidence level that's very high in there. It will be a very big challenge for our power play and we've spent a lot of time in those situations the past two days."

St. Louis scored the first goal in all four of the regular-season meetings, and the Sharks enjoyed a lead for just one brief stint during a 4-2 loss on Oct. 15 at HP Pavilion. Defenseman Brent Burns put San Jose ahead 2-1 at 11:18 of the second period. Kent Huskins tied it with a goal at 4:33 of the third, and the Blues scored two more unanswered goals en route to victory.

Sharks forward Patrick Marleau said the defensive-minded Blues "clamp down" even harder when they get the lead.

"We have to try to get to a lead, play with the lead and force them to maybe try some different things or do some different things that way, but I'm suspecting they're going to play the same way whether they're up or down," Marleau said.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:06 PM

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

Sharks preparing for both Halak, Elliott

SAN JOSE – One of the biggest first-round playoff mysteries for the San Jose Sharks – which St. Louis Blues goaltender they'll face in the opener on Thursday night – cleared up a bit  Tuesday.

Throughout the season, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott formed a two-headed goaltending monster for the Blues, but Elliott missed the second of two practices Tuesday with a upper-body injury he suffered late in the regular season and, according to St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, is day-to-day.

Although Hitchcock downplayed the injury and said Elliott is healthy enough to play, the Blues called up goaltender Jake Allen from Peoria of the American Hockey League.

"We'll prepare for both," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We all know what the injury thing is like at this time of the year with coaching staffs and teams. So we'll prepare for both."

On Monday, Hitchcock said he wouldn't reveal his starting goaltender until Thursday. On Tuesday, however, he said he'd announce his starter on Wednesday.

The Sharks lost twice to Halak and twice to Elliott. Each goaltender had one shutout against San Jose.
Does it matter which Blues goaltender the Sharks face?

"I don't think it really does because they're fairly {much} the same goalie, it seems like it," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "They have similar numbers. From there you just got to play. When you get your chance, you're not really caring if it's Elliott or Halak because there's not too big of a difference between them."

McLellan was asked if the Blues are a different team depending on which goalie starts.

"Their team doesn't play any different. Their goalies are a little bit different size-wise and the ability to play the puck and that type of stuff," McLellan said. "That's a situation that we're aware of, that they have the two, that they're capable of playing two – a little bit like the [Mark] Sanchez-[Tim] Tebow situation in New York, two very good quarterbacks that both want to play.

"I guess the trick there is figuring out who the team is comfortable playing in front of and playing that guy. Sometimes it's a hard thing for a coach to do. There's no doubt that I know in our group we feel more comfortable in front of one than the other, not that the other isn't capable, but there's a security blanket there. Which one is it there?"

Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi started the final 21 games. Backup Thomas Greiss hasn't started since Feb. 26.

On the Sharks' injury front, defenseman Brent Burns returned to practice Tuesday after missing Monday's workout, when he took what McLellan called a "maintenance day."

Forward Ryane Clowe, however, missed a second straight day for an undisclosed injury.

"I'm assuming he's playing," McLellan said of Clowe. "He's had a couple maintenance days. I think when we put the gear on, you'll see Ryane Clowe out there."

McLellan said he expects Clowe to practice before the Sharks open the series Thursday night.

"I believe he will. That will be up to him and how he's feeling," McLellan said.
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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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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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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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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 4:42 PM

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

Sharks minus coach again, could get Couture back

SAN JOSE -- San Jose forward Dominic Moore will return to the lineup Thursday night against Buffalo after missing four games with a lower-body injury, but injured forward Logan Couture will be a game-time decision, and Sharks coach Todd McLellan will definitely miss his second straight game.

McLellan is still suffering concussion-like symptoms after being struck in the head Sunday by the stick of Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella in a freak accident after Scandella was checked into the boards in front of San Jose's bench.

Sharks assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft will again share the coaching duties Thursday night, as they did Tuesday night during a 1-0 win against Philadelphia. Woodcroft, though, said McLellan remains "very involved" in the game planning and preparation.

"He's getting better each and every day," Woodcroft said after the Sharks' morning skate. "He's feeling better, and both Matt and I consult him every day. We're in touch with him. He's coming into the building and being a big part of our game plan.

"He's getting better, so that's the primary concern of not only Matt and myself, but the whole organization, is to get Todd better. He's getting better, which is very positive. I think you saw our team's response in the last game. They knew we were missing our leader, but our leadership group in terms of players really stepped up. Bottom line is we're in a playoff hunt, and every two points is important. You saw that against Philadelphia, and we're definitely going to bring the same attitude tonight."

Sharks coach Joe Thornton said many players on the team understand first-hand what McLellan is going through as he recovers from a blow to the head.

"He's going to come back when he feels comfortable behind the bench," Thornton said. "I'm sure the lights still give him problems and the sounds. A lot of guys in here have gone through concussions, and you never know how long they're going to last. We just hope he gets back quick."

After coming to the Sharks on Feb. 16 from Tampa Bay in a trade, Moore played just three games before being sidelined.

Moore said he's "feeling good" and is ready to return to the lineup after a "very frustrating" stint off the ice.

"You never want to be missing time, and you want to be helping the team as much as you can," Moore said. "It was very tough, but I'm excited to be back, back in action."

Couture, San Jose's leading goal scorer, missed the Philadelphia game with a lower-body injury he suffered Sunday at Minnesota, where he took three hard hits. He skated briefly with his teammates Thursday morning before heading to the dressing room.

"Logan made some progress today, felt a lot better," Woodcroft said. "It will be a game-time decision today."

Two other injured Sharks -- forward Martin Havlat and defenseman Douglas Murray -- practiced with the full team for the first time since being injured. Havlat suffered a partially torn hamstring tendon on Dec. 17 against Edmonton and underwent surgery. Murray took a puck to his Adam's apple on Feb. 16 against Tampa Bay.

Havlat and Murray are both making strides, but neither one knows when he'll return to action. Havlat, though, said he definitely wants to log some games before the playoffs.

"The more the better. I have to get used to everything again," Havlat said. "It's like getting ready for a new season. Same situation I was in when I was coming back after the shoulder injury. I want to play as many games as I can to get ready, physically and timing-wise, too."

Havlat said he faces some challenges before he's game-ready.

"I've got to get stronger and get used to the movements on the ice, all those quick movements and the stop and starts, that's the most important during the game and that's (what) I have to work on," he said.

Murray has been skating hard, but has yet to be cleared to play by doctors. The No. 1 concern is that he might experience swelling that would affect his breathing.

"It felt good, but you know how it goes when it comes to your head or breathing," Murray said. "They're a lot more careful. … It's day to day, and hopefully I'll be out there soon."

Murray wore extra padding to protect his throat during the morning skate and expects to wear it when he returns to action.

"I've worn worse things that bother me a lot more than this to protect from injuries," Murray said. "It's not a problem."
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Sabres

SAN JOSE -- Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Buffalo Sabres at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Daniel Winnik - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Tommy Wingels
Brad Winchester - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi, coming off a 1-0 shutout of Philadelphia on Tuesday night, was the first Sharks goalie off the ice Thursday morning and is expected to start against Buffalo. If Couture is scratched again tonight, the Sharks would have their choice of Andrew Desjardins, Benn Ferriero or Jim Vandermeer to insert in the lineup.  His absence, of course, would force some line juggling. Against Philadelphia, Thornton, Clowe and Wingels were on the top line, while Marleau, Pavelski and Winnik were on the second line.

SABRES

Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis - Cody Hodgson - Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe - Ville Leino - Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis - Brad Boyes - Corey Tropp

Jordan Leopold - Tyler Myers
Andrej Sekera - Robyn Regehr
Christian Ehrhoff - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

The Sabres, who beat Anaheim 2-0 on Wednesday night, did not skate Thursday morning. There's no official word on who will be in goal for Buffalo, but the fact that Miller shut out the Ducks points to him getting the start against San Jose.


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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 5:26 PM

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

Lower-body injury leaves Couture game-time decision

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture, who leads the team with 27 goals, will be a game-time decision Tuesday night against Philadelphia because of a lower-body injury he suffered Sunday at Minnesota.

Couture took three huge hits against the Wild and left the ice for good midway through the second period. He skated briefly Tuesday morning, without pads, but was not on the ice for the rest of the morning skate.

"It felt good to get on the ice," Couture said. "I didn't feel that bad. There's a chance I could play tonight."

On Sunday against Minnesota, Couture's head banged against the glass at least twice, but it's a lower-body injury that's the main problem.

"I think all three (hits) really built up, and the last one, my body was hurting," Couture said. "I really didn't want to come back in the game. I got a couple days of rest. Yesterday, rested and treated it. Today as well. It definitely feels a lot better than it did the other day at the game."

Couture said he didn't think Minnesota was targeting him specifically or trying to take him out of the game, and he said "there was nothing wrong" with any of the hits he took.

"Guys were finishing checks," Couture said. "That's hockey. You expect to get hit every night. I definitely didn't feel they were only hitting me out there. They were hitting other guys, too.’"

The Sharks, coming off a 2-6-1 road trip, could definitely use Couture tonight against Philadelphia when they open a four-game homestand.

With or without Couture, the Sharks hope to get a boost from forwards Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi, who will make their debuts after being traded from Colorado to San Jose on Monday.

"That's what we're hoping," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after the morning skate. "We definitely think we've got the pieces in here to make a good run. We just feel like the two new guys are definitely going to help that out."

Winnik said he hopes that he and Galiardi can energize the Sharks.

"When you get traded you bring new excitement with yourself, and hopefully TJ and I inject some energy into the lineup," Winnik said.

