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McLellan Uses New Lines to Spark Offense

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
After his team suffered a 2-0 loss to Anaheim in Game 1, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he might unveil a few tweaks to his lines for Game 2 on Sunday night.

A few? Try a multitude.

Only one of the Sharks’ four lines consisted of a usual trio: Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Milan Michalek.

Every other line was jumbled, a little or a lot.

The Sharks opened the game with Travis Moen, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi on the ice together, facing Anaheim’s top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.

After their shift ended, Jeremy Roenick, Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo took over. Then it was Clowe, Pavelski and Michalek. And finally, Mike Grier, Marcel Goc and Claude Lemieux.

Thornton and Marleau, typically together on the first line, were split up. Roenick, a usual fourth-line center, joined Thornton’s line on the wing, as did Cheechoo, a usual member of the third line.

Lemieux didn’t even suit up for Game 1. But he was on the ice Sunday, getting physical from the outset as part of the fourth line.

One purpose of the changes, McLellan said, was to give Thornton a chance to operate away from Getzlaf.

“I was impressed with the way the guys played in their roles,” McLellan said. “It created a chance for Joe or Pavs to get out on the ice against somebody other than Getzlaf.

“I thought Patty and (Moen) and Devin did a good job against Getzlaf. So for the most part, it was good. The fourth line … all did a pretty good job of creating energy for us. I was happy with them.”

McLellan certainly didn’t tip his hand. In practices on Friday and Saturday, he had the regular lines working together. Then on Sunday, he sprung the changes on Anaheim.

The new-look Sharks produced 44 shots to just 26 for Anaheim.

“I think we tried something different,” Marleau said. “I think it was working for most of the game. Like I said, we had a ton of shots.”

Ironically, it was the line that remained the same that produced the Sharks’ first goal of the playoffs. With Pavelski planted in front of the net, screening goalie Jonas Hiller, Clowe rifled a low shot just inside the left post with 14:22 left in the second period, tying the game 1-1 with an unassisted goal.

With 6:06 left to play, Cheechoo scored, cutting the Ducks’ lead to 3-2. Thornton and Roenick each picked up an assist.

“Guys played well,” Clowe said. “I thought our line did a good job again tonight. I think the lines were rolling pretty well. Every line was getting chances.”

“I thought all the lines played well tonight,” Thornton said. “I really did. I thought we carried the game from start to finish, but we ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. We still got to be better.”

In his Sharks playoff debut, Lemieux only played a little over five minutes, spread over 12 shifts, but he had two hits and drew a Ducks penalty when Mike Brown elbowed him.

“Obviously, selfishly, I want to play,” said Lemieux, who has won four Stanley Cups and is in his 21st NHL season. “I thought our line in limited ice time, when we got out there we did a pretty good job.

“We’re part of the supporting crew for the guys that get the top minutes.”

McLellan said he was looking for the right “opportunity” to use Lemieux.

“We have different ingredients we can use on that line. I like (Lemieux) right now because he’s big and he’s done it,” McLellan said. “Talk is cheap at this time of year. I thought he went out and performed, too. We’re happy to have him in the lineup.

“We still have options moving forward to tinker with it. Again, I thought we were a better team tonight than we were in Game 1.”

Going into Game 2, the Sharks hadn’t scored a goal in 147 minutes and 24 seconds, a drought that dated to last year’s four-overtime, series-ending 2-1 loss to Dallas in the second round.

That drought finally ended when Ryane Clowe scored an unassisted goal at 5:38 of the second period. For the record, the scoreless stretch lasted 173 minutes and two seconds. Clowe’s goal, which tied the game 1-1, gave the Sharks some relief and a lift.

“I think it did give us a spark,” Clowe said. “We got some pretty good chances after that. We had a couple power plays after that. We didn’t capitalize. It was tough.”

Moving from his left to his right toward the middle of the rink, Clowe whipped a low shot that beat Jonas Hiller just inside the left post. It was a good shot, but what made it great was that Joe Pavelski was planted in front of Hiller, screening his vision.

“My shot was right along the ice, but just because Pavs went there and it was a good screen, it’s tough for the goalie to see,” Clowe said. “Obviously what he sees right now he’s stopping.”

Clowe’s goal energized HP Pavilion, but the Ducks grabbed the momentum back by scoring back-to-back goals in the third period.

Jonathan Cheechoo answered with a goal with 6:06 left, cutting the Ducks’ lead to 3-2. Cheechoo scoring against the Ducks shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Entering the series, he had scored 20 goals in 34 career games against Anaheim.

On this goal, Cheechoo sent Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer to the ice with a nifty move then beat Hiller with a high shot just inside the right post.

Anaheim jumped in front for good at 9:44 of the third period on rookie Andrew Ebbett’s first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff goal. Ducks winger Teemu Selanne sped past the Sharks defense to initiate the play, and Ebbett collected the loose puck behind the net and banked a shot off Nabokov and in.

“I wasn’t able to locate the puck,” said Nabokov, who lost sight of the puck as the play broke down behind the net. “I couldn’t get set. It came off the boards and I didn’t see it.”

Nabokov spun around to avoid deflecting the puck, but it was already behind him.

Another Anaheim rookie, Drew Miller, punched a rebound past Nabokov 3 1/2 minutes later to put Anaheim ahead 3-1. The goal was Miller’s first-ever in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and ended up being the game-winner.

All three Anaheim scorers, Ebbett, Miller and Bobby Ryan, who scored on the power play in the first period, were teammates last season during the Portland Pirates playoff run, Anaheim’s former American Hockey League affiliate. The 26-year old Ebbett posted 17 points in 18 playoff games last season for Portland and Miller had 8 points in 16 games. Ryan notched 20 points in 16 playoff games.

Ebbett played in 48 games for Anaheim this season, amassing an impressive 8 goals and 24 assists in his rookie campaign.

Miller and Ebbetts’s relationship goes back further than the AHL. The former linemates in Portland were bitter rivals in college. Miller played for Michigan and Ebbetts skated for Michigan State. Both players captained their teams in 2005-2006, the same season Sharks center Joe Pavelski captained his Wisconsin Badgers to the NCAA National Championship.

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