SAN JOSE, Calif.
-- As defenseman Dan Boyle
sat slumped at his locker Sunday after the Sharks' devastating 4-2 loss to Vancouver in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, his face was a picture of anger and frustration while he struggled to explain what went wrong.
Less than 24 hours later, the smile was back on Boyle's face, and the words were flowing again as he looked ahead to Tuesday night's must-win Game 5 at Vancouver with the Sharks trailing 3-1.
"We watched some video this morning and talked about just going out and winning Game 5," Boyle said. "We feel that if we do get a chance to come back home, which I hope we will, we're going to be a better team. That's it. We're going there to win a game, and we like our chances coming back here, so it's going to come down to seven games. That's the thought process right now."
Goaltender Antti Niemi
gave up four goals Sunday, but three of them came on 5-on-3 Vancouver power plays, and he said there were "lots of positive things" to take away from the Sharks' 5-on-5 play. His wish is for the Sharks to start Tuesday's game with the same aggressive, fearless attitude they had in the third period Sunday, fighting back from a 4-0 hole to score twice.
"I think we have nothing to lose here at this point," Niemi said. "We want to just give the best effort we can and not to be panicking about anything or being afraid of anything. We just have to go play hard."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan spent some time with his team Monday reviewing the numerous mistakes from Sunday's game, particularly on the power play, as well as some of the positives, but for the most part his message came down to this: Don't look back.
"Well, yesterday we were down," McLellan said after his team's optional practice. "There's no doubt about it. I wouldn't expect us to react any other way. Coming to the rink today, we worked on the mental part right off the bat. We show our players a lot of the good things we did in the game yesterday. We addressed a few things tactically or technically that we think we can do better. We move forward.
"In the playoffs, you have to have short memories. You know, it's about getting through Game 5. That's all there is. Doesn't matter what happened through Games 1 and 4. It's about getting through Game 5 and finding a way to win."
McLellan was definitely in no mood to look back at past postseasons when other talented Sharks teams failed to reach the Stanley Cup Final. A reporter asked him if it was important "not to let those demons and ghosts" from past playoffs become an issue.
"See, I don't think we have demons," McLellan said. "You guys think we have demons. They don't exist in our world. We've had a lot of success as an organization and as a franchise. We can keep referring back to the conference finals in 2004, say that we had an eight-game losing streak. I think some of you wrote that. I don't know what the hell 2004 has to do with 2011.
"I don't think we have demons. We have a team that's worked extremely hard to get to the conference finals. We've had a team that's faced a lot of adversity, external adversity. The only people we answer to are ourselves in that locker room. We don't answer to the media. We answer to our fans somewhat here at home. We owe them an effort. We owe them a commitment level second to none. But that's it."
The Sharks can use all the help they can get, and they received two doses of good news on the injury front concerning captain Joe Thornton
and defenseman Jason Demers
According to McLellan, Thornton, who missed over half of the third period Sunday after a shoulder-to-shoulder collision with Canucks forward Raffi Torres, told him he planned to play Tuesday night.
"When Joe Thornton
comes to you and tells you he's playing, he's playing," McLellan said.
Demers skated Monday for the first time since Game 7 against Detroit when he played just over 18 minutes, and there's a chance he could return Tuesday night.
"He's skating today, so that's a good thing for us," McLellan said. "So we'll see."
Demers said he believes he's healthy enough to play but doesn't know if he'll be on the ice Tuesday night. He has been listed as day-to-day with "bumps and bruises."
"Whenever the coaches decide it's my time to play, I'll be ready," Demers said.
Demers, who was paired throughout the season with Marc-Edouard Vlasic
, would give the Sharks a more offensive-minded defenseman than veteran Kent Huskins, who replaced him in the lineup the past four games.
"I think we have nothing to lose here at this point. We want to just give the best effort we can and not to be panicking about anything or being afraid of anything. We just have to go play hard." -- Antti Niemi
The Sharks have proven to be a resilient team this season. After losing six straight games from Jan. 3-13, they won nine of their next 10. In Game 3 of their conference quarterfinals series against Los Angeles, the Sharks fell behind 4-0 but roared back to win 6-5. Then, after blowing a 3-0 series lead in the semifinals against Detroit, they won Game 7 to advance to the conference finals.
"We've found a way to fight back whether it be in the regular season or the L.A. series in particular, the Detroit series also coming back," Boyle said. "Even in the third period last night. … We still gave ourselves a chance, even being down 4-0. We showed some heart. It's not a question about heart. I know we have it. We just have to go out and execute. If we can play the same way 5-on-5 that we did last night and avoid those 5-on-3 goals, obviously it could have been a different ballgame and hopefully will be the next game."
Author: Eric Gilmore | NHL.com Correspondent