During the morning skate, Winnik was on the second line with Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. Galiardi skated on the third line with Michael Handzus and Torrey Mitchell. Ryane Clowe and Tommy Wingels skated on the top line with Thornton.

That's likely how they'll open tonight's game unless Couture is able to play.

The road-weary Sharks will face a Flyers team that is playing the final game of a four-game road trip but hasn't played since Saturday when it beat Calgary 5-4 in a shootout.

"A couple days in California isn't bad for the body or the mind," Flyers winger Scott Hartnell said. "We had a good practice yesterday, a good skate this morning. Even though we're all the way across the country, we've got to play hard and not focus on getting back home."

Hartnell, who played six seasons in Nashville, has been to the Shark Tank enough times to know how tough San Jose is to beat at home.

"This is a tough building to play in," Harnell said. "The fans are incredible and they feed off that energy. So it's going to be a big battle for us. It's going to be a big test for us tonight to come out, come hard. Hopefully we get a lead. It seems like we haven't had a lead in the first period for three months."

The Flyers haven't beaten the Sharks in San Jose since Nov. 5, 1999. Their last victory over San Jose was on Dec. 21, 2000, in Philadelphia.

Hartnell is coming off a two-goal game against Calgary and has a career-high 30 goals for the season. He credited “a lot of hard work” for his career year, as well as the chance to skate with teammates such as Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr.

“It’s a lot who you’re playing with and power play time and things like that,” Hartnell said. “I’ve been really focused, trying to be focused for every practice, every game. Just trying to do what I do best, and that’s go to the net. Playing with Giroux and Jagr, you put your stick on the ice, pucks are going to find your stick. It’s been a real treat playing with those guys.”

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 5:24 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Flyers

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

SHARKS
Ryane Clowe - Joe Thornton - Tommy Wingels
Daniel Winnik - Patrick Marleau - Joe Pavelski
TJ Galiardi - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Jim Vandermeer

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Niemi, who came off the ice first Tuesday morning, is expected to be in goal tonight. He backed up Greiss on Sunday at Minnesota. In two of his three previous starts he was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals. Center Dominic Moore (lower body) took part in the morning skate and appears close to returning, but he'll miss his fourth straight game.

FLYERS
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Maxime Talbot - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
James van Riemsdyk - Brayden Schenn - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Pavel Kubina - Matt Carle
Andrej Meszaros - Nicklas Grossman

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

Bryzgalov, coming off a 5-4 shootout win over Calgary on Saturday, will be in goal again for the Flyers. He's 22-12-6 overall with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 3:08 PM

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

No McLellan for Sharks tonight

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan will miss Tuesday's game against Philadelphia (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) because of concussion-like symptoms he's still suffering from after accidentally being hit in the head with a stick during the second period of Sunday's game against Minnesota, the team announced.

As they did for the remainder of that game against the Wild, assistants Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft will share the coaching duties.

"Todd continues to make progress in his recovery from the stick incident in Minnesota on Sunday evening but is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms," Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson said in a statement released by the team. "Thus, he will not be behind the bench until cleared by doctors to resume his coaching duties, beginning with tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers. While Todd will continue to provide his input on the team, we have full confidence in the abilities of assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft to lead the team in Todd's absence. Our main concern at this point is for Todd's full and complete recovery."

McLellan was hurt when forward Jamie McGinn -- who was traded Monday to Colorado -- checked Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella into the boards alongside the Sharks' bench. Scandella's stick made contact with McLellan's forehead, knocking the coach down behind the bench.

Sharks captain Joe Thornton said McLellan was knocked out.

"He wasn't moving," Thornton said. "We were yelling to the ref, 'There's a problem here.' It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen, that's for sure."

Thornton said he wasn't surprised at the news that McLellan would miss the game.

"He was hit pretty hard," said Thornton. "We saw him a little bit today. He's gotten better, so that's a good sign. But, yeah, he got hit real hard."

McLellan missed one game last season to attend a funeral of a family member. Shaw, Woodcroft and former Sharks assistant Trent Yawney shared coaching duties in that game, Woodcroft said Tuesday after San Jose's morning skate. Yawney no longer is with the team.

"In that case, Trent Yawney ran our defense and Matt and I ran the forwards like we did last year," Woodcroft said. "And for us, this year going forward, we're going to stick with that precedent. I'm going to run the forwards, which I've worked with during the season, and Matt will continue running the (defense).

Woodcroft said he expects that plan to work smoothly tonight.

"Our staff has been with this group for four years," he said. "There's a lot of trust with our leadership group. We understand where we're at in our season. We expect everybody's best effort. Todd has spoken to our leadership group, so they know it's coming, and there's a real comfort level. They know what to expect, and we're going to expect a strong effort tonight."
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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 5:22 PM

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

Reeling Blackhawks lose a pair of defensemen

SAN JOSE -- The Chicago Blackhawks, riding a six-game losing streak and a deep defensive slump, got some more bad news Friday morning.

Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson, two of the Blackhawks' top defensive players, were sent back to Chicago because of upper-body injuries and will miss Friday night's game against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.

Montador, who was hurt in the second period Tuesday against Colorado, was placed on injured reserve. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson has been ruled out for Saturday's game at Phoenix.  Hjalmarsson had missed the previous two days of practice with what the Blackhawks said was the flu but, according to multiple reports, could actually be a concussion.

"Things changed," Quenneville said, offering no specifics.

Chicago recalled rookie defenseman Dylan Olsen from Rockford of the American Hockey League. He didn't arrive in time for Friday morning's skate, but he's expected to arrive in time for the game and will be in the lineup Friday night, Quenneville said. So will defenseman Sami Lepisto, who has been a healthy scratch the past 15 and 23 of the past 24 games.

"I think Sami can give us some defensive consistency," Quenneville said. "He's got some offense, as well, to back it up. I want him to play a sound game, kind of like our team game."

Quenneville offered no specific reason why Lepisto has played so seldom.

"When you've got eight 'D' sometimes you've got to make some tough decisions," he said. "Whether it's him or John Scott, they want to play. You've got to commend them for sticking with it and being part of it and being a good teammate when they've been watching other guys get more ice time or games that they'd love to get a part of it. I was telling Sami the other day, be patient, things can change quickly, and here he is."

Olsen, 21, made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks on Jan. 5 and played two games before being sent back down. He had four shots, five hits and one blocked shot in that stint. Chicago drafted him with the 28th pick in the 2009 Entry Draft. In 44 games with the IceHogs, he has 4 goals, 3 assists and 44 penalty minutes.

"I think when he played here prior, the two games he played, I thought he was real solid for us," Quenneville said. "Gave us some size. Had some good presence, played the right side for us, did some good things."

The news was much better for San Jose. Defenseman Dan Boyle, who missed Wednesday night's game and Thursday's practice because of the flu, skated Friday morning and expects to return to the lineup against Chicago.

"I feel better," Boyle said. "Obviously I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel better. Stomach flu kind of went through the whole household. My parents were here, they both had it. Both my daughters and my wife had it. Not sure what it was. Ran its course and hopefully back in there tonight."

With Boyle sidelined, the Sharks suffered a 4-3 loss to Calgary, which came on the heels of a 5-3 loss at Phoenix. The Sharks' No. 1 focus tonight will be to get their defense back on track against a Blackhawks team that beat them 4-3 on Jan. 15 at Chicago.

"We know they're a very dynamic offensive team, so we're going to have to look after our end, and usually when we do that good things happen," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "So take care of our end and we'll probably play in their end quite a bit."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he expects to see "a different look" from his team Friday night than it had against Calgary.

"We didn't have a lot of intensity or energy early in the game," he said. "We expect that to change, and we weren't very good defensively. Too loose, too many freebies, too many turnovers. If we're playing the way I believe we can, we'll fix those areas and we'll still be in for a tight game because they're a group that's trying to fix their own issues, and I'm sure they'll come out with a lot of fire early in the game, and we'll have to match that."

Despite having back-to-back rough games, Antti Niemi will be in goal to face his former team, McLellan said. Niemi, who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup two seasons ago, is 4-2-1 against the Blackhawks with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.

"We think he's played well against them in the past," McLellan said of his decision to start Niemi. "He's due for a good game, and we believe in him."

Niemi certainly won't lack motivation when he takes the ice against a team that let him go in a salary cap move shortly after he won a Stanley Cup.

"You get motivated knowing who you're playing against," Niemi said. "Don't have to dig it from deep."

After losing six straight games and allowing 27 goals during that stretch, the Blackhawks should have motivation to spare, too. For the past two days, they've gone back to the basics, trying to get their defensive house in order.

"There's some little things we need to just remind ourselves of that are very important," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "When things are going well you don't have to think about it. You just go out and do it. Maybe the last couple games we've been thinking a little too much out on the ice and that's why we're making mistakes. It's good just to refresh our mind on what we need to do defensively and now we can go out there and play and it will be a little more natural."

Here's how the lineups could look Friday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Chicago Blackhawks at HP Pavilion:

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

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

BLACKHAWKS
Michael Frolik - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Viktor Stalberg

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Sami Lepisto - Sean O'Donnell
Dylan Olsen - Nick Leddy

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

Crawford will start in goal for Chicago after backing up Ray Emery the previous two games. Crawford lost 1-0 to the Sharks and Niemi on Nov. 23, Chicago’s first game at HP Pavilion this season.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.08.2012 / 5:48 PM

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

Flames' Kiprusoff goes for 300th win

SAN JOSE - As a team fighting for its playoff life, the Calgary Flames will have plenty of motivation Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks. But the Flames should have an extra boost with goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff going for his 300th career victory -- against his former team.

