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

by Eric Gilmore

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."

The Sharks trail 3-2 in a best-of-7 series for the 10th time in franchise history. They lost Game 6 in all but one of those previous nine. The win came in the 1999 conference quarterfinals against the Calgary Flames. They defeated the Flames 5-3 at home in Game 6 then captured a 5-4 victory in double overtime at Calgary in Game 7.

The Sharks have often talked about being a more resilient team this year than in the past, but that resiliency will face its toughest test under the pressure of a must-win.

"We have a lot of guys that like to compete in here and have a lot of character and it will come out," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "In a situation like this, it always comes out. We're looking forward to Game 6 coming home, and we'll be ready for it."

The Sharks defeated the Kings at HP Pavilion in Games 3 and 4, each a 2-1 score. In Game 4, the Sharks took a 2-0 lead at 3:55 of the second period on a Couture power-play goal. The Sharks haven't scored a goal since then -- a span of 96 minutes, 5 seconds -- and have been outscored 4-0.

The Kings dominated play for much of the second period and most of the third in Game 4; the Sharks had four shots in the final 36:05. After the puck dropped for Game 5, the Kings were by far the more aggressive, physical and energized team. They outhit the Sharks 51-24 and outshot them 29-24.

"They were more desperate than us last night, that's for sure," Couture said. "We didn't bring an effort that was good enough for playoff hockey. Our lives are on the line now. One loss and we're done. We have to be the desperate team now. It's win or go home. We've got to bring our best effort."

Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart said the Kings deserve credit for playing a strong game at home.

"They had a lot energy and were making it hard on us," Stuart said. "I just think we didn't match that, didn't match their energy, match the physical play that they brought. That was probably the difference. We have to get home and generate more energy here and have a good start."

After the Kings' Game 4 loss, Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter juggled his lines, splitting top-line center Anze Kopitar and captain Dustin Brown. Brown dropped to the third line, and fourth-line wing Kyle Clifford moved to the top line.

"Yeah, they shuffled it around," Pavelski said. "Woke them up a little bit, I guess. They played a harder game, I guess, but we're not worried about what they're doing. It's on us. Last night's game, the effort level, the execution, that was on us."

Throughout the season, Sharks coach Todd McLellan never hesitated to juggle his lines when his team struggled.

"There's always a chance of that," McLellan said.

A good chance?

"We'll see. You have to look at what they're doing," he said. "You just don't show up at the rink and start moving numbers around. We've had success in the playoffs playing with some line combinations, especially pairs of players. In my opinion, of our nine playoff games that was the weakest effort that we've had. Things didn't work out. We didn't have our legs, we didn't execute. Some of that had to do with L.A. A lot of that had to do with San Jose.

"If we bring our energy level back to where it needs to be and we get some jump in our legs and we execute a little better, maybe we don't have to mix the lines up. We'll approach the game with a plan and be prepared to move it around if we have to."

The Sharks haven't had fourth-line energizer Adam Burish in this series after he broke his right hand in Game 4 of the quarterfinal sweep of the Vancouver Canucks. But McLellan said Burish is very close to being cleared by doctors to play "and he may be an option" for Game 6.

Burish won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.

"An experienced player that's played in some big games," McLellan said of Burish. "A right-handed faceoff guy, a penalty killer, a big … disturber, if you will, on the ice. Those are some assets that we could use."

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