The biggest news for Wednesday’s Western Conference Final rematch is the Sharks will be getting back Douglas Murray
. It is no coincidence that during his absence San Jose has now lost three consecutive matches. Not all of it can be attributed to his time in the press box, but one has to think the two third period road losses would have been different with an immovable object blocking the path to the net.
“He’s a huge part of this team and we’re very happy to have him back,” Dan Boyle
said of his regular blueline mate. “He’s a great partner and we certainly missed him.”
“It makes a very big difference to our blueline,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “He brings an ingredient we don’t have a lot of. There is not a lot of that around the League to tell you the truth. It makes a huge difference around our net and keeps the other team honest through the neutral zone. You never know when he is going to be stepping up and skating through someone. We’ll welcome him back with open arms.”
Murray does more than just play hard and has more to him than meets the eye. What he does affects the Sharks offensive attack.
“He gets the puck out of the corners and allows me to do what I do offensively,” Boyle said. “Every player brings something to the game and he brings the physical aspect. He gets the big hits, but for me it’s getting the puck out of the corners and allowing myself and the offensive line we’re on to go the other way and spend the energy that way instead of playing in that end.”
The Sharks offensive players can almost feel a bit for opponents trying to work through Murray as they struggle with him every day.
“He’s a juggernaut, once he gets going you can’t stop him,” Patrick Marleau
said. “He’s a huge part of this team. He makes sure other teams aren’t coming through the neutral zone with a lot of speed.”
Dany Heatley remembers the first time he had to try and play through Murray and definitely was given a physical reminder of how difficult the task is.
“He’s a physical presence and with his attitude,” Heatley said of why Murray has such a large on ice role. “He plays the game tough. To lose a guy like that who plays so many minutes affects your team. It’s funny the first time a guy plays against him and doesn’t realize how solid he is. I remember playing against him a few years ago in this building and just getting hit with a normal rub out, but you feel it from him.”
Murray provided the lockerroom humor for the day when a crew of reporters asked Boyle why he thought the Sharks goal scoring was down this year and Murray from the outside chirped in “Murray’s been hurt.”
19 GAMES IN
Tomorrow will mark the Sharks 20th game of the season and they are still working to get where they want to be. It may just be that now is the point in their year where they are fighting to earn points. It happens to every club, including San Jose the past two years when they were the Western Conference regular season champs.
“Every team goes through it,” Boyle said. “Anaheim was the hottest team in the league and now they’ve lost four or five in a row. When you are winning games you want to maximize it as much as you can and when you are in a valley or losing streak, you want to end it as soon as possible.”
The Sharks are six points behind their pace of last year and four behind the Los Angeles Kings for the Pacific Division lead. It is not a good sign that they currently sit outside a playoff spot, but with several games in hand on some clubs, a couple of wins instantly changes the dynamic.
“That being said, you can’t let points slide more and more and get further behind,” Patrick Marleau
The Sharks, while not down on themselves, are simply looking internally more often instead of externally at the standings.
“I think we just look at our play and we’re not where we want to be,” Marleau said. “It resembles the standings. We’ll be happy when our game is where it should be and the standings will be taken care of. (The standings now) show how important it is for us to get our game going.”
“We feel we’re in a slump and haven’t played as well as we can in the first 20,” Heatley said. “We can finish off the first 20 with a big win tomorrow night and go from there. Some nights I like the way we play and (when that happens) not too many teams are going to beat us. I thought we played that way against L.A. Little things are costing us. Some games we’ve lost (late), some games we can’t seem to buy a goal. I thought Columbus was the bottom of the year. We’ve had a good couple days of video and practice and have to get back to playing. Tomorrow will be a good test for us.”
San Jose doesn’t view the Chicago contest as a revenge opportunity against the club that bumped them from a Stanley Cup opportunity.
“It’s similar to when we played Anaheim two years ago, it’s in there somewhere, but it’s not a revenge game or anything like that,” Boyle said. “It’s us trying to come back after three losses in a row and getting to where we need to be.”
Boyle acknowledged that both clubs are more focused on themselves.
“I think so. The meaningful games are the ones in the playoffs,” Boyle said. “Neither team is where they want to be. Both teams need to get back on the right track.”
HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER
The NHL and NHLPA yesterday announced that they raised and donated more than $1.1 million to cancer organizations during Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month in October.
Former Sharks prospect Dmitri Patzold was recently involved in a 21 round shootout in Germany, believed to be a professional hockey record. Check out the link for details. http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/news/news-singleview/article/shootout-record-in-germany.html?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=955&cHash=f1f842df70
The Sharks will host Chicago on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.