The Sharks took Kiprusoff with the 116th pick in the 1995 NHL Draft. But with an overload of talent in goal, they traded him to Calgary in November 2003 for a 2005 second-rounder they used to draft defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

"It would be huge," said Calgary defenseman Scott Hannan, a former Shark. "He's a great goalie. Everybody knows what he's done for the franchise and how special a player this year he's been for us. He's been huge in every game that we've needed him to be in. He gives us a chance every night, which is more than you can ask of a goalie. To get him a win here would be great."

Kiprusoff has a career record of 299-194-62 with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. This year he's 23-17-4 with a 2.29 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

"He's a hell of a goaltender," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after his team's optional skate Wednesday morning at HP Pavilion. "Fans, not only in San Jose early in his career, but obviously in Calgary for most of it, appreciate his talent and what he brings to the rink every night. I think it's probably fair to say when their players walk into the locker room in Calgary and see his number or name circled, they get a pretty good feeling. And that's a true sign of a goaltender that can carry a team, and he's been that for many years there."

Kiprusoff is 13-12-3 against the Sharks overall, but he's 0-1-1 this season despite playing well both games. The Sharks beat Kiprusoff and the Flames 2-1 in a shootout at HP Pavilion then 1-0 at Calgary.

San Jose's Antti Niemi, a fellow Finn, got both wins, improving to 8-1-0 lifetime against Calgary. Niemi said facing a countryman always gives him an extra dose of motivation.

"Playing Finnish guys, just the veteran goalies who have been in the League for a long time who you remember from a long, long time ago," Niemi said. "So of course you get a little extra energy playing against those guys.''

Based on the past two games, goals should be at a premium Wednesday night. What's more, the Flames have allowed a total of 12 goals over their past seven games as they've turned up the defensive pressure.

"We're certainly playing better defensively that we were earlier," coach Brent Sutter said. "I think it's just more consistent now. It's a commitment that you have to have from every individual inside your dressing room. I understand that guys in the room, or any dressing room, are goal scorers, but when you get into the final third of the season everybody's got to be committed to doing it the right way, back checking like they can and making sure they're doing it the right way in their own zone. You want to have the puck. You've got to be able to play with the puck to win games, and you've got to be able to get it back from your opposition. The only way that happens is by playing a good team game."

Flames forward Blair Jones said the improved defense is "just kind of in direct relation to where we are in the standings and the time" in the season. "It's time to tighten up and start playing good hockey every game. There's no excuses for the next 28, 29 games we have left. It's got to be the same way every night. Just try to pay attention to details and bring a good defensive effort every game."

Sharks forward Ryane Clowe expects another hard-fought, low-scoring game.

"I think if we can get three goals, we've got a good chance. I think we can hold them under three goals," Clowe said. "Lately all their games have been pretty low scoring -- 2-1, 2-0, that sort of game. So if we can put three on the board, I like our chances."

With 55 points, the Flames are in 12th place in the Western Conference standings, but they're just three points behind Minnesota and Phoenix, who are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot. Just as a reminder of how tight the race is and how important each game is, the conference standings were posted in Flames' dressing room at HP on a grease board.

"It's a learning curve from the start of the season until now," Hannan said. "At times in games when we've lost it's been that little mental break. That's just something to reaffirm in our minds how important every shift is, how important every play is in the game. You never know what's going to break the other team or in essence break you in that game. I think that's just a reminder of how important that is."

The Flames won't have defenseman Derek Smith against San Jose - he's still recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered Dec. 29 against the Islanders - but Calgary locked him up for the next two seasons Wednesday with a new deal worth $1.5 million.

Smith initially signed this season with the Flames as a free agent after playing nine games with Ottawa and 71 games with Binghamton of the AHL last season.

"He's a 27-year-old player that came to training camp wanting an opportunity, and he earned that throughout camp," Sutter said. "He came in and did everything we wanted from him. He just has grown. You look at it, when he got hurt he was arguably our best defenseman at that point in time. We've missed him, but it's good both from an organizational standpoint and his standpoint that they can get something worked out. It's a commitment made by both sides and it's great to see that Smitty can be a Calgary Flame for the next two years and not worry about losing him because he is an important part of our defense."

Smith, who did not travel with the team on its road trip, has two goals and eight assists in 32 games this season.

"Derek came to training camp this year on a two-way contract and played his way into our starting lineup," GM Jay Feaster said in a statement. "When Mark Giordano went down with his hamstring injury, Smitty stepped up and shouldered an increased workload and did so in excellent fashion."

Here's how the lineups could look Wednesday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Calgary Flames at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Benn Ferriero - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Ryane Clowe

Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - John McCarthy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Brent Burns

Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

FLAMES

Alex Tanguay - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla

Michael Cammalleri - Blair Jones - Blake Comeau

Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - Krys Kolanos

Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester - Chris Butler

Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan

T.J. Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff

Leland Irving

Joe Pavelski will play his 400th NHL game Wednesday night, all as a Shark. McLellan hinted that he was going to shuffle his lines. Andrew Desjardins will likely move from first-line winger to fourth-line center, where he's spent most of the season. Benn Ferriero will likely return to the top line. One day after announcing his retirement, Owen Nolan will drop the puck during a pre-game ceremony. Nolan played for both San Jose and Calgary during his 18 NHL seasons.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 4:40 PM

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

Clowe returns for Sharks, but Niemi injured

SAN JOSE -- Sharks forward Ryane Clowe was activated from injured reserve and will return to the lineup Thursday night against Dallas, but San Jose will be without No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi, who suffered a lower-body injury Wednesday during practice.

Backup goalie Thomas Greiss will start against the Stars. Tyson Sexsmith was recalled from Worcester of the AHL to serve as Greiss’ backup Thursday night, and veteran Antero Niittymaki, who cleared waivers, was assigned to Worcester. In another roster move, defenseman Jason Demers (lower body) was placed on injured reserve.

Niemi was injured when he was hit by a puck. A smiling Niemi called it a “mid-body” injury and said he’ll be back on the ice for practice Friday and will ready to play Saturday at Phoenix.

“It should be fine,” Niemi said.

Clowe missed the past six games because of a facial fracture he suffered Jan. 10 at Minnesota. He played three games after that – the first two while wearing a protective cage – before going on injured reserve. He wore a protective visor during Thursday morning’s optional skate at HP Pavilion, and he’ll wear one tonight in a game for the first time since his junior hockey days.

“I think it’s probably smart for another little bit to keep it on,” Clowe said. “I don’t want anything to happen, get smacked there again. It was weird, really weird. That was the first time I’ve worn a visor in a while, but it was a little better than a cage.”

“I was advised it was the right thing to do. I think it’s something where I know that if I wear it for a little bit I can take it off eventually here pretty soon hopefully.”

Clowe is known for his rugged, aggressive style of play, as well as his willingness to drop the gloves. Will he have to be more cautious in light of his injury?

“Obviously the fighting part will be not there, I guess. Who knows?” Clowe said. “I’m not going to say it’s not going to be there because you see what happened to (defenseman Colin White) last game. I don’t’ think it will change my style. I can’t be cautious. I wouldn’t play if I felt I had to be timid out there. I’ll be my normal self, I think.”

White rarely fights because an eye injury he suffered in 2007, but he fought during the third period against Columbus on Tuesday night after taking a shoulder to the head.

Clowe seemed more concerned about adjusting to the visor and to live-game action after a long layoff than about his injury.

“I think the first period will be a bit of a battle tonight,” Clowe said. “I’m sure I’ll be sucking wind. I’m sure I’ll have spit and snot and everything else in my visor that I’ll be trying to battle through. That’s what I’ve got to get used to, and then the legs come after that. I’ve got to be able to see first.”

Niemi has had back-to-back shutouts, beating Calgary and Columbus, but Greiss has been on a hot streak, too. He allowed just one goal in each of his past three starts, beating Columbus twice and losing to Edmonton in a shootout.

“He’s kept teams to one goal and he’s come in and played very well,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “There isn’t any added pressure on him, by any means. He just comes in and plays his game, and that’s what we want to see.”

Greiss will face a Dallas team that is coming off a 6-2 win Wednesday night at Anaheim but had scored a total of seven goals in its previous six games.

“They have a couple of really good shooters,” Greiss said. “(Mike) Ribeiro is really crafty. You have to be ready for him, especially on the power play. He can throw a couple moves at you.

“Their whole team likes to try to go to the net. A couple of … disturbers, too. It should be a fun game.”

Sexsmith, a third-round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, struggled last year at Worcester when he played despite having a hernia, but he made the AHL All-Star team this year. He has a 2.15 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage for Worcester.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Sexsmith said. “I’ve been in San Jose for a few years now, just waiting for my chance – having a good year down in Worcester. I finally got a chance to come up here and see what it’s like.”

After playing Wednesday night at Anaheim, the Stars held an optional morning skate with just three players on the ice – forward Toby Petersen, defensemen Nicklas Grossman and Adam Pardy and goaltender Richard Bachman. Grossman missed the Anaheim game because of the flu, but he’ll likely return to the lineup Thursday night.

Bachman will start for Dallas in place of Kari Lehtonen, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said Wednesday night after his team’s win over Anaheim. Bachman is 6-2-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. In the Sharks’ 5-2 victory against Dallas on Dec. 8, Bachman saw his first action of the season for the Stars in relief of Andrew Raycroft and stopped all 11 shots he faced. After that, he played well enough to earn the backup job.

