Captain Patrick Marleau
will be reunited with right wing Steve Bernier when the Sharks take the ice on Saturday afternoon for the crucial Game 5 of their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Detroit Red Wings. The series sits knotted at 2-2.
Marleau had been paired with right wing Bill Guerin, but Guerin will be out of the lineup for Game 5 due to a facial laceration that he sustained when he was struck by an errant puck in the late stages of Game 4. He is listed as day-to-day and a timetable for his return has not been set.
Last season, Marleau spent most of the year on a line in between Bernier and Milan Michalek. But thanks to some offseason acquisitions, the three have not taken regular shifts together this season.
“I’m looking for a way to find some chemistry,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “That’s what it comes down to. Hopefully Bernie can get on top of things and help get Patty going.”
Marleau posted six points (three goals, three assists), including the series-clinching goal in a five-game dismantling of Nashville in round one, but has been held scoreless so far in four games this series. Despite Marleau’s recent offensive struggles, both he and his teammates remain confident that they will return to form.
“[The playoffs] are all about peaks and valleys,” said center Joe Thornton
. “You have to try and stay even keel. But we’d like to think our best hockey is still ahead.”
The series has been defined by rapid shifts in momentum. It has seen the Sharks claim two-goal leads in three of the four games, but has yielded only one win in those three opportunities. Needless to say, momentum will once again be a major factor on Saturday.
“We might get an edge on them, but they’re relentless,” said Wilson. “They’re the number one team in our conference and now [tied at 2-2] we’re in a best-of-three series. If you would have asked me before the series started where I thought it would be, I would have said tied at 2-2, playing in a best-of-three. It all comes down to competing and the will to win.”
“I think we’re confident in the group,” said right wing Mike Grier. “You never want to lose a two-goal lead. As they say, it’s the toughest lead in hockey, especially against Detroit who is a quick strike team and good at the transition game. But once we get the lead, we need to keep playing our game.”
Marleau echoed Grier’s comments.
“It’s always good to get up two goals,” said Marleau. “But it’s just as important to get that third goal. Those are crucial plays and we have to learn our lessons.”
PAVELSKI LIKELY TO REPLACE GUERIN
As Bill Guerin continues to recover from his injury, rookie center Joe Pavelski
will likely be his Game 5 replacement. Pavelski skated on a line with Curtis Brown and Mark Smith at practice on Friday.
Pavelski has appeared in five playoff games, posting one goal on six shots and has averaged 11:06 of ice time. The Sharks are undefeated in the playoffs when the rookie center has been in the lineup.
Michalek – Thornton – Cheechoo
Clowe – Goc – Grier
Rissmiller – Marleau – Bernier
Smith – Brown – Pavelski
Hannan – Vlasic
McLaren – Ehrhoff
Carle – Rivet
Nabokov – Toskala
The Sharks and the Red Wings will take the ice for Game Five of their Western Conference Semifinal series this Saturday. Game time is set for 11:00 AM (Pacific) and will be nationally televised on NBC. The game will also be broadcast on KFOX 98.5 FM, Sharks Radio Network Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.