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McLellan Addresses Defensive Options

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
The hit from behind by Los Angeles forward Jarret Stoll on San Jose’s Ian White will cost the Sharks defenseman at least one game of playing time. Stoll received a one-game suspension, but it’s then a guarantee he will return.

Head Coach Todd McLellan expressed doubt about White playing on Saturday.

“At this present time, I’d say no,” McLellan said. “He didn’t practice today. He’ll come to the rink tomorrow and we’ll evaluate him. We’ve got to put the player’s well being and health ahead of playing. When he’s ready, he’s a very important part and will be back in the lineup.”

White’s injury is listed as an upper body injury after being smashed into the boards.

“It’s our job to put players in a position to succeed and you can’t do that if you’re not healthy and alert,” McLellan said. “He has to prove to us a coaching staff and a training staff that he can do that. We all know the protocol for head injuries. When he and the training staff come and march into my office and say he’s ready to go, he’s that important and he’ll play again.”

Probable candidates to replace White are rookie Justin Braun or veteran Kent Huskins. But McLellan isn’t in a hurry to decide.

“I don’t know if we’re completely sure on that yet, we’ll make that decision tomorrow,” McLellan said.

“Brauner has shown he can play in this League and Husky is a veteran guy,” Niclas Wallin said. “I don’t think it matters who we put in there. We’ll see tomorrow who is in and who is out.”

Braun, who last played on April 8, may be a rookie, but he’s a seasoned, 24-year-old who skated 28 games this year, registering two goals and nine helpers. One thing’s for sure, he’s good to go.

“You don’t want to see a guy go down, but you’ve always got to be ready,” Braun said. “These are the games you play for all season. I’ll try to help the boys out if I get out there. I feel like I’m in good shape and I’ll be ready.”

McLellan and his Sharks players are very confident that Braun can do the job.

“This is a young player we’re really excited about in our organization,” McLellan said. “I don’t want to put the pressure on him, but he’s got that Logan Couture-type of upswing in his development. He’s not 17 or 18 years old. He’s an older player that’s mature and had a chance to play a number of games with us this year.”

“For a lot of people who haven’t seen him play, I think he’s done an amazing job,” Dan Boyle said. “He’s a right shot, he’s a big shot, he’s a big body. He’s played really well for us. He’s just a guy on the outside right now, probably because he’s a little younger, but I’m not nervous by any means.”

McLellan recalled a night this year against the Oilers when Braun had to help out in a very shorthanded situation.

“He performed very well in Edmonton on a night where we only had four D,” McLellan said. “We feel good about him being here. He’ll be there if we call him. He’s very comfortable with his teammates and the system.”

Huskins, the other blueline option, was mentioned by McLellan before the series began as getting closer to a return.

“That’s part of the reason we’re still not sure who’s going in and who’s not,” McLellan said. “I’ve got to sit down and talk with (Huskins) after practice today. He’s a veteran player who has played in a lot of these situations and won a Stanley Cup (Anaheim, 2007), so it’s nice to have that option as well.”

The Sharks flagship station for radio broadcasts will still be 98.5/102.1 KFOX, but Sports Radio 95.7 has recently become an all-sports station and will also carry the Sharks games when there aren’t conflicts with Oakland Athletics games.

The Sharks defensemen played a lot of hockey Thursday night. Boyle led the way with 35 minutes.

“I felt all right,” Boyle said. “My minutes had been down towards the end of the season with Ian coming over, so the body wasn’t as used to it as it had been prior. I just had to be smart. I had to try and not jump in the rush every play like I normally try to do. I tried to stay back and break the guys out.”

The Sharks signed unrestricted free agent forwards Mike Connolly (University of Minnesota – Duluth) and Brodie Reid (Northeastern University) to entry-level contracts. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Mike has proven his ability at the collegiate level and we’re excited to help him take the next step in his hockey career,” Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson said. “Head Coach Scott Sandelin and Assistant Coaches Brett Larson and Derek Plante at Minnesota-Duluth have created a terrific, winning environment for young players to succeed and Mike will benefit from that experience moving forward.

“Brodie accomplished nearly everything an individual can achieve in his first season at the collegiate level,” Wilson added. “We feel he’s more than ready to take the next step in his professional development and we’re pleased he’s chosen to do that with the San Jose Sharks.”

Connolly, 21, was the third-leading scorer for the NCAA champions of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with 54 points (28 goals, 26 assists) in 42 games. He was named 2010-11 NCAA All-American (second team), 2010-11 All-WCHA (first team), 2010-11 WCHA Player of the Year and selected to the 2011 NCAA East Regional All-Tournament Team.

He placed third on the UMD scoring charts with a career-high 54 points, which ranked seventh among all NCAA skaters while skating at left wing on the highest scoring line in the nation this winter.

Connolly is just the third Bulldog to open his career with three straight 40-point seasons. He equaled a school single game record by scoring five goals in UMD's 6-4 win over Minnesota on Feb. 5 and finished 27th all-time among the Bulldogs in scoring with 136 points in 123 games, while earning a plus-34 for his career. Connolly, who recently finished his junior season, scored a power play goal in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals game against Notre Dame to help send UMD to the championship game.

Reid, 21, recently finished his freshman season and was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. Reid posted 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in 37 games, good for fourth on the team, including five points in three games of the Hockey East quarterfinals against eventual conference champion Boston University.

The 6-foot-1 forward completed the NCAA season as the second-highest scoring rookie in Hockey East and was tied for seventh overall in the conference in power play points with four goals and 13 assists, averaging 0.46 power play points per game.

Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Los Angeles will be Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and

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