“As a young goaltender, he came in and took a veteran’s job,” McLellan said. “When you do that, you’re doing something well. They ran him for a while and got a number of wins from him, so he feels good about being in the league. After that, the rest will be up to us to try to get to him and get to some second chances in and around the net. But based on the pre-scout, he’s played pretty well for them.”
Here’s how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion:

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

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Thomas Greiss
Tyson Sexsmith

STARS
Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Loui Eriksson
Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Alex Goligoski - Philip Larsen
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley

Richard Bachman
Kari Lehtonen
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 9:16 PM

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

Mason gets call for Columbus

SAN JOSE -- Columbus goaltender Curtis Sanford has allowed just four total goals in two games against San Jose this season - both 2-1 losses - but Steve Mason will be in goal Tuesday night when the Blue Jackets face the Sharks at HP Pavilion.

On their last California road trip earlier in January, Sanford suffered a one-goal loss to the Sharks then beat the Los Angeles Kings 1-0. The Blue Jackets will face the Kings again in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

"We're playing back-to-back games," Columbus interim coach Todd Richards said of his decision to start Mason. "Sanford played both games, here in San Jose and also in L.A. He played well in both buildings, but we're playing back-to-back. Steve's played well in his last two starts. (Sanford) played the last game in Tampa. It seems logical to us that he'll play tonight and Sanford will play tomorrow in L.A."

Mason will play in his 200th career game Tuesday night. He has an 82-85-25 career mark with a 2.85 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. This season he is 5-18-2 with a 3.42 goals against average and a .882 save percentage.

It's been that type of season for the Blue Jackets, who are last in the NHL with just 32 points. While the Sharks and most NHL teams begin their playoff pushes, Columbus has to set for smaller goals.

"I talked to the guys about the goal I have for this road trip, and hopefully they have the same type of goals and what they want to accomplish as a group because I can have one thing and want one thing and it might not mean the same to them," Richards said. "So hopefully we're kind of on the same road as far as what we want, but it's getting those small goals and what's realistic, what we can achieve.

"Trying to create a fun atmosphere again, too. We've been beaten up so much this year. A lot of it is self-inflicted, with the beating up that we've done, but it's trying to create a positive environment again where we can enjoy being around each other, enjoy being at the rink and enjoy doing what we're doing."

Richards declined to reveal his specific goals for his team's three-game California swing against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks.

"It has nothing to do with points," he said. "It has nothing to do with wins, losses or ties. It's just something that as a coach, as a coaching staff that we just want to see from our team"

Opening on the road against San Jose is a tough assignment for the Blue Jackets in their first game after the All-Star Game break, but they've played the Sharks tough twice in one-goal losses, at HP Pavilion and at home.

"They've obviously got a lot of skill and a lot of talent on their team, but for many years they've been a hard-working team, too," captain Rick Nash said. "I think that's the way we have success is by outworking them. They've got a lot of weapons over there. They're a pretty dangerous team. Good goal tending. We've got to make sure we outwork them."

Getting off to a good start after the long break will be important for both teams.

"I think the biggest thing is getting our timing back right away," Nash said. "You sometimes lose that after one day off. So four or five days off, we're going to have to get our legs back and our timing."

San Jose forward Patrick Marleau said the key tonight for the Sharks will be to "keep it simple" in their first post-break game.

"Get your legs, your body, your mind into it early. Attention to detail is going to be important," Marleau said.

"You've got to be sharp from the get-go," Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray said. "The big thing is to get your confidence back and your skating and your puckhandling and your passing, just try to be as sharp as possible from the beginning."

Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter hasn't played since suffering a separated shoulder on Jan. 8, but he was on the ice for the morning skate at HP Pavilion. Although Carter won't play tonight, Richards sounded positive about his chances of returning to action soon.

"He's getting close," Richards said. "I don't know if that means tomorrow night or our game in Anaheim."

Center Andrew Joudrey, called up Monday from Springfield of the AHL, isn't expected to play Tuesday night, but he might make his NHL debut during the road trip.

"When you talk to the coaches down there and talk to the guys who have seen him play in management, they say he has been playing extremely well, and he's earned the opportunity to get up here and the opportunity, if it does present itself, to play," Richards said.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 4:36 PM

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

Still no Clowe for Sharks, but return could be soon

SAN JOSE -- Sharks forward Ryane Clowe skated for the second straight day Tuesday morning, but he'll miss his sixth straight game tonight when San Jose faces Columbus at HP Pavilion as he continues to recover from a facial fracture.

Clowe was hurt Jan. 10 at Minnesota when he went face-first into the glass. He played the next three games -- the first two while wearing a protective cage -- but not since then, and remains on injured reserve.

"I feel good," Clowe said after practice. "Obviously back on the ice yesterday and today, doing everything pretty normal and feeling good. I think I'll be back this week."

Clowe said he wants to make sure his fracture has healed to the point where it can withstand a blow when he returns.

"I guess the biggest worry is just getting hit there again," Clowe said. "I don't want to keep wearing a cage when I come back. I want to make sure if I do get hit there, if something happened and I get in a fight and get punched there, I'm not out another few weeks. The time's up to where it should be healed now."

Clowe said he never took a baseline concussion test after being injured in Minnesota because he never felt any concussion symptoms.

"My nose was bleeding, but I didn't feel anything like that," Clowe said. "As far as my head and all that, I felt good. No issues with that. We flew after the game, and I was fine."

After facing Columbus, the Sharks next game is Thursday at home against Dallas. Although Clowe said he hopes he's good to go against the Stars, there's no guarantee at this point.

"If he was completely comfortable and good we'd play him tonight," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He's that important to our team. The sooner the better, but the other thing we have to consider is not only the injury but the fact he hasn't skated in a while. We want to make sure that when he does go in he's ready to play and play the way he can."

The Sharks are also missing top-six forward Martin Havlat, who will miss his 18th straight game Tuesday night. Havlat is recovering from surgery to repair a partially torn hamstring tendon, but McLellan said he’s making good progress.

"When I came back from the All-Star break and walked in and he met me in the hallway, he looked really good," McLellan said. "That was the best I've seen him look. No crutches, no limp, walking very good. I think from this point forward it's about getting it strengthened up and conditioning now. I can't pinpoint a day for you, but the sooner the better."

McLellan said he doesn't even know when Havlat will return to the ice and resume practicing.

"I don't know what the training staff is thinking," he said. "I just know that he looked real good and he was bright again, he was smiling, and that's a big step in the right direction."

With Havlat and Clowe out, the Sharks recalled forward John McCarthy from Worcester of the AHL, and he will likely center the fourth line against Columbus.

Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray, meanwhile, will reach a milestone tonight when he plays in his 400th career game, all with San Jose.

"I love playing here," Murray said. "I don’t know if there's 29 other teams that don't want me or if I'm doing something right."

Murray, 31, is in his seventh season with the Sharks.

"I've got to be on some sort of record for how long it took me to get to 400," said a joking Murray.

Here's how the lineups could look tonight:

SHARKS
Andrew Desjardins - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - John McCarthy - Andrew Murray/Jim Vandermeer

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

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

BLUE JACKETS
Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Ryan Johansen
Ryan Russell - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Brett Lebda
John Moore - Marc Methot/David Savard
Aaron Johnson - Grant Clitsome

Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

Mason will get the start in goal for Columbus, interim coach Todd Richards said. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, first off the ice after Tuesday morning's skate, is expected to start for San Jose. Blue Jackets defenseman Marc Methot missed the morning skate because of an illness and is questionable for the game. David Savard would likely take Methot’s place if he can't play. San Jose defenseman Jason Demers will miss the game with a lower-body injury, but defenseman Brent Burns will return to the lineup after missing one game because of a knee-to-knee collision Jan. 23 at Edmonton.  Sharks defenseman Jim Vandermeer skated with the forwards Tuesday morning, but McLellan said he didn't know whether he'd be in the lineup. Vandermeer saw action at forward in the Sharks' last game before the All-Star Game break against Calgary.
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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 6:16 PM

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

Wingels will stay on Sharks' top line vs. Ottawa

SAN JOSE -- Midway through the San Jose Sharks' 2-1 shootout win over Calgary on Tuesday night, rookie forward Tommy Wingels jumped from the third line to the first, joining Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

That's where it looks like Wingels will be skating Thursday night when the Sharks face Ottawa at HP Pavilion.

"You prepare for moments like this," Wingels said after the morning skate. "When you think about playing up, this ultimately is the spot you want. You're always dreaming about playing with guys like that in this situation. I don't' think there's too much pressure. I'll just stick to my game. You can't change the way you play. I'm sure they'll do the same thing."

Thornton said Wingels "seemed to be calm" Tuesday night, and he expects him to remain that way in what could be seen as a pressure-filled assignment for a rookie.

"He's a pretty calm guy in general," Thornton said. "It didn't really faze him. Hopefully we get some chemistry and get it going."

"Chemistry isn't made overnight, but they're great players, and I'm just going to try to help them continue being great players," Wingels said.

Fourth-line center Andrew Desjardins will return to the lineup after missing two games with a head injury. He took a shoulder-to-head hit Saturday against Columbus from Dane Byers, who was suspended three games by the League.

Desjardins passed his baseline concussion test and was cleared on Wednesday to play.

"We expect him to be ready to go," coach Todd McLellan said.

The Sharks have been carrying three goaltenders since Dec. 23 when Antero Niittymaki was recalled from a conditioning stint with Worcester, joining Antti Niemi and backup Thomas Greiss.

Niittymaki hasn't played in or even dressed for a game this season with the Sharks since his recall. On Thursday, he headed back to Worcester for another conditioning assignment. He's expected to play two games for Worcester over the weekend, general manager Doug Wilson said.

