|Colorado Avalanche Milan Hejduk, left, and San Jose Sharks' Ian White battle for the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 1, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) |
The San Jose Sharks have played a National Hockey League-leading 35 road games (tied with Nashville) and are an impressive 24-11-3. Conversely, the 29 home games played at HP Pavilion are the fewest in the NHL (also tied with Nashville). Now that March is here, it’s time for the schedule to balance out and it began with Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout victory against Colorado.
San Jose is in the early stages of a six-game homestand with runs through March 12 and is the first home stretch of more than three games since a five-game run in November. The Sharks have played well at home so far this year, going 16-10-3. But they’re looking to put a little more bite into their home ice advantage down the stretch.
“We have to establish our game at home and figure out what works,” Douglas Murray
said. “What works right now is working hard and playing simple.”
In short, playing the road game at home. It can be easier said that done, but all the Sharks have to do is maintain the current formula.
“We get most of the games at home this month which is fun to play in front of all our fans,” Devin Setoguchi said. “We did a great job being on the road and getting wins, but now we have to play in front of our own fans and get some wins. It’s always exciting to come back and play at the Tank.”
The boisterous HP Pavilion crowds are part of the reason the Sharks love playing in San Jose and there’s a part of each player that wants to reward them. That being said, they can’t alter their style and start doing things outside of what they’ve been practicing.
|San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, right, looks to block the shot of Colorado Avalanche Matt Duchene in a shootout during an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 1, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) |
“You want to play good for the fans, but we have to stick with our game and to what’s working,” Setoguchi said. “If we can do that at home, we’ll continue getting wins.”
“We’ve got to keep playing simple and working hard,” Antti Niemi
said. “We’ve got enough talent if we keep working hard.”
San Jose’s players want to play like they did on the road, but they can’t assume it will happen.
“Big to win in those buildings, some tough buildings to play in,” Coach Todd McLellan said of the wins in Detroit, Pittsburgh and Calgary. “It’s pretty rewarding, but that’s behind us now. The danger now is we get home, get comfortable and take our foot off the gas. That would be unacceptable.”
There’s a reason teams fight all year for home ice advantage and the regular season numbers shade to the host each night. Still there can be pitfalls on native soil.
“There’s the danger of coming home and relaxing,” McLellan said. “You’re in a comfortable environment. You’re eating your food and sleeping in your bed. Around town people are telling you things are going well. That can be dangerous. If we’ve taken anything from early in the season, we should be able to block that out.”
|San Jose Sharks' Devin Setoguchi (16) celebrates with teammates at the end of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. Setoguichi scored his first career hat trick. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) |
The homestand continues Thursday with Detroit coming to town. There’s a chance the Sharks could finish the evening two points behind the Red Wings for second in the conference or sit six points behind their rival depending on tonight’s Detroit-Anaheim game at Honda Center.
That contest is followed by Dallas (who had been leading the Pacific Division for most of the season), Nashville (fighting for a playoff spot), Vancouver (leading the NHL) and the New York Rangers (the only Eastern Conference visitor the rest of the season).
It should be a fun first half of March for Sharks fans anxious to see more of their team in person. SEVEN HEAVEN
San Jose’s seven-game winning streak is their longest of the season.NEXT GAME
Tickets for Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. match with Detroit 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 sjsharks.com.