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Sharks plan to take more shots at Predators

by Eric Gilmore

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.

"We looked at the goals that were scored last night in the (NHL) 5-on-5 and how they were scored and we talked about that as a group. And it's working for some players. That's just the way the game is being played, firing pucks from bad angles, getting it to the net, scoring ugly goals. Some of the players that are struggling on the San Jose Sharks team, but also in the National Hockey League, are having a tough time grasping that and (are) not playing that way. The game is changing and they have to change with it or they get left behind."

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson hammered home the shoot-first point Friday during an interview with the San Jose Mercury News and Comcast SportsNet.

"We have to buy into doing the things that teams that are scoring and having success in this League are doing on a nightly basis, and we haven't," Wilson said. "We've become a pass-first team in a shoot-first league."

Neither McLellan nor Wilson named names, but it's clear that they'd like captain Joe Thornton, among others, to start firing more pucks at the net. He was involved in a couple two-on-ones Thursday night in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings that resulted in no shots on goal.

"Obviously if it's an open net you're going to shoot," Thornton said. "I think I've done a pretty good job in my career of knowing when to shoot and knowing when to pass."

Thornton acknowledged that teams have become so good at blocking shots and closing shooting lanes that it's important to shoot whenever an opportunity arises.

"Teams, they block so many shots these days," Thornton said. "A lane to the net for a defenseman or a forward closes very quickly. So just get it there and hopefully people are there to get the rebound in."

Getting back on track offensively won't be easy for the Sharks against Nashville and goaltender Pekka Rinne. The Predators defeated the Sharks 2-1 in a shootout at HP Pavilion on Feb. 2, ending their seven-game winning streak to start the season. Ten days later, the Predators defeated the Sharks 1-0 in overtime at Nashville.

Rinne stopped 51 of 52 shots during those two victories, and he stopped all three shots he faced in the shootout.

"That's one of those things," Rinne said. "Sometimes that just happens. But I think we like to play the Sharks. It's always a good challenge. This is a good building too. It's a fun place to play. You always know that you're going to be challenged against the Sharks. When you look at the standings, you realize how big of a game it is. Only a couple points separates from the fourth spot to the 12th."

Rinne is 7-2-4 during his career against the Sharks with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.

"He's big," Thornton said of Rinne. "So in a perfect world you'd like to get traffic on him. He's going to stop every first shot and probably the rebound. So it's your third and fourth chances that you're probably going to have to score on, and just compete while you're down there."

Rinne and the Predators haven't been as stingy as usual lately. They're coming off a 5-1 loss Wednesday to the Anaheim Ducks in which Rinne gave up all five goals on 21 shots in the first two periods before being pulled. In their past six games, Nashville has allowed 23 goals.

"Bad defensive play, basically," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We got away from some of our details in our overall game and therefore it's sort of coming back to bite us.''

The Predators gave up three first-period goals to the Ducks.

"They are playing well," Rinne said of the Ducks. "I think the first period really killed us. I made a mistake right away, the first goal. I mishandled the puck, and then they scored quickly the second goal, and at the end of the first period they scored the third goal. They just had a great start. We never really recovered. That kind of killed us. But obviously you don't want to have games like that too often. You always try to bounce back, and I'm sure we will."

Here's how the lineups could look tonight when the Sharks face the Predators at HP Pavilion:


Logan Couture - Joe Thornton - Martin Havlat

Tim Kennedy - Patrick Marleau - Joe Pavelski

Ryane Clowe - Scott Gomez - James Sheppard

Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish - TJ Galiardi

Brad Stuart - Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Injuries/scratches: Tommy Wingels (upper body), Michal Handzus, Jason Demers.

Regular third-line center Michal Handzus did not take part in the morning skate. McLellan called it a maintenance day for Handzus and said he'll be a game-time decision. Marleau has spent most of the season as a wing, but it looks as if he'll center the second line. Wingels did not skate and will miss his third straight game.


Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat

Sergei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Gabriel Bourque

Nick Spaling - Craig Smith - Patric Hornquist

Brandon Yip - Paul Gaustad - Richard Clune

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Jonathan Blum - Kevin Klein

Scott Hannan - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Chris Mason

Injuries/scratches: Hal Gill (lower body), Matt Halischuk

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