Niittymaki's trip to Worcester coincides with the start of top goalie prospect Alex Stalock's stint at Stockton of the ECHL. Stalock suffered a season-ending injury during a game for Worcester last Feb. 4. He had a nerve behind his left knee severed when he was accidently stepped on by an opponent. He's expected to play his first game since that injury on Saturday.

Thursday night's game will be a reunion of sorts for McLellan and Ottawa Senators first-year coach Paul MacLean, who spent three seasons together as Detroit Red Wings assistants under Mike Babcock. They'll face each other for the first time as coaches in the NHL.

The Senators went 32-40-10 last season under Cory Clouston, who was let go and replaced by MacLean. This season, they're 26-16-6 and have gone 8-1-1 in their past 10 games.

"I think that Paul MacLean has done a tremendous job," McLellan said. "He's done such a good job instilling his system and getting the players to believe in it. I think when you watch them and do the pre-scout, it's pretty evident.

"Obviously spending time with him and Mike, I have a good idea of how they want to play, and you can see it. And I think that's a sign of a coach doing a tremendous job. … It looks like they're having fun playing the game. It looks like they have an identity. They're a very dynamic offensive team when they're on the entries. Their defense is up in the rush, very much like a Red Wing team."

And very much like a Sharks team, too, for that matter.

"I think there's similarities," MacLean said. "You don't work together with people and have success and not share ideas and have an idea of how to play, so there's really a lot of similarities among the three teams, I would say. But each person also brings their own little tweak, a thing that they might think is a little bit more important, but also the rest of the league mimics whatever's successful, so there's an awful lot of similarity throughout the league, too."

McLellan said he's probably "further into the evolution" away from his Red Wings days than MacLean because this is his fourth season at San Jose.

"You bring a lot of the principles with you, but if you're not changing and you're not evolving with your players and the tools you have, you're going to be left behind," McLellan said. "The game has changed a lot in our four years here."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 5:51 PM

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

Borowiecki set for NHL debut with Senators

SAN JOSE -- Two days after being called up from Binghamton of the AHL, Ottawa rookie defenseman Mark Borowiecki will make his NHL debut Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks.

Borowiecki got the news Thursday morning before the Senators skated at HP Pavilion.

"The first few strides around the rink I was a little wobbly, but I'm feeling good now," said Borowiecki, the first Ottawa native ever drafted by the Senators. "I'm definitely very excited. It's something you work all your life to get to. It's just nice to get a chance now."

Borowiecki said his father, Tom, mother, Cynthia, and sister, Diana, are flying to San Jose for the game and then will travel to Los Angeles, where the Senators play the Kings on Saturday. His father made the plans before Borowiecki learned that he would be in the lineup against San Jose.

"They made a little holiday of it. So it worked out well, eh?" said Borowiecki, a fifth-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.

When he was recalled, Borowiecki had 15 points for Binghamton - three goals and 12 assists - tops among defensemen, and led the team with a plus-3 rating. He'll take Matt Carkner's spot in the lineup against San Jose.

"We thought he had a real good season last year when Binghamton won the Calder Cup," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "He was a big part of it. He's had a good training camp with us and exhibition season. He's played real well for them down there. We really want to see him play here in the National Hockey League and give him that opportunity, and we're pretty excited to see him play."

While Borowiecki makes his NHL debut, veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar will play in his 1,100th NHL game Thursday night.

"It's actually amazing," Gonchar said after the morning skate. "I never thought I'd play in the NHL when I was growing up. Back then in Russia, not that many players played in the NHL. The biggest dream to accomplish was to play for the local team. … Then I was drafted, and I started playing in the NHL, and I never dreamed I'd play that long. Playing 1,100 games is something special. Not that many players have done it and especially not that many Russians have done it. It's a good accomplishment for me."

Gonchar, 37, is playing in his 17th NHL season, a fact that also amazes him.

"The thing is the time is flying by," he said. "It seems like I just started playing in the NHL a little while ago - then it's 1,100. Time is flying by, season after season."

Gonchar, who has 24 points this season in 41 games, said he's not sure how many more years he'll play.

"I'm still enjoying the game and I'm having fun," he said. "If I'm going to still have that feeling, I'm going to continue playing."

Thursday night's game will be a homecoming for Senators forward Milan Michalek. The Sharks drafted him with the No. 6 pick in 2003, and he played 317 games for San Jose before being traded to Ottawa on Sept. 12, 2009, as part of the Dany Heatley deal.

"I had some good years here, and I started my career here," Michalek said. "I'm excited to play here. The fans are great here every time. It's going to be a lot of fun tonight."

This will be Michalek's second game at the Shark Tank as a Senator. On Dec. 1, 2009, he had a pair of assists in a 5-2 loss to the Sharks in San Jose. This time he's returning as an NHL All-Star. He has 23 goals, three off his career single-season high set in 2006-07 with San Jose, a team he first played for when he was still a teenager.

"It flies by," Michalek, now 27, said of the time. "I was 18, and I really couldn't speak English. It was tough times, but it was also fun, too, those years. I have great memories."

Michalek said he was "surprised" when the Sharks traded him to Ottawa.

"I didn't see it at all coming. I wasn't disappointed or anything. It's the NHL and trades can happen at any time, and it happens to everybody almost," he said. "So I just took it as another opportunity and wanted to play."

Now, Michalek said, he's happy that's he's rewarding the Senators for their faith in him.

"Yeah, I feel good. They wanted me. It was good for me and I was confident coming there."

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

SHARKS

Tommy Wingels - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero

Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Brent Burns

Jason Demers - Justin Braun


Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

SENATORS

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Milan Michalek

Erik Condra - Kyle Turris - Daniel Alfredsson

Nick Foligno - Zack Smith - Chris Neal

Kaspars Daugavins - Zenon Konopka - Bobby Butler

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson

Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar

Chris Phillips - Mark Borowiecki

Craig Anderson

Alex Auld

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:08 PM

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

Projected lineups for Flames-Sharks

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:05 PM

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

Flames try to end road woes

SAN JOSE --The Calgary Flames are 10-1-1 in their past 12 home games, but they've struggled on the road, going 8-14-3 with five straight losses. They open a three-game road trip Tuesday night against the Sharks, then play at Los Angeles on Thursday and at Edmonton on Saturday.

"We've been very solid at home but unfortunately our road game hasn't been nearly good enough, but our home record has given us a chance to stay in the mix, to have a chance," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said after Calgary's morning skate at HP Pavilion. "We're going to need to win some road games, so this is an important road trip for us, there's no question.

"We have three games on the road here before the break. We start with one. It really is, just starting with one. San Jose is obviously a good team. They have a lot of energy in this building. We've just got to find ways to play similar to home, but it's easier said than done. Everybody's a little better at home, most teams. It's just kind of narrowing that margin. We need to find ways to win games. So it happens to be tonight. We just focus on all being good."

Calgary coach Brent Sutter's message to his team?

"The biggest thing for us is we want to have a good start," Sutter said. "We want to make sure that what's happened in the past to us on the road, we've got to move on past that. I think Cory (Sarich) said it best. We need to hit the reset button and start over and do how we need to do it on the road. Every game's tough in the National Hockey League, but when you get on the road you've got to really step up.

"There's circumstances and situations that occur that you have no control over, as far as what's going on in the building. The only thing we can control is how we play. To me it's getting our game and playing our game and making sure everyone's being responsible and accountable within their own game and playing within the team concept."

Miikka Kiprusoff will be in goal Tuesday night against the Sharks, his former team, and for all four games before the All-Star Game break, Sutter said.

"Miikka's been outstanding. He's played very well the whole year. He's been stellar for us," Sutter said. "We've had eight or nine games our backups have been able to play, but we felt here going down to the All-Star break, we could probably run it with Kipper.

"We're going to need both guys after that because the games pile up pretty quickly in a short period of time, but from now until the All-Star break we'll go with Kipper. He's been playing very, very well for us."

Calgary defenseman Scott Hannan came off injured reserve Tuesday, and will be in the lineup against San Jose, his former team, Sutter said. Hannan missed the past four games with an upper-body injury.

The Sharks drafted Hannan in the first round in 1997. He played six full seasons and parts of two others with the Sharks before signing with Colorado as a free agent in July 2007.

The Flames recalled defenseman Brett Carson from the AHL's Abbotsford Heat after his second conditioning assignment of the season. A back injury sidelined Carson until Dec. 11, when he made his debut this season. But he played just two games before being sidelined again, this time with a different injury, that was undisclosed.

Carson played seven games during his conditioning assignment, which began Jan. 4.

"It has been tough and frustrating," said Carson, who arrived at HP Pavilion just after the end of the Flames' morning skate. "That's the way it goes sometimes. I do feel better now. Hopefully I can get back in here soon and keep going forward. … Physically I feel good. The body held up good. That's a good sign."

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 6:02 PM

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

Sharks' Clowe to sit vs. Flames

SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks power forward Ryane Clowe will miss Tuesday night's game at HP Pavilion against Calgary because of an injury he suffered Jan. 10 at Minnesota when he was knocked face-first into the boards.

Clowe played the Sharks' next two games at Winnipeg and Columbus while wearing a cage to protect his face. Then on Sunday against Chicago, he played without the cage, saying that it was making it difficult for him to see on the ice.

"Clowie won't play tonight. He's got an upper-body injury, and he's day to day," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after San Jose's morning skate, saying Clowe's injury is related to his face-plant against the Wild.

With Clowe out of his normal spot on the second line, McLellan will have to do some serious juggling. During Tuesday morning's skate, Patrick Marleau moved back from the top line and took Clowe's spot with center Logan Couture and winger Benn Ferriero. Third-line wing Jamie McGinn skated on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Tommy Wingels took McGinn's spot on the third line, and Frazer McLaren skated on the fourth line.

