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Sharks vs. Avalanche blog @NHLdotcom

Duchene thrilled
04.22.2010 / 6:25 p.m. ET

Colorado rookie Matt Duchene, who didn't turn 19 until halfway through the season, is a finalist for the Calder Trophy with Buffalo's Tyler Myers and Detroit's Jimmy Howard.

"It's definitely a huge honor," said Duchene, who scored 24 goals and led all NHL rookies with 55 points in 81 games. "You only get one shot at it and it's pretty cool to be named among the top three."

Duchene was the No. 3 selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

"I'm very honored and happy to be a part of it, but it's a huge credit to my teammates," he said. "Everyone helped me so much to have a good year, coaches, everyone. I'm very thankful to be there, but we have big job to do tonight and I can enjoy that after the playoffs are over."

--Rick Sadowski

Ortmeyer likely in for Sharks
04.16.2010 / 3:55 p.m. ET

After watching Game 1 of this best-of-seven series, there's a good chance Sharks forward Jed Ortmeyer will be in the lineup when the teams looks for a split tonight against the Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion.

San Jose coach Todd McLellan wouldn't commit to Ortmeyer or any other lineup change after the team skated this morning, but he did admit there may be a tweak.

"We'll make some game-time decisions," McLellan said. "There's potential of."

That likely means Ortmeyer would replace Jason Demers, who skated with the defensemen this morning. Ortmeyer said after practice he didn't know one way or the other, but he's ready if called upon by McLellan.

"I'm just going to prepare like any other day," Ortmeyer said. "Prepare like you're playing."

Other notes from the morning skates:

-- Shots on goal were at a premium for the Sharks on Wednesday, and that needs to change in Game 2. McLellan said the focus will be on getting more pucks to the net, especially from his defensemen.

"It's essential," McLellan said. "The odds go up greatly if the puck's getting to the net. There's no chance if it never gets there. That has to improve. Our ability to play for extended periods in their zone will lead to more shooting. If we get contributions in those areas, our shot total should go up."

-- You can understand that the Sharks are tired of talking about their postseason failures, but, as we've said, it just won't go away until they can figure out a way to turn things around. Forward Joe Pavelski knows that.

"The way to get people to stop talking about it is to give them something else to talk about," Pavelski said. "We need to start winning a few games and score a few goals in the postseason. It's a different team this year, but we've got to get different results.

"We're ready to go. "I think we've learned our lesson from last year. We can't lose both (games) in this building. This is big for us tonight. Guys are ready. We're positive. It's a strong group in here."

-- As for the Avalanche, coach Joe Sacco was asked if he's concerned about a possible letdown tonight since his team can do no worse than go home with a split.

He's not.

"I don't worry about a letdown," Sacco said. "We're in no position to have a letdown. Like all season long, the focus will be on tonight's game. We have an opportunity tonight to get another win. We should have the same mindset as we did in Game 1 with the understanding that San Jose will be a desperate team. We have to be ready to match that intensity, that desperation, right from the start."

-- Same lineup for Colorado tonight. Sacco said there is still no update on Peter Mueller (concussion), who did not make the trip.

-- Brian Compton

Liles steps up
4.14.2010 / 8:25 PM ET

It's been an up-and-down season for John-Michael Liles, but Wednesday night was one of the highs for the Colorado Avalanche defenseman.

Liles, who was a healthy scratch on more than one occasion down the stretch, scored the series-opening goal for the Avs and received 19:30 of ice time. His tally, which came midway through the second period, was scored on the power play.

"It's been a different year for me," Liles said on Thursday. "Being out of the lineup is never an easy position to be in. Sometimes, you've got to take a step back and kind of re-evaluate. That's definitely what I did. For me, it's about using my skating and that's what I've been trying to do for the last month and a half. It's about being a professional."

Naturally, scoring a goal in the playoffs should comfort Liles, who beat Evgeni Nabokov with a blast from the point.

"It's always a confidence boost when you can get a goal," Liles said. "But everybody's been battling all year. For us, we've been playing playoff hockey for the majority of the year."

Veteran defenseman Adam Foote has noticed a change in Liles, who went 6-25-31 in 59 games for the Avalanche this season.

"He's playing with a lot of confidence right now," Foote said of Liles. "When he's skating like that with the puck, it really helps our team. He did a great job last night. He's a good player."

