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McLaren Getting Close

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks could gain a big boost to their blueline for Tuesday’s showdown with Anaheim. Kyle McLaren may be back in the defensive rotation after missing the last seven games following arthroscopic knee surgery.
 
“Now it is a pain thing,” said McLaren. “It’s better than before the surgery. It’s been three weeks on Wednesday, so I’ve had a lot of rest. I want to make sure it’s close to 100 percent.”
 
“We’ll do an evaluation tomorrow,” said coach Ron Wilson.
 
Even if McLaren does play Tuesday, he will not be the most visible player on the ice.
 
“Don’t expect me to play 25-26 minutes,” said McLaren, arguably the Sharks best open-ice hitter. “It will take me a while to get back to game shape. You can’t make up skating by riding the bike.”
 
McLaren is optimistic about being back tomorrow, but nothing’s for certain.
 
“I’m not saying I have the green light, but there is no red light on,” said McLaren.
 
McLaren feels once he steps on the ice, it will be through the playoffs.
 
“My goal is to come in and play the rest of the year,” said McLaren. “Once I’m in, I don’t want to come out.”
 
As one of two blueliners (Scott Hannan), with at least nine NHL seasons, McLaren’s presence has been missed.
 
“We missed him a lot,” said Wilson. “Look at our record without Kyle. We’ve been under .500 (3-4).”
 
McLaren is usually paired with one of the Sharks younger d-men and his impact is obvious according to the coach.
 
“He has a calming influence on a couple of our younger defensemen,” said Wilson. “He doesn’t get rattled. (Matt) Carle and Christian (Ehrhoff) seem to play better when he is with them.”
 
With or without McLaren, this is a monster week for Team Teal with two consecutive games against the Pacific Division leading Ducks. A sweep with no extra point games would catapult Team Teal into first place as their deficit is just three points. Two overtime victories would allow Anaheim to maintain their lead. Two losses would increase the deficit to seven points.
 
“It could be a big turning point if we win both games,” said goaltender Vesa Toskala. “It would sound good if we were in first place after Wednesday. We’ll see what happens.”
 
Still, the Sharks know first place is inconceivable by Wednesday if they forget to show up for Tuesday’s contest.
 
“We just have to take it a game at a time,” said Toskala.
 
Anaheim has won two of the first three meetings between the clubs.
 
“It is like a mini-playoff series,” said Toskala, who doesn’t try to hide the fact that the games carry extra significance. “It’s good to play ‘bigger’ games in the middle of the season. You get a little more excited to play the tougher games.”
 
Whether the Sharks sit in first or second after the back-to-back games, they still feel they have work to do as more than 25 percent of the schedule will lie in front of them.
 
D TRENDS
An interesting trend is occurring on the Sharks blueline. Christian Ehrhoff has posted half of his point production in the first period. Twelve (5-7=12) of his 24 points (9-15=24) have come in the first stanza. Eight (1-7=8) of Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s 16 points (2-14=16) have come in the second period. And half of Scott Hannan’s 16 points (1-15=16) have been registered in the third period (1-7=8). Matt Carle has posted 11 (2-9=11) of his 24 points (5-19=24) when the Sharks were tied. Eight (2-6=8) of those 11 points have come on the power play.
 
GO MARCEL GOC
Marcel Goc has registered points in 10 games this season and the Sharks have gone 9-1-0 in those contests. His 28 takeaways are second on the team and his 53.7 percent winning percentage in the faceoff circle is first on the team (among players with 100-plus draws).
 
VALENTINE’S SWEATERS
The Sharks Foundation will play host to a special Valentine’s Sweater Auction on February 6 at HP Pavilion during the Sharks game against the Anaheim Ducks. Each San Jose Sharks player wore a specially designed practice jersey during the game-day skate on Jan. 30.
 
NEXT GAME
There are still limited tickets available for the Sharks and Ducks 7:30 p.m., Tuesday showdown at HP Pavilion and fans looking to attend can check out the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.
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