"We'll come up with some line combinations which will not be written in stone," McLellan said. "We'll start from there. We'll see what the first five to 10 minutes gives us. Whoever's playing well is going to play."

The Sharks are already missing top-six forward Martin Havlat, who's out after undergoing surgery to repair a torn hamstring tendon.

"When you're missing the Havlats and Clowes, you begin to juggle and you try to find three real strong lines right off the bat," McLellan said.

McGinn said he's comfortable skating on the top line.

"I'll be ready to go and just continue to do the same stuff I've been successful with this year," McGinn said. "So I'm just going to keep skating and working hard. I'm fine with it. It doesn't change the fact of what I'm doing. I've got to keep things simple and just play my game."

McGinn has raised his level of play this season and already has nine goals and seven assists.

"I think at this point last year we were begging for a goal, trying to get him to understand what he needed to do as a player," McLellan said. "Never quite got it. Needed to go back to the minors to refine that. Came back this year with a pretty clear conscience and pretty clear menu of what he needs to do as a player to be successful, and he's playing toward that."

Sharks forward Andrew Desjardins skated Tuesday morning for the first time since taking a hit to the head from Columbus' Dane Byers on Saturday but won't be in the lineup against the Flames.

"I went out there and tested the waters a bit," Desjardins said. "I felt good. We have to go day by day and make sure everything's right."

Desjardins said he has yet to take his baseline concussion test.

"The fact that he put the skates on and was out there is a step in the right direction," McLellan said.

Byers was suspended three games by the NHL for his shoulder-to-head hit on Desjardins.

"We're happy that the league sent a message," McLellan said. "Hopefully, again, the players watch, listen and learn. They have to. They have to take care of each other. It doesn't mean you can't play physical, but they're responsible for those type of hits."

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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 5:30 PM

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

Sharks eager to face Ovechkin

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin got off to a slow start this season, but he'll take the ice Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks on a seven-game scoring streak with seven goals and four assists during that span.

While going up against Ovechkin will be a challenge, veteran Sharks defensemen Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle said they can't wait for the puck to drop.

"He's fun to play against," Murray said after the Sharks' morning skate. "He plays the game the right way. You always want to play against the top players. He's a physical player, and I enjoy that. It's like with a few other players around the League – big, physical forwards that I go up against.

"I wouldn't say there's hatred or anything like that. It's more of a, 'I got to shut him down and he's got to score a goal.' It's more fun than anything."

Added Boyle: "It's fun. I think I enjoy playing against the top guys. I've said that before. He sees matchups every night, so it's nothing new for him. He's playing real well right now. Hopefully we'll get the job done defensively."

San Jose coach Todd McLellan said that Ovechkin demands plenty of attention, but that the Sharks can't forget about the rest of the Caps.

"They have a number of superstars, and you can't zero in on one individual -- although he's the kingpin there. He's the guy that pulls the trigger and makes things happen," McLellan said.

Unfortunately for the Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom, their leading scorer, will miss Saturday night's game after getting elbowed in the head on Tuesday by Calgary's Rene Bourque.

The Capitals have won four straight games, and Ovechkin said getting off to a fast start will be a key for Washington to continue that streak against San Jose, especially at the Shark Tank, where the Capitals haven't won since Oct. 30, 1993.

"It's always nice to have a winning streak and you always want to continue what you're doing, but, again, it's a hard building for us to play," Ovechkin said. "We didn't win here for I don't know how many years. We just have to not think about it and play better than we've played."

Mitchell's back: Sharks winger Torrey Mitchell was a healthy scratch for the first time this season Thursday night against Columbus, but he'll be back on the third line against Washington.

"I talked to Torrey, and he gave me all the answers that I needed," McLellan said. "He told me what he thought his strengths were as a player and what his assets were, that he thought he needed to bring to the table on a nightly basis. It was a pretty simple conversation. I didn't even need to say anything. So you have to give him credit for a very good self evaluation. Sometimes players don't see it like that. Torrey saw it like that. He knew. He could feel it coming.

"His speed, his energy, his tenacity, the ability to turn over pucks. Every team has a couple of those players that are really quick, and they have to have an impact on the game. Torrey will have that and we know he'll be very good moving forward."

Mitchell has just 7 points – 4 goals and 3 assists – in 33 games this season.

Based on the line rushes during the Sharks' morning skate, fourth-line wing Andrew Murray will be out of the lineup, and Tommy Wingels will get a second straight start since being recalled from Worcester of the AHL.

Sheppard feeling good: James Sheppard said he has made "big gains" recently in his recovery from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2010-11 season and that he has set a March 1 target date for his return to action.

"It's hard to have set times and stuff like that, but it's time for me to set a goal and work hard to get that goal," Sheppard said. "There's no excuses anymore. We just kind of picked March 1st out. I'd say that's the latest. I want to be back as soon as I can, and I just know that I'll be there by then."

Sheppard, acquired by the Sharks from Minnesota on Aug. 7 for a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, skated with the full team for a second straight day Saturday.

"I felt good out there. When you have good days, you feel good to go on the ice the day after. Mike Potenza and I have been working hard, working really smart," he said of the Sharks' strength and conditioning coordinator. "We're doing things the right way, and we're making big gains. We're happy about that. To be on the ice and not have to think about my knee pain is huge. It's everything."



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Posted On Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 4:14 PM

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

Backstrom out as precaution for Caps

SAN JOSE – The Washington Capitals will be without Nicklas Backstrom, their leading scorer, when they face San Jose on Saturday night at HP Pavilion, coach Dale Hunter said after his team’s morning skate.

Backstrom was elbowed in the head Tuesday by Calgary’s Rene Bourque. He practiced with the team on Friday in San Jose but was not on the ice Saturday.

Hunter said Backstrom has not suffered a setback.

“You just got to be careful. He feels good, but you still got to be careful with it,” Hunter said.

Backstrom leads the Capitals with 42 points – 13 goals and 29 assists. He’s tied for ninth in the NHL in points. As tough as it is for the Capitals to play without Backstrom, wing Mike Knuble said giving him more time to recover is the right move.

“We’ve all seen what happens when you put a guy in too early or if he’s not feeling right,” Knuble said. “It’s just potential for a lot more injury and potential for turning a mole hill into a mountain. Smart. Good idea. It’s January. It’s not like it’s a do-or-die game.”

Based on the Capitals’ line rushes Saturday morning, wing Alexander Semin will join Knuble on the second line with Marcus Johansson sliding over to center. Semin was absent Tuesday with an upper-body injury but is ready to return.

Backstrom has points in five straight games – a goal and seven assists. He has 18 power-play points, tied for third most in the NHL.

“It’s never good when you play without one of the best players on your team, but, again, it is what it is,” forward Alex Ovechkin said. “It’s a great game for different guys to step up and play our way without Nick.”

This is how the lineups could look Saturday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Washington Capitals at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

Patrick MarleauJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski
Ryane CloweLogan CoutureBenn Ferriero
Jamie McGinnMichal HandzusTorrey Mitchell
Brad WinchesterAndrew DesjardinsTommy Wingels

Dan BoyleMarc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason DemersBrent Burns
Douglas MurrayJustin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss   

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinBrooks LaichTroy Brouwer
Alexander Semin - Marcus JohanssonMike Knuble
Jason ChimeraJeff HalpernJoel Ward
Matt HendricksMathieu Perreault - Jay Beagle

Karl Azner – John Carlson
Roman HamrlikDennis Wideman
John ErskineMike Green

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 5:40 PM

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

Backup goalies to battle in San Jose

SAN JOSE -- It will be a battle of the backup goaltenders Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face Columbus at HP Pavilion.

San Jose's Thomas Greiss will make his first start since Dec. 3, ending Antti Niemi's streak of starts at 13. For the Blue Jackets, Curtis Sanford will be in goal for the first time since suffering injuries to his back and hip on Dec. 22 against Nashville.

Niemi started 17 of the past 18 games, while Greiss has watched and waited.

"It wasn't that bad," Greiss said of the long layoff. "We do a little extra stuff, skate a little more. It wasn't that bad. That's the role of the backup. Nemo has been playing really well so it was good for the team. I have to be ready when I have to be ready."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he expects Greiss to be up to speed when the puck drops.

"It's the job of any goaltender to be ready at any time, whether you're starting for the first time in a number of days or whether you've got to go in," McLellan said. "I watched the Russian goaltender in the junior tournament go in in a pressure situation with five minutes left. He was ready. That's the sign of a true pro. That happens in our league. You look around, the No. 1s play the majority of the games. The 2s have to be prepared, and they have to produce."

That's especially true on a team like San Jose, which has three veteran goaltenders - Niemi, Greiss and Antero Niittymaki, who has yet to play since rejoining the team Dec. 13 after recovering from offseason hip surgery.

Greiss enters the game with a 4-4 record, a 2.37 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.

Sanford said he's feeling healthy again, thanks to some anti-inflammatory medicine, and is "definitely anxious" to get back on the ice.

"I know I'm going in there against a strong team, but every team is strong," Sanford said. "It really doesn't matter who you're playing on any given night. Just a matter of preparing myself like I usually do and go out there and try to help the team win."

Sanford has appeared in only 16 games, to 23 for Steve Mason, but he has by far the best goaltending stats on the team. He is 5-6-3 with a 2.66 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. Mason is 5-16-2 with a 3.33 goals against average and .885 save percentage.

"I'd like them to be better," Sanford said of his numbers. "I think that's the goal, to try and keep improving every game. When you improve every game it's by improving in practice, too. I'm just trying to work hard in practice and keep a level head. I know this year's been tough for us, but now we're in 2012. We've got to turn the page on 2011 and find a way to rack up some wins."

