The San Jose Sharks saw their full compliment of players out for the morning skate Saturday as they looked to close out their second round series with the Detroit Red Wings.
San Jose will look to apply their physical pressure, which made them so successful in the first three contests, tonight against the Red Wings.
“It comes down to who wins the battles and who is better on special teams when you play similar styles,” said forward Ryane Clowe
. “Obviously the first three games I thought we had the edge and the last game they dominated in every area.
“We’ve got to protect pucks better, that is a big part of our game,” Clowe continued. “We had no pressure on their D the last game. We have to be more aggressive and make them work more in their defensive zone. Tonight we’ll be better.”
Added Dany Heatley: “There are certain areas and certain puck battles that we didn’t do a very good job of. We’re aware of that and will just get back to what we were doing well.”
That line from being physical to sitting in the sin bin can’t be crossed though.
“What I don’t want is to see a parade to the penalty box,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Their power play for many years has been strong and is again. You’re not going to intimidate that group. What you want to do is be physical and slow them down a little bit in certain areas of the game.”
Pressuring Detroit’s defense is important as the crew is extremely strong at moving the puck and with excess time they are even more effective.
“I think that is what we have to get back to, the physical play and getting on their D,” said Jamie McGinn. “We know that when we make big hits, the crowd will be into it. That’s what we need more of.
“Their D are smart players and if they are going back for pucks and they have time to get their head up to see what’s coming at them, they are going to make the play and get it out and then we’re back in our end,” McGinn added.
The Sharks have studied their mistakes from Game Four and feel confident they won’t happen let what happen in Detroit happen again tonight.
“We watched the video of the last game and saw some of the mistakes we made and a lot of them were a little lack of effort,” said Dan Boyle
. “I know the effort will be there for the guys tonight. Hopefully we’ll play smart. We’re really looking forward to getting this thing going tonight.”
San Jose’s preference is to clearly handle things at home and not return to Detroit.
“The last thing you want is to get back on a plane, fly five hours east and go to Detroit for Game Six,” said Boyle. “I said it last time and I’ll say it again, it doesn’t matter what the score is. They were much hungrier and we need to get back to what’s working for us and we’ll see that early tonight. In the playoffs you learn and you turn the page.”
Added McLellan: “We’re only focused on the job at hand, we’re not counting our chips and saying we’ve got two more to play.”
If the Sharks hope to close out Detroit tonight, the game can’t fall onto just the top line or the veterans, it will take the complete team effort that won six straight playoff games this year.
“You need everybody, your rookies and young guys too,” said Boyle. “It takes everybody.”
With the return to HP Pavilion, the Sharks will not only get the home crowd cheers, but also will get the last change, which helps with matching line combinations, faceoff centermen and defensive pairings.
“I think it plays a significant role,” said Boyle. “You get your matchups. It’s not the end of the world, but it certainly plays a role in who you want and who you are playing.”
“You can feel it when you come on the ice, the fans are our seventh man,” said McLellan. “It’s a cliché everybody uses, but you can feel the energy in the air. They can get you over the hump.”
The Sharks can’t change Game 4 in a few minutes of action and will have to keep the energy channeled in the right manner throughout the contest.
“We have to be careful we don’t try to right the wrong in the first five minutes,” said McLellan. “It can’t turn into an individual game.”
Veteran teams like San Jose and Detroit can overcome roadblocks, but the Sharks players feel there is a distinct advantage to having Game 5 at home.
“It’s huge, that is why you play 82 games, to get home ice advantage,” said Scott Nichol. “The fans get behind you and our record at home is really good. You want these games at home and that is what we work hard for all year to own that privilege.”
For the Sharks’ Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer, there is a little extra sentiment going out to the flood victims in Tennessee as both played in Nashville with the Predators.
“It’s tough. It came up on them quick,” said Nichol. “They had a drought for so many years and not a lot of people have flood insurance because they really didn’t need it. Every time I see the pictures my heart sinks a little bit for those people.
“They are resilient there and they will bounce back. They are a Southern state where they are always together and help each other out. The hospitality there is first class,” Nichol added. “When we moved there people were bringing us pot luck dinners and helping us out. They will band together and get through this.”
The Worcester Sharks were bounced in the second round of the AHL playoffs, but a well deserved tip of the cap comes from San Jose.
“I’m really proud of them,” said McGinn. “I’m really proud of Roy. They had an amazing year. I thought Roy was going to get coach of the year. There were a lot of call ups and he had to shuffle the lines and he still got the job done. It’s too bad they lost out, but it was a hard fought series.”
Game Five will take place Saturday night 7 p.m. at HP Pavilion and will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.