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NHL Ruling Has Players' Attention

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
In this photo from March 20, 2011, Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke (24) is escorted from the ice by NHL linesman Derek Amell (75) after he was elected for elbowing New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the third period of the NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh. The league announced on Monday March 23, 2011 that Cooke has been suspended for the remainder of the regular season (10 games) and the f
Matt Cooke’s suspension by the National Hockey League has garnered the attention of every hockey player and coach. Pittsburgh’s left wing is done for the rest of the regular season (10 games) and is ineligible for the opening round of the playoffs (a minimum of four, maximum of seven). On Sunday, Cooke stuck out his elbow in the face of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.


Based on Cooke’s punishment, Sharks players know what they can’t do moving forward.

“The League sent a very loud, clear message to the players that it’s not going to be tolerated,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “Nobody in our organization is immune to that message. We should all open up our eyes and take notice.”

Cooke’s reputation may have played a role in the length of his suspension, but Sharks players don’t want to be put in the position of guessing what they could receive for illegal contact.

“No one really knows what you’re going to get, but if you’re a repeat offender and you’ve done it a few times and you’re on that list, you’ve go to mind your Ps and Qs,” Scott Nichol said.

Nichol, who’s on Injured Reserve, wasn’t shying away from his past history.

“Oh yeah,” Nichol said about his past indiscretions. “It’s scary, but it sends a message.”

San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton, left, embraces goalie Antti Niemi at the end of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild Thursday, March 17, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo)
HE KEEPS GOING AND GOING AND GOING…
Goaltender Antti Niemi has started the Sharks last 28 games – just like that rabbit advertising icon. Niemi’s workload doesn’t concern him or his coaches as the season has just nine games remaining. That’s probably because Niemi had the same workload with Chicago and handled it to the Stanley Cup.

“I’ve never met a goalie that’s fought to get out of the net,” McLellan said. “The fight is usually to get in and stay in. The fact that Nemo has played in 20 some (consecutive) games now, we’re well aware of the fact. They just happen to be his 20 some best games of the season. The team has responded to him.”

Niemi hasn’t had game breaks, but he’s had some time off because of the schedule. San Jose hasn’t played since Saturday and won’t play until tomorrow night.

“The three-game break was a good thing and most of our road schedule was done heading into March,” McLellan said. “Do we see signs of fatigue and mental sharpness diminishing? By no means.”

Still there could be a break for Niemi coming up. San Jose has two back-to-back sets down the stretch. They include this Wednesday and Thursday with a home and road set against Calgary and Los Angeles. Then they close out the season with a home-and-home against Phoenix.

“There will come a time where we will give him a break,” McLellan said, “but we will make the decisions on a day-to-day basis.”

COUTURE SIGHTING
San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture, center, is assisted off the ice by teammates Ben Eager (55) and Ryane Clowe (29) after suffering an injury during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues Saturday, March 19, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Forward Logan Couture skated for the first time since going down in the St. Louis contest and all reports were positive.

“It felt fine,” Couture said. “Obviously it’s still a little sore.”

Does skating in practice today mean a spot in Wednesday’s game against Calgary?

“I don’t make the lineup,” Couture said, joking that he didn’t have that power.

The man with the call said most of the decision rests with the training staff.

“When he can play him without further injury, we’ll put him in the lineup,” McLellan said. “He’s a very important piece and we can sure use him at this time of the year.”

McLellan was out of town for a funeral on Saturday, but saw what happened.

“I was watching on TV and you get that big lump in your throat and gut,” McLellan said.

WALLIN UPDATE

After a second straight day on the ice, defenseman Niclas Wallin noted feeling better today than yesterday and McLellan said he’s getting closer to returning.

Wallin should be available tomorrow, we’ll see how he is in the morning,” McLellan said. “He looked very fresh and very sharp in practice. Scotty Nichol won’t play tomorrow and there’s still time ahead of him with regards to fitness, strength and confidence.”

REST IS GOOD
McLellan says if there is one positive from forward Dany Heatley’s suspension it’s that he’ll be well rested. He missed two games and then the Sharks had three days without a contest.

San Jose Sharks' Dany Heatley celebrates after scoring a goal against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 3, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
“He should be refreshed,” McLellan said. “He’ll be a little healthier than he was. It might take him a shift or two to get back into things. A week is a long time.”

ONCE A FLAME…ALWAYS A FLAME?
There are more Sharks who’ve played with Calgary than any other NHL team. Nichol, defenseman Ian White and forward Jamal Mayers all spent time with the Flames.

“They just keep hanging around,” Nichol said. “Maybe that’s a credit to them. They seem to find players and when they leave, they stick around the League. I played with Chris Clark and he’s still playing. There are still a few out there.”

GAME ON!
San Jose plays host to Calgary at 7 p.m. Wednesday and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be on CSN California, KFOX 98.5/102.1 FM and www.sjsharks.com.



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