The Blue Jackets are last in the NHL with just 25 points. Columbus will face a Sharks team that leads the Pacific Division with 45 points but is playing for the second straight night and with a goaltender who hasn't faced a real shot in more than a month.

"We're at a position in our season where we're so focused on ourselves and getting ourselves better, it doesn't matter who they throw at us," Jackets captain Rick Nash said. "We have to look at it that he might be a little rusty to the game speed. We've got to try and get in as many shots as we can. If he hasn't' started since Dec. 3, we have to try to use anything to our advantage because we definitely need all the help we can get."

The Blue Jackets will certainly be more rested than San Jose. They haven't played since Dec. 31, when they blew a 2-0 third-period lead and lost 4-2 at home to Washington.

"We have to take advantage of that first period," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. "We can't allow them to have an easy game. They're a team that always starts strong in this building. If we can catch them a little bit maybe fatigued or a little bit slow out of the gate, then we have to take advantage of that. We can't make it an easy game by allowing them to be on the power play. We can't turn pucks over. We've got to play a straight-line game and get them skating real early."

McLellan said the Blue Jackets are playing much better recently than their record indicates and that his team can't afford a slow start after emotional road wins at Vancouver on Monday and at Anaheim on Wednesday.

"I think we've got our hands full," McLellan said. "They seem to come out of the gates fairly strong lately. With us playing three (games) in four (nights) and some travel, we have to make sure we're prepared when the puck is dropped and not wade our way into the game."

The Sharks recalled forward Tommy Wingels from Worcester of the AHL and placed defenseman Colin White (lower body) on injured reserve. White has missed the past three games.

------=

McLellan said "there's a good chance" that Wingels will be in the lineup against Columbus. He had a team-high 13 goals, along with eight assists, for Worcester. He opened the season with San Jose but had just one assist in three games before being sent down.

"He has played extremely well down there," McLellan said. "I've been told he's one of the best players in the American (Hockey) League, and that's exciting to know he can come up and be that guy we can count on for some big shifts, especially after three games in four nights."

If Wingels plays Thursday night, the question is who sits. Asked if former Blue Jacket Andrew Murray, a fourth-line wing, would be in the lineup, McLellan said that would be a game-time decision.

------=

Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash told the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday that he would be willing to waive the no-movement clause in his contract if that would help the organization.

"I would do what was best for the organization," Nash said Thursday, after the Blue Jackets' morning skate. "It's given me a lot and has been loyal to me. My no. 1 priority is to stay here.

"I think Columbus deserves a winner, and the organization and the ownership is great. It's been awesome. If they came to me and realized they wanted to shake things up, I wouldn't want to stay where I wasn't wanted. That hasn't happened yet. I don't expect it."

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Columbus Blue Jackets at HP Pavilion:

Columbus

Rick Nash - Jeff Carter - Ryan Johansen

Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Mark Letestu

R.J. Umberger - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett

Derick Brassard - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Mark Methot

John Moore - Grant Clitsome

Aaron Johnson - David Savard


Curtis Sanford

Steve Mason

San Jose

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero

Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell

Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray/Tommy Wingels


Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Jason Demers - Brent Burns

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun


Thomas Greiss

Antti Niemi

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Posted On Friday, 12.23.2011 / 5:00 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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 -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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 -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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 -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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:

SHARKS
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

KINGS
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 -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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:

SHARKS

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

OILERS

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 -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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:

SHARKS

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

WILD

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 -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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:

SHARKS

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

PANTHERS

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 -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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 -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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:

SHARKS

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

CANUCKS

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 -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 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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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 3:58 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Wild

Here's how the lineups could look Thursday night when the Sharks host the Wild at HP Pavilion:

SHARKS

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

Dan Boyle - Douglas Murray
Brent Burns - Colin White
Justin Braun - Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

WIILD
Guillaume Latendresse - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley
Devin Setoguchi - Matt Cullen - Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Cal Clutterbuck - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Colton Gillies - Darroll Powe - Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz - Marek Zidlicky
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 5:37 PM

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

Back to the grind for Rinne

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Two days ago, Nashville's Pekka Rinne recorded what Predators coach Barry Trotz called a goalie's hat trick. He signed a seven-year, $49 million contract, celebrated his 29th birthday and shut out the Phoenix Coyotes 3-0.

It was a day Rinne said he'll never forget, but now he's back to the regular NHL grind, and he'll be back on the ice Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.

"I think now it's back to normal, back to our routines," Rinne said Saturday morning, outside of the Predators' dressing room at HP Pavilion, as some of his teammates went through an optional skate. "But yeah, the other day was an amazing day. A lot of things happened for me in one day. It was a special day."

Rinne was in goal on Nov. 25 when the Sharks beat the Preds 3-1 in Nashville. He faced 35 shots and gave up two goals, one to Joe Pavelski and one to Logan Couture.

"They are a really good team," Rinne said. "It's going to be a good challenge for us. Last time we played a good game, actually. It was a good matchup. We usually play pretty good games against these guys. It's a good challenge for us. They have a lot of firepower up front. Same thing on the blue line, skilled guys. With these guys you always have to be focused and ready and alert. All the lines, they can score. It's going to be a fun game."

Rinne has had three shutouts in his past six games, giving him 23 for his career.

"To me, obviously it feels great always to get a shutout," Rinne said. "But to me, those are also kind of team accomplishments. Like last game against Phoenix, there were a couple times when I was out of position and our 'D' blocked a shot and saved a sure goal for me that otherwise would have been in the back of my net. Those things, a lot of time you need everybody. It's not only me. It's nice, though."

Trotz said the way Rinne handled the excitement and pressure Thursday that came with signing his mega-deal showed "the maturity" of his goaltender.

"Last year when (Rinne) was nominated for the Vezina , we all said to ourselves, 'Now our little secret's out,'" Trotz said. "We've known how good he is, and coaches, especially in the Western Conference, know how good he is. I think it's just a little bit of the rest of the hockey world didn't know how good he is."

Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein, who took a puck off an ankle Thursday night against Phoenix, was not on the ice during Saturday morning's optional skate. Trotz said it will be a game-time decision whether Klein plays against the Sharks.

Forward Sergei Kostitsyn skated Saturday morning but will also be a game-time decision, Trotz said. He returned Thursday against Phoenix after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 4:33 PM

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

Projected lineups for Sharks, Predators

Here’s how the lineups could look Saturday night when the Sharks host the Predators at HP Pavilion.

SHARKS

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

Dan BoyleDouglas Murray
Brent BurnsMarc-Edouard Vlasic
Justin BraunColin White

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

PREDATORS

Colin WilsonMike FisherPatric Hornqvist
Sergei KostitsynDavid LegwandPatric Hornqvist
Jordin TootooCraig SmithJerred Smithson
Niclas BergforsBlake GeoffrionMatt Halischuk

Ryan SuterShea Weber
Francis BouillonKevin Klein
Jonathon BlumJack Hillen

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 4:21 PM

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

Sharks could stick with new-look lines

SAN JOSE – Shortly after falling behind by two goals in the first period Thursday night against Pittsburgh, Sharks coach Todd McLellan began juggling his lines, and those changes helped spark a 4-3 shootout win.

McLellan liked what he saw from his new-look lines against Pittsburgh, and he said “there’s a good chance” he’ll open with them Saturday night against Nashville.

During the morning skate, regular second-line center Logan Couture worked with the first line at right wing, along with center Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Regular first-line left wing Patrick Marleau centered the second line with Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell, who moved up from the third line. Mitchell swapped places with Martin Havlat, who skated on the third line with center Michal Handzus and left wing Jamie McGinn.

“We’re 11 games into the season. You can get a little bit stale,” McLellan said of the changes. “And we weren’t getting a lot from our third and fourth lines, anyhow. Our other two lines for the most part carried the team on the road trip, but they started to sputter at the end, too. Maybe a fresh look -- it’s time.”

With these changes, McLellan spread the offensive firepower more evenly throughout his top three lines. By moving Marleau to the second line, he believes he created a matchup problem for Nashville, which features one of the league’s top defensive pairs in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

“They’ll try to match up against one of our big centermen, I’m assuming [Thornton], so that will allow another big body in [Marleau] to play against other pairs. When you put [Marleau] and [Clowe] together, they’re two big men. If they’re playing well, they’re a load to handle down low.”

Havlat said he skated on the same line at times with Handzus five years ago for the Blackhawks.

“He’s very smart with the puck, with the positioning,” Havlat said. “He’s a very good passer and play-maker. He can give you the puck pretty quick. He’s great at both ends, offensively and defensively.”

Couture said the moves make sense after the way the Sharks bounced back against Pittsburgh.

“We obviously knew we didn’t play well in the first period the other night,” Clowe said. “He changes things up and it seemed to turn us around a little bit. We played better after that. I think that’s the seasoning behind it. … Whoever I get to play with I’m glad to. I’ve gone from two good players to two good players. Hopefully I can get something going tonight.”

First-line wing Joe Pavelski is still battling a flu bug, but he was on the ice for Saturday morning’s skate and said he will play against Nashville. Pavelski, who did not practice on Friday, said he felt “better” Saturday.
“It’s something you have to deal with.”

Pavelski said he was dealing with the flu “a little bit” Thursday night against Pittsburgh but didn’t use it as an excuse for going without a point and posting a minus-2.

“I’ve got to be better than I was then,” he said. “First period was not good by any means. We need better starts there. It was good to see guys battle back, not totally waste the whole night.”
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 3:45 PM

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

Sharks come right back with Niemi

SAN JOSE – Antti Niemi will be back in goal Saturday night for the Sharks against Nashville, two days after giving up two goals in the first two minutes and four seconds against Pittsburgh and getting pulled for backup Thomas Greiss.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the decision to start Niemi was an “easy” one for him to make, even though Greiss gave up just one goal and stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 4-3 shootout win.

