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More Than The Last Game

by Tony Khing / San Jose Sharks
Two playoff bound teams conclude the season tonight at HP Pavilion. The Pacific Division Champion San Jose Sharks won’t finish any lower than third in the Western Conference. The Phoenix Coyotes clinched a spot with their 4-3 win over the Sharks in Arizona last night.


But there’s more at stake, especially for the Sharks. San Jose needs to win to guarantee themselves the No. 2 seed, regardless of what third place Detroit does on Sunday against Chicago. On top of that, the Sharks have lost their last two, which comes after having won four straight and eight of their previous nine.

Coach Todd McLellan wants to see the Sharks end the season the right way to set themselves up properly for the second season.

“Our game in Anaheim was a disaster,” McLellan said in reference to the 6-2 loss that started this mini-losing streak. “We found a few more players last night in Phoenix. We’re hoping to gain a few more tonight and be ready to go.”

McLellan is concerned about the team’s “input” into the last two games – “the competitiveness, taking it up a notch, the physicality. I don’t mean running guys through the end of the boards. (I mean winning) Loose puck battles, faceoffs, net play.

“We want to play our game,” McLellan added. “The trouble we’ve had over the last two games is trying to get that message through to the players. They’re humans. They react to certain situations and took their foot off the gas in Anaheim and played a very safe and softer game. As a result, we got spanked.

“Last night, we had more players engaged physically,” he concluded. “It still wasn’t enough. I’d like to see us laying it on the line. I want to see us blocking shots, taking hits and preparing to play on Wednesday or Thursday of next week.”

The Sharks need to start strong in tonight’s game against Phoenix. They were down 3-0 early to Anaheim and were down 4-1 last night before rallying to score two goals. Also, over the last two games, San Jose has allowed five power play goals.

“It doesn’t matter how good you were playing over your last 30 games,” center Joe Pavelski said. “You can lose that feeling in a hurry. It’s about bringing it every night. It’s important we find that again and get going.”

“We want to go into the playoffs on a good note. We want to get the details of our game in order. And we want to stay out of the penalty box,” center Scott Nichol said. “That’s what it pretty much boils down to.”

BACK IN THE SADDLE
Being on Injured Reserve isn’t fun for any player.

Minutes turn into hours. Hours turn into days. Days turn into weeks…and so on.

San Jose Sharks' Scott Nichol, left, checks Colorado Avalanche's Cody McLeod during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Just ask Nichol.

Nichol, who had missed 20 games because of an upper body injury, was back in the lineup on Friday night against Phoenix.

Nichol’s stats were inconsequential: 9:39 of ice time, one minor penalty that didn’t result in a goal, won two of his three faceoffs, no shots and was a minus-2. He was just more than happy to be back on the ice in a game, something he hadn’t done since Feb. 19 against Colorado.

“It was nice to get back out there,” Nichol said this morning. “The legs and the wind felt good. I just needed to get back to speed on reading plays. I was worried about (adjusting) to the pace of the game. I felt strong. Overall, I’m pretty happy.”

Nichol had some simple goals to accomplish last night. “I just wanted to get my legs under me,” he said. “I wanted to get my confidence back and my timing on faceoffs. Little things like that.”

For almost two months, Nichol’s view of the game was from a different vantage point – high above the ice in the press box. Obviously, there’s a different perspective of the game as a spectator, compared to being a participant.

“Guys are a lot bigger and faster (down below),” Nichol said. “Things happen sooner. Up there, you can read the play and see things developing.”

There was one other person happy to see Nichol back on the ice: his coach.

“It was nice to have him back,” McLellan said. “In those 20 games, that’s a quarter of a season, a lot changes, especially in the back half of the year. The games have really ramped up. The intensity is there and the speed is really going. I thought his nine-and-a-half minutes was valuable for us. I liked his game as a whole. I didn’t like the penalty he took. I much prefer him killing penalties rather than taking them.

“He’s a nice addition to have.”

ROSTER CHANGES
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11), of Slovakia, attempts the steal from San Jose Sharks center Benn Ferriero (78) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011, in Los Angeles. The Sharks won 1-0. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Forward Benn Ferriero has been recalled from Worcester, San Jose’s top development affiliate in the American Hockey League. Ferriero has played in 32 games for the Sharks, posting nine points (five goals and four assists). With Worcester, he had 33 points (16 goals and 17 assists) in 43 games.

In a separate set of transactions, forwards Andrew Desjardins and Brandon Mashinter have been reassigned to Worcester.

GAME ON!
San Jose concludes the 2010-11 regular season tonight against Phoenix at HP Pavilion. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com

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