MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME
National Hockey League teams play an 82-game season. It goes without saying that no team will win every game.
However, the San Jose Sharks play in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division. And while San Jose’s 21-9-0 record and 42 points would lead four of the six divisions, their record is good for second place. That’s because first place Anaheim (23-3-6, 52 points) keeps winning. In fact, they defeated Tampa Bay on Saturday night to stay 10 points ahead of the Sharks.
So, after a disappointing performance against Colorado on Thursday, the Sharks needed to have a strong game against the Predators. And they got one.
“We didn’t play too well Thursday night,” Joe Thornton
said. “Before the game, we talked about having a strong performance and playing hard for 60 minutes. And we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
The first period play set the tone. Although the Sharks were outshot, 10-8, they led 2-0. In those initial 20 minutes, they blocked six shots and won 65 percent of their faceoffs.
“We just threw pucks at the net, created chances and got the puck deep,” Thornton said. “In the first 10 minutes, we wanted to erase thoughts of the last game from our heads. We wanted to put some pressure on them.”
San Jose also took advantage of a depleted Nashville squad. Leading scorer Steve Sullivan was out with a groin injury, offseason free agent acquisition Jason Arnott has been on injured reserve since Nov. 20 with a knee injury and starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun has been out since Nov. 23 with a hand injury.
“Even with the guys they have out of the lineup,” Coach Ron Wilson said, “they have a lot of speed and made it difficult all night. They’re a good team.”
Another reason for San Jose’s success was in the penalty kill. The Sharks killed all five Predator power plays.
“Our PK did a great job,” Wilson said. “We blocked a ton of shots and kept them on the perimeter. They only had a couple of one-timers that are huge to their power play. We really did a good job of denying them those opportunities by getting in the shooting lanes. Our forwards did a great job.”
Rookie center Joe Pavelski
had his mom and dad watching from the HP Pavilion seats on Saturday night. This wasn’t the first time Sandy and Mike Pavelski have seen their son play for the Sharks in person. They did see him score a power play goal in San Jose’s 2-1 at Minnesota on Nov. 29.
The night was sort of “special” for young Pavelski. He got his first NHL assist on Jonathan Cheechoo’s first goal in the first period and he picked up his first NHL penalty, hooking, in the same frame.
“He (dad) won’t say too much about the penalty,” Joe Pavelski
said. “He’ll be asking me why I didn’t score a goal.”
NO WJC FOR “PICKLES”
Rookie defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
won’t be playing for Team Canada in the upcoming World Junior Championships. The 19-year-old is staying with the Sharks during the games, which will be held from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Sweden.
“On decisions like these, we like to leave them up to the player,” Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson said. “The player needs to make the decision and he made a mature one. We don’t like to tell them what to do.
“Marc-Edouard is a full-time player for us who logs huge minutes. His goal was to play in the NHL. He very much would like to represent Canada in the future.”
“I’m honored to be asked to represent my country,” Vlasic said. “However, I want to be playing in the NHL. I look forward to another chance to play for Team Canada someday.”