San Jose did not play Wednesday, but they received a nice surprise nonetheless. Courtesy of St. Louis topping Detroit 10-3 (yes, 10-3) Wednesday night, San Jose can now move into second place in the Western Conference with a Thursday victory and then control their own destiny moving forward.
San Jose sits one point behind Detroit, but has a game in hand. The games in hand though can’t be counted as victories until they happen, thus the Sharks are more worried about the game at hand, than the game in hand.
“Just the game at hand, that’s our mindset the last few weeks,” Ryane Clowe
said. “We were in a position battling for the playoffs and now we’re in a position to clinch. We’ve done something right.”
The skaters are solely focused on the Stars, but they are clearly aware of the opportunity in front of them.
“Detroit lost last night and we’ve got a game in hand, so we’ve got a chance to jump by them for second. We’ll look to do that,” Clowe said. “That’s good motivation and more home ice. The plan is to go deep in the playoffs and that matters. We had the home ice last year and the first two rounds it meant a lot.”
“It gives you confidence you can get to second and incentive to press on the gas and make a run for home ice in the second round if you can get there,” Kyle Wellwood added.
The Sharks must keep one eye in front of them and another behind them as much of the Pacific Division is still within striking distance of jumping to the third overall spot.
“The move to the two spot would be great, but there also is the potential to move to the seven spot if you’re not alert and aware,” McLellan said.
Presuming a win against the Stars would be dangerous even without taking into account their recent record at HP Pavilion. Dallas has captured four of the last five battles in Silicon Valley.
“There (have been) a lot of good games against Dallas and they are hard fought battles,” Joe Thornton
said. “I wouldn’t expect anything different tonight. They are trying to get in the playoffs and we’ve got to still separate ourselves.”
“They are one of the few teams we’ve lost to in regulation since I’ve been here,” Wellwood stated. “We want to win the game and we know where they are in the standings.”
Wherever San Jose ends up, the focus won’t waiver from playing their best hockey.
“We’ve been playing well and really consistent, so nothing needs to be said,” Thornton said. “We just need to accumulate as many points as we can right now.”
“We know we need to get better and play well against a desperate team and that should be the factor, not the end result and where it puts you in the standings,” McLellan reiterated.
Kyle Wellwood was sporting six stitches thanks to a bad deflection in practice Wednesday.
“It’s just one of those things that happens,” Wellwood said. “At different times of the year you get clipped in practice. Fortunately it hit my visor and got a piece of my mouth.”
Fortuitous that Wellwood is wearing a visor this year as he’d never worn one in the NHL prior to dressing with the Sharks.
“In Russia I had it on and it was fine. When I came here I decided to keep it on,” Wellwood noted. “Except for a few guys, almost 90-95 percent wear one (in Russia).”
Wellwood previously last wore a visor in junior hockey.
The stitches near his mouth still couldn’t take the smile away from being a new father.
“It’s been great,” Wellwood noted. “Something is always going on and that’s the big change. It’s amazing. It’s certainly a joy to have a new baby and someone new in your life.”
McLellan noted that Scott Nichol would not make a game appearance yet. However, he pointed out that Nichol’s return would predate a showing from defenseman Kent Huskins.
“Cross our fingers and we’re counting on that right now,” McLellan said of Nichol returning before the regular season concludes. “Mother Nature can step in and change plans quickly. There is a better chance of Scotty than Husky.”
CHL GOALIE OF THE WEEK
The Canadian Hockey League today announced that JP Anderson of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors is the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week for the week ending March 27. Anderson opened the 2011 OHL Playoffs with three straight wins including two shutout victories with a goals-against-average of 0.33 and save percentage of .983.
Anderson has backstopped the Majors to a 3-0 series lead over the Belleville Bulls which began with a 17-save performance in a 4-1 win last Thursday night in Mississauga.
Tickets for the 7:30 Thursday start with Dallas 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.