Other notes from Colorado's practice:

-- Speaking of Foote, the 38-year-old preached of how vital it is that his team doesn't get too excited about winning Game 1. After all, this series is a best-of-seven.

"You don't want to get too high," Foote said. "We've got to understand it's going to be even harder tomorrow night, especially at the start. They're going to come out with everything early. They'll be ready."

Coach Joe Sacco shared the same sentiments.

"I think we're excited," Sacco said. "We feel good about the game that we played. We realize we still have a long way to go in this series, but it's important to get off to a good start. I'm sure guys will be ready to play tomorrow. We're not looking at a split right now." 

-- Rookie center Matt Duchene picked up a point in his first NHL playoff game when he assisted on Liles' goal in the second period.

"It was a really good experience to come out and hear that crowd and obviously get the win," Duchene said. "It's a step in the right direction, but we've got to keep it going."

Asked if he could notice a huge difference between the regular season and the playoffs, the 19-year-old didn't hesitate.

"It's different," Duchene said. "It's a 2-1 game, two fluky goals. Those are the type of games they are. There wasn't a lot of opportunities either way. Every shift counts."

Duchene was one of 14 players on Colorado's roster to make his NHL postseason debut on Wednesday, which made the win even more impressive. I asked him how he and his teammates made it seem as if they've been doing this for years.

"I played in some big playoff games last year and in the past, and I think I kind of know what it takes to play in the playoffs," Duchene said. "Obviously, this is a different level and you've got to get used to that. But at the same time, it doesn't matter where you play. The intensity always goes up. I think I was a little bit prepared for that. There's going to be situations you're not familiar with, and that's when you lean on a veteran."

-- Still no update on when Peter Mueller will return to Colorado's lineup. Mueller, who suffered a concussion on April 4, did not make the trip here with the team. Considering Sacco still doesn't have an update on Mueller, it's hard to imagine the latter returning anytime soon.

-- Brian Compton

An off-day in San Jose

4.14.2010 / 8:12 PM ET

There was no panic in the San Jose Sharks' dressing room on Thursday morning, just hours after Chris Stewart handed them a 2-1 loss by scoring with just 49.3 seconds remaining in regulation in Game 1 at HP Pavilion.

Indeed, it's only one game. But, let's face it -- as much as they downplayed Wednesday's disappointing loss, the Sharks need to win Game 2. 

"Those plays happen all year long," San Jose captain Rob Blake said. "It's tough when there's 49 seconds left in the game, that's for sure."

Still, the Sharks need to be better. They can't have another period like the one they had during the second on Wednesday, when they mustered only three shots on goal and barely spent any time in Colorado's end of the ice.

"We had a great first period … a great start to the game," center Joe Thornton said. "Playoff hockey, you've got to play a full 60 (minutes). We played a good 45, but not enough."

"Our neutral zone was sloppy," Blake said when asked what happened in the second period. "We got away from positions we needed to be in. Therefore, it didn't look like we played quick. They looked like they were on top of us more. If we can generate more through the neutral zone, we can sustain more offense."

The Sharks skated at their practice facility for about an hour on Thursday and said all the right things afterwards. Now, it's time to see if their ability to remain calm will translate into evening this best-of-seven series that shifts to Denver on Sunday.

"We worked on some things and went over some video this morning," Thornton said. "Hopefully with the changes, we'll win tomorrow."

One other note from Sharks practice:

-- He didn't name names, but clearly Sharks coach Todd McLellan is expecting a better effort from some of his better players. We can't say for sure he was referring to the likes of Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, but the pair combined for three shots on goal in Game 1.

"There are some individuals that need to give us more," McLellan said. "Let's leave it at that."

-- Brian Compton

Mueller for Avs tonight

4.14.2010 / 8:00 PM ET

Unfortunately for the Colorado Avalanche, they won't have forward Peter Mueller in the lineup tonight as they open their Western Conference quarterfinal against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.

Mueller, who had 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists) in 15 games for the Avalanche after arriving in a deadline-day deal with the Phoenix Coyotes, suffered a concussion when he was hit into the boards by Sharks defenseman Rob Blake during a game on April 4.

Colorado coach Joe Sacco said on Wednesday morning that there still is no update on when Mueller will be able to return to the lineup.

"Obviously, it's huge," Avs rookie center Matt Duchene admitted. "He played with me and we clicked pretty well. We're going to miss 'Mules,' but we have a lot of guys that can contribute in the same way."