“He’s going to be our goaltender when it counts,” McLellan said Saturday of Niemi after the Sharks’ morning skate at HP Pavilion. “He hasn’t had a lot of time throughout training camp and he needs to play some games. So it’s pretty simple. With that being said, Thomas played extremely well. We all appreciate his effort and he’ll get many more opportunities to play this year, but tonight it’s about [Niemi] getting his game back.”

Niemi, who faced just six shots Thursday, said he’s ready to put the game behind him.

“I think just get right back at it. Hopefully get some saves today early on. For my part, I want to get past that game as fast as possible,” Niemi said.

McLellan said he expects Niemi to bounce back and have a solid game.

“The other night I think there was a real focus on us pulling [Niemi], but if we could have pulled 18 other guys and replaced them, we would have done that, too,” McLellan said. “It just happens to be that position where a goaltender gets yanked and he doesn’t go back in. we expect him to be sharp along with the other 18 guys that are dressed.”

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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:59 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blues, Sharks

Here are the possible lineups for the Blues and Sharks for tonight's game in San Jose.

BLUES
T.J. Oshie - David Backes - Jamie Langenbrunner
Vladimir Sobotka - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Alexander Steen - Jason Arnott - Matt D'Agostini
Evgeny Grachev - Scott Nichol - Chris Porter

Kent Huskins - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Nikita Nikitin - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott will make his season debut in goal, with Jaroslav Halak serving as the backup.

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

Dan Boyle - Douglas Murray
Brent Burns - Marc-Edouard-Vlasic
Jason Demers - Jim Vandermeer

Thomas Greiss was the first goalie off the ice after the morning skate, meaning its likely he's the starter. However, coach Todd McLellan said it would be a game-time decision on whether it's Greiss or Antti Niemi.

For more on the game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:33 PM

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

Homecoming game for 2 Blues

Saturday night's game will be a homecoming of sorts for Blues center Scot Nichol and defenseman Kent Huskins, a pair of ex-Sharks. Meanwhile, Sharks fourth-line forward Brad Winchester will face his former team.

Nichol is known as an agitator, and he said that won't change, even against his former teammates. Nichol spent the last two season in San Jose.

"That's my game," Nichol said. "Everyone has a role. You just play hard in between whistles. It's always nice to come in and have a good game and be successful coming into your old rink. We'll just see how it goes. I made some great friends over the last couple years here, but it's sports and it's a job."

Huskins, who also played the previous two seasons with the Sharks, is skating on the first defensive pair with Alex Pietrangelo.

"I enjoyed my time here," Huskins said. "I felt like I learned a lot as a player. Went through some tough things injury-wise, but in the long run, overcoming that kind of makes you a stronger person. I'm looking to kind of bring that to the table in St. Louis. I'm really excited to be here now with this group."

Winchester said he had a "lot of memories" from his time in St. Louis.

"It's a tight-knit group in that locker room. We went through a lot with that playoff run a few years ago," Winchester said. "Certainly with the coaching change and all of that, there were some really good times there. Still, I'm tight with a lot of those guys in the room, and the city of St. Louis, a fantastic place."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:29 PM

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

Burns feels terrible for Blake

During Friday night's game, Sharks defenseman Brent Burns accidentally sliced the left forearm of Anaheim's Jason Blake with his skate. The Ducks said Saturday that Blake will undergo surgery Monday to repair severed tendons and will need three months to recover.

"You feel bad," Burns said. "You never want to have that happen. I rushed out and saw him just before he went in the ambulance. As I'm walking back, he's got his family there with his kids. You never want that."

Burns said initially he didn't realize he had injured Blake.

"It was a weird, freak play," Burns said. "The battle on the faceoff. I didn't really know he fell right away. He was kind of behind me. The puck was kind of there. I was trying to kick the puck up. I think he was trying to get the puck. It was just a battle. I didn't really know he was on the ground. I was trying to kick it up."

McLellan said it "wasn't a pretty site" with Blake on the ice, bleeding.

"We talk a lot about protecting players and making the environment safe for them. That's probably one area that we've got to talk about," McLellan said. "The skates are so sharp. The physicality of the game, the intensity of it, guys are on the ice an awful lot. We all hope that Jason's OK."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:25 PM

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

Questions in goal for Sharks

Sharks coach Todd McLellan refused to name a starting goalie -- Thomas Greiss or Antti Niemi -- for tonight's game. Greiss was the first goalie off the ice during Saturday's optional skate, an indication he'll probably start his third straight game.

Niemi, who underwent surgery to remove a cyst from a leg in late September, missed the first game and dressed as the backup Friday night.

"Nemo (Niemi) is available to us, and we'll make a decision before the game tonight on who is playing," McLellan said.

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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:23 PM

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

Vandermeer in for Sharks

San Jose, coming off a 1-0 loss Friday night to Anaheim, likely will have one lineup change. Defenseman Jim Vandermeer will make his Sharks debut in place of Colin White, and team with Jason Demers in the third pair.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said there's a "very good chance" Vandermeer will play against St. Louis.

"I'm definitely excited to get going, whether it's tonight or the next game or the game after that," Vandermeer said. "Whenever it is, I'll be ready to go."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:22 PM

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

Grachev, Porter draw in for Blues

The head injury first-line center Andy McDonald suffered Thursday against Dallas has forced Blues coach Davis Payne to juggle his lineup for tonight's game against the Sharks. McDonald returned to St. Louis on Friday to be examined by team doctors, and the Blues won't have an update on his situation until Monday.

His absence means Evgeny Grachev and Chris Porter, healthy scratches in the Blues' first three games, likely will skate together on the fourth line, with center Scott Nichol.

Grachev, acquired from the New York Rangers over the summer, said he's "excited" to play his first game as a Blue and is confident after a strong preseason.

"I feel comfortable after playing all those game," Grachev said. "I feel comfortable with the group that's here. Nothing outside of me can prevent me from doing my best. It's all up to me. I'm real comfortable with everything here, and I'm confident in my abilities. I've just got to work hard and see what happens."

Payne declined to reveal how he would juggle his lines in the wake of McDonald's injury.

"With Andy's situation, obviously somebody's going to draw into that spot," Payne said. "We'll look at a number of different options tonight."

One option would be to move left wing T.J. Oshie from the second line to McDonald's spot on the first line, then shift Vladimir Sobotka from the fourth line to Oshie's spot.
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:18 PM

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

Elliott to start for Blues

Backup goalie Brian Elliott will make his first start Blues tonight when St. Louis plays the San Jose Sharks.

Elliott will start in place of Jaroslav Halak, who is expected to be back in goal Sunday, when the Blues play at Anaheim in the second of back-to-back games. Elliott, a free-agent pickup, hasn't played since the preseason, but coach Davis Payne said he's not concerned.

"No worries about that," Payne said after the Blues' morning skate at HP Pavilion. "One thing a goalie in that situation knows is he's got to prepare extremely well. He's worked his tail off. A guy that does that, he's got a good foundation to step in and perform well."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.21.2011 / 2:40 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Sharks stick to the plan

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Sharks had stressed the importance of staying out of the penalty box Friday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals after getting scorched by Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the power play in a Game 2 loss to Vancouver.
 
That plan worked to perfection for the Sharks in the first period as they built a 3-0 lead. Then the second period began, and the penalties returned. In a span of less than nine minutes, the Sharks were hit with four penalties, as Joe Pavelski, Andrew Desjardins, Joe Thornton and Desjardins again paraded to the penalty box.
 
But instead of having another penalty kill meltdown, the Sharks prevailed during that critical stretch. They killed all four of those second-period penalties, including two when the Canucks had 5-on-3 advantages. And instead of blowing part or all of their lead, which their leaky penalty kill in Game 2 suggested they might do, the Sharks took their 3-0 edge into the third period and held on for a 4-3 win.
 
During most of that 5-on-3 time, Pavelski and defensemen Douglas Murray and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were on the ice with goaltender Antti Niemi.
 
Pavelski, Murray and Vlasic formed a tight triangle of bodies in front of Niemi. The shots that did get past that wall, Niemi handled.
 
"It's tough," Vlasic said. "You're just trying to stay in a small triangle, blocking all the shots, getting in lanes. Murray and Pavelski blocked five each, I think. So it was huge. They're going up and down. I'm going side to side, just getting in lanes, and Nemo made a nice save once or twice. We limited their chances 5-on-3, but guys did a great job blocking shots."
 
Murray had five blocks for the game, while Pavelski had three and Vlasic two.
 
"Obviously you can't cover everything," Murray said. "You've just got to block as many shots as you can when they're taking them. I think we did a good job of that. Whatever went through, Nemo took care of."
 
The key to the Sharks' success against Vancouver's 5-on-3 onslaught was for the defensemen to stay in a tight group in front of Niemi, Murray said.
 
"If you spread it out too much you can't recover and they can make plays through the box," Murray said. "We're trying to make sure – I mean somebody's going to be open, it's 5-on-3 – whatever shots they're taking we can block them or Nemo doesn't move too much side to side. Tried to make it as easy of shots as possible."
 
In Game 2, Vancouver had three power play goals in seven chances, with Daniel Sedin scoring twice with the man advantage, and Henrik Sedin assisting on both goals.
 
"It was great adjustment there on the 5-on 3," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. "They were bombing away. It's tough to get too much done when you've only got three guys, so all you've got to do is hope and block shots, and that's what we did."
 
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Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp