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Focus Remains On Special Teams

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
Much is being made of the Sharks shutting Nashville out during five-on-five play during the first two games of the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil.


“We like playing five-on-five a lot,” said Kyle McLaren. “The way both teams play, there will be penalties.”

As for adjustments, the Sharks know that Nashville will attempt to remedy things from Game 2, so the Sharks can’t expect another three power plays in Game 3’s first period. Plus the Predators will have a few surprises on both sides of the puck.

“We’ve got to be ready to react to anything,” said McLaren. “We have to be really alert for their forecheck and ready for their power play. On special teams we have to play better because theirs will be better. Maybe be a little better at draws. Try to keep the same thing rolling. Our penalty kill stepped up and played well and we need it to continue to do well.”

As for Nashville’s changes, some will be very obvious.

“They’ll be more aggressive going to the net and in get traffic in front of the net,” said McLaren. “Almost what we tried to do. We have to try and eliminate their chances and stand them up near the blueline like we have all year. The first game they gained entry to the zone a little too early.”

Ron Wilson knows that Barry Trotz is a formidable opponent and that the Nashville coach will have his troops ready.

“We made adjustment and they will too,” said Wilson. “We’ve got to be ready to counter adjust to their adjustments. There is no tongue-lashing at this point. We just make adjustments. By the time they did have their power plays it was 3-0. Tomorrow night will be a different game.”

No matter what Nashville does, San Jose will have to eliminate Nashville’s power play opportunities. The penalty killers were up to the task Saturday, but to have them recreate the perfect nine-for-nine situation would be asking a lot.

“We have to keep our mouths shut on calls,” said Wilson. “If the ref misses what we think is a penalty, we can’t say that’s the way it is and do the same thing and get called. I want our team much more disciplined. Maybe a guy does take a dive, but you have to keep your stick down.”

Wilson notes that NHL referees have the most difficult job in sports.

“They’ve got to be thinking for 60 minutes,” said Wilson. “In the playoffs they may have to be skating and thinking for 120 minutes. Hockey is the toughest sport to officiate. You have to look out for flying pucks and sticks.”

Wilson says the physical play in the San Jose-Nashville series isn’t as high as some others, but that might be because it’s not as necessary.

“We probably have the fastest skating teams in the west,” said Wilson. “We’re playing physical. It may not be as physical as some other series, but it is more physical than the regular season.”

NBC POSTGAME
NBC11, and more specifically nbc11.com, has teamed up with the NHL to provide the first of its kind - a live pregame and postgame webcast on nbc11.com for all Sharks games.

The 30-minute pregame shows begin at 7p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday night before Game 3 and 4 at HP Pavilion. The 30-minute postgame shows begin immediately following the contests.

The shows will include live player interviews, scenes from Sharks fan parties and behind-the-scenes feature stories.

“What the television coverage cannot provide…we will," said Sports Director Raj Mathai. "This is a great way to feature the Sharks. This program is the first of its’ kind and we think Sharks fans from across the world, will log on and enjoy the bonus coverage.”

Gary Bettman will be co-hosting Thursday night’s pregame webcast on nbc11.com.

HOME ICE
The Sharks playoff rookies came through with flying colors in Nashville and now they are looking to break their teeth on home ice during the playoffs.

“There is not as much pressure on the road, but I hear how crazy the fans are here so I can’t wait for the experience,” said Matt Carle.

It was noticeable to the rookie that the Sharks veterans were fairly loose after the Game 1 loss and prior to Game 2.

“It makes it easier and more fun,” said Carle.

CHEECHOO TRAIN WHISTLE
Fans of Jonathan Cheechoo can jump aboard the Cheechoo train for Game 3 at HP Pavilion. The Sharks store and merchandise stands will be selling whistles that replicate a train whistle for $5, with partial proceeds going to a charity of Cheechoo’s choice.

PRESSURE
With home ice advantage, the Sharks now will have to deal with the weight of controlling their own destiny by winning their games at HP Pavilion.

SMITH STEPPING UP
Mark Smith is enjoying a bit of Bay Area notoriety as he is leading the Sharks with two goals in two playoff games.

“My job is to play the guys having the best day,” said Wilson. “That is not as difficult as you would think. You reward people who are playing pretty hard in a game.

CHAMPS AGAIN
The U.S. National Under-18 Team topped Finland tonight 3-1 to win the gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championship. It was the second consecutive such title for the United States.
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