Sacco agreed.

"We've faced some adversity through the season with injuries, and our guys, to their credit, have persevered and battled through all that stuff," Sacco said. "We've been able to be a playoff team. We've earned the right to be here through some of that adversity. Certainly it helps when you have some depth in the organization."

Other tidbits from Colorado's morning skate:

-- Sharks coach Todd McLellan wasn't very interested in discussing his franchise's recent failures in the postseason, but Sacco didn't mind at all. The Avs coach admitted his team may benefit from the pressure San Jose will be facing to advance.

"I think so, Sacco said. "No one really gave us a chance at the start of the season. I wouldn't say too many people are giving us a chance to win this series. But the pressure is on San Jose. They're a real good hockey team and you can't take that away from them, but they haven't lived up to their expectations as far as what they probably would have predicted in the past few years in the playoffs. It's going to be our job to try to do to the same thing that other teams have done to them in the past few years."

-- He hasn't been shaving that very long, which would explain why Duchene is experiencing some difficulty getting his playoff beard growing.

"It's a three-piece … I've got 1, 2 and 3," Duchene joked, pointing at the three hairs on his face. "It doesn't join up anywhere. It'll get a little dusty as the playoffs go on. Hopefully it gets real bad."

-- Brian Compton

Even 40-year-old's get nervous
4.14.2010 / 4:30 PM ET

He may be 40 years old, but San Jose Sharks captain Rob Blake admitted on Wednesday morning that there will be butterflies when his team opens its Western Conference quarterfinal against the Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. PT.

"I woke up this morning as nervous as anyone in the room," Blake admitted. "That's what it's all about. That's the excitement you bring to the game, because you know that when it is done, it's going to be hard to find that challenge. I'm 40 years old. I couldn't ask for a better opportunity than this."

Undoubtedly, Blake has shared -- and will continue to share -- with his teammates his memories of 2001, when he won a Stanley Cup with the Avs.

"That stays with you your whole life," Blake said. "I want these guys to know that. This team is not going to be together forever. The window is closing with salary-cap issues, It's not going to be the same team. All you can do is go out and do what you're supposed to do at a high level. If you win, you win."

Some news from the Sharks' morning skate:

-- Rookie center Logan Couture will appear in his first NHL postseason game tonight. The 21-year-old had 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in 25 games with the Sharks after going 20-33-53 in 42 games for the club's AHL affiliate in Worcester, Mass.

"I have to treat it like any other game," Couture said. "It's going to be tough. Last night, going to bed I was thinking about this. I'm excited for it. I just have to treat it like any other game."

-- Jason Demers, who has spent the majority of his life playing defense, will be a forward tonight. Demers will skate alongside Scott Nichol and Jamie McGinn.

"It's like having three defensemen on the ice," coach Todd McLellan said when asked for his reasoning behind the move. "After that, he's allowed to be creative and jump in on the rush. He has the ability to make good reads and good plays with the puck. Offensively, we're comfortable with him. Defensively, he may be better than some of our forwards down there. We feel good about him."

"I got a few games under my belt at the end of the (regular season)," Demers told "It's tough, but I think it's an easy transition for me. You just play a defensive role anyway. It seems to be going not too bad so far."

-- Brian Compton

Game 1 primer
4.14.2010 / 12:00 PM ET

Colorado at San Jose: 10:30 pm ET -- The clubs staged a closely-contested season series, with the Sharks earning five points (2-1-1) to the Avalanche's four (2-2-0). Colorado outscored San Jose 14-13… The two Colorado wins -- both at Pepsi Center -- will be considered by Avalanche fans as among the most memorable of the season. The Avs defeated the Sharks, 5-2, on Joe Sakic Night to launch their spectacular season-opening run last October. And, in what head coach Joe Sacco at the time called the '"biggest win of the year," blew a late 4-2 lead but recovered to win 5-4 on John-Michael Liles' overtime goal on Apr. 4... Patrick Marleau led the Sharks with three goals and five points, while Peter Mueller had 4-1--5 in two games with Colorado following his trade from Phoenix.

71 + 0 vs. 71 + 65: Both Colorado’s Craig Anderson and San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov played 71 games during the regular-season. Anderson is making his playoff debut, Nabokov has 65 playoff games to his credit, but both, especially Nabokov, will need to prove that they can handle the workload and still get it done in the playoffs.

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