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Sharks' Clowe to be a game-time decision

by Eric Gilmore /
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- All eyes were on injured Sharks forward Ryane Clowe during Thursday's optional skate here at HP Pavilion, but the "Clowe Watch" will continue until the puck drops Thursday night for Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings (9 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS).

Clowe missed Game 6 at Detroit with an upper-body injury and hadn't been on the ice since Game 5 in San Jose.

"Game-time decision," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Clowe. "He's feeling pretty good."

Clowe was one of just a handful of Sharks who took part in the skate. He went through a variety of drills -- skating, shooting and passing. So what will be the determining factors on whether Clowe plays?

"Ryane Clowe, the trainer and the impact that he can have on the game positively and negatively," McLellan said.

Clowe doesn't draw as much of the spotlight as the Sharks' "Big 3" of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, but McLellan and his teammates certainly know what his return would mean.

"Well, he's our leading scorer in the playoffs, so that would be my obvious answer," McLellan said of Clowe, who leads the team with 13 points. "He's 6-foot-3 and he's 240 pounds. He's a leader in the locker room, he's very good on the power play, protects and holds pucks well against the wall. I could go on and on. That's what he means to our team."

Even if he plays, Clowe undoubtedly won't be 100-percent healthy, but Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi said he'd gladly take whatever Clowe could give the team.

"At this time of the year I don't think anyone's 100 percent," Setoguchi said. "But definitely having him back would be a major boost for our hockey club. Anyone who knows Ryane knows the passion that he has for the game and what he brings to our team on and off the ice. So I think it would be big for us."

The Sharks need all the emotion and passion they can muster after their lackluster effort in Game 6 at Detroit, when they were outshot 45-25 and lost 3-1 to the Red Wings. The Sharks have lost three straight games, and they're at risk of becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to lose a series after leading 3-0.

McLellan often has said his team plays its best hockey when it's uncomfortable and they'll get a chance to prove that Thursday.

"Maybe more so this year than any of my previous years here, we've been kicked hard in some not so good spots and we've responded well," McLellan said. "You can call it resiliency, you can call it whatever you want, but our skin has grown a little bit thicker, we've handled ourselves a little bit better, we've held each other accountable a little bit more in all of those situations. We have to see that come out tonight."

The Sharks could be feeling the weight of their three straight losses to Detroit as well as that of past postseason failures. For all its success during the regular season, this is a franchise that has yet to reach a Stanley Cup Final.

"It is what it is," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "We're in a different year. We've taken some steps last year. We're in the process of taking another step. Yeah, there have been failures in the past. It's a good challenge for us to step up.

"It's a good stage to step up and show what you can do. The pressure just brings out your skills, gives you a good test to show you where you're at as a professional, as a player, as a person. It's exciting. We just have to come out and play. That's what they've done. They showed up and they've played hard, they've played loose, and we can maybe take a page from their book."

Just three years ago, the Sharks faced a Game 7 at HP Pavilion in the quarterfinals against Calgary, and won it 5-3 thanks in part to Pavelski's go-ahead goal. Joe Thornton remembers taking full advantage of their home-ice advantage and high-decibel crowd that game.

"We fed off the energy early on," Thornton said. "We played well that night. So just feed off the energy and stay within yourself."

"They're so loud," rookie forward Logan Couture said of Sharks fans. "It feels like they're right on top of you. I've got some friends from around the League, they tell me how intimidating it is to play in this rink, and the fans are so loud and so crazy. We feel that on the bench, and I'm sure the opposing team feels that."
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