On the heels of their 2-1 Game 1 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Semifinals, the San Jose Sharks are set to lace up the skates again tonight. But the Sharks are no strangers to back-to-back games. Team Teal had a stretch during the last two weeks of the season where they played three back-to-back series and swept all three.
However, tonight will be a true test for the young team. Playing Edmonton, who lost the first game of their Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup against the dangerous Detroit Red Wings only to come back and win the series in six games, will be a big task for the Sharks. If Game 1 was any indication of how the rest of the series is going to go, these teams will surely be black and blue by the end of it.
“We all saw that they came at us pretty hard at the beginning of the game last night and we expect them to do the same tonight,” said Steve Bernier. “We have to make sure that we are ready to match their intensity.”
Registering 44 hits on the night, the Sharks wanted to send a message to the Oilers, letting them know they were in their house: The Shark Tank. Expect nothing different in tonight’s contest.
“It’s going to be physical,” said Scott Hannan. “We know they’re going to come out and hit us hard and try to get it in deep. I thought we both did a good job last night of doing that. It’s a big game. We were trying to do what our team does. We’ve done that all year. ‘Cheech’ (Jonathan Cheechoo) set the tone right away with a hit and we just tried to get it down low, chip the puck in and have our big forwards work them. That’s been our game plan all year and we just stuck to it.”
Ville Nieminen, who did more than his fair share of hitting on the night, woke up a bit sore from his 15-hit performance. But the forward said that’s part of the job. Whatever it takes to win the game, that’s what Nieminen’s going to do.
“You always wake up sore,” he said. “There’s not too many mornings after games, especially in the playoffs, when you wake up with a smile on your face. Tonight, of course, they’re going to come out flying. We have to come out physically ready and we know that.”
Christian Ehrhoff, who notched the game-winner in Game 1, is preparing for another physical battle.
“I think they will come out even harder than last night and try to get some more pressure on us, especially our defense,” said Ehrhoff. “We have to be ready for that and we have to bring the same game we brought last night.”
Just because the Sharks have registered the first win in the crucial series doesn’t mean the team can relax and think they are on top. It’s business as usual for Team Teal.
“Edmonton’s the type of team that’s going to keep coming after you no matter what,” said Mark Smith. “I expect them to come out hard tonight and try to get off to a fast start.
We have to prepare like it’s a 0-0 series again. We don’t want to sit back and be content with the win last night. We need to win all these games at home because going in to their building, we know it’s going to be tough pulling some wins out of there. This one’s really big for our club tonight.”
Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson was happy with his team’s performance in Game 1, but expects Game 2 to be played in similar fashion.
“We’re a forechecking team,” said Wilson. “That’s one of our strengths and I believe in the playoffs you have to play to your strengths adjust to what the other team is doing. We’ll have to be ready to counter whatever Edmonton’s coming with. We have to try to duplicate what we did last night. It won’t be easy and they will be a little better prepared for how we played.”
It’s important for the Sharks to earn the victory tonight and keep their home ice intact. If Edmonton manages to earn the victory tonight, three of the final five games will be played in Rexall Place in Edmonton. Knowing that, expect The Shark Tank to be louder than ever tonight.
“We understand the importance of home ice advantage,” added Wilson. “We’ve got a great crowd and we want to be able to maintain home ice. If you’ve got a 2-0 lead, you’d be going into Edmonton looking for a split. But every game has its own story line. We have to see how they respond and then bring our own game.”
KNBR LIVE AT HP PAVILION TONIGHT
KNBR will have the “Razor and Mr. T” doing a live show from HP Pavilion tonight before of Game 2. Interviews with Joe Thornton
, Ron Wilson, Kyle McLaren and others are scheduled. Be sure to tune into KNBR 680 or 1050 AM to check out the show from 3-7 p.m. You can also listen online at knbr.com
Tonight’s game can be seen only on OLN at 7:30 p.m. For a full list of channels providing OLN visit: /tv_radio/OLN.html. The game can be heard on the Sharks Radio Network or sjsharks.com.