The San Jose Sharks set a major franchise mark on Saturday night while jumping into first place in their NHL points battle with Detroit.
Their 3-2 victory against Phoenix gave them 109 points on the year, breaking the franchise mark of 108 set just last season. That year San Jose finished second in the Western Conference and bowed out in the second round. This year they hope to finish first and go much further in the playoffs.
The 109 points put them two up on the Red Wings for home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
“We watched Detroit last night and we were motivated,” said Jody Shelley.
Still Detroit can’t be the only focus for Team Teal.
“We’d like to end up in first, but we’re a better hockey team when we focus on what we do best,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan.
One of the best parts of the victory was where the Sharks first two tallies came from – the fourth line. The Sharks opening goal came courtesy of Jody Shelley’s second marker of the year. On the play, Shelley was applying pressure and was on the spot when an errant pass came right to him.
“It was nice,” said Shelley. “There aren’t many times you get a break like that.”
The second goal was from an even more surprising Shark as Tom Cavanagh notched his first career NHL tally.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Cavanagh. “I’ve been here 15 games and it’s good to get that one under my belt.”
The rookie’s goal came on a Sharks odd man rush and Cavanagh made the most of a Devin Setoguchi pass.
“It was a three-on-two rush and I drove the net,” said Cavanagh. “Devin made a nice pass right to me and I chipped it over the goalie’s shoulder.”
The puck will be part of Cavanagh’s permanent collection.
“I think someone grabbed it for me,” said a smiling Cavanagh.
That the fourth line put up two-thirds of the scoring was a welcome relief to Shelley.
“It’s a nice feeling . . . and fun to score at home,” said Shelley. “In the playoffs we’ll need others to get going.”
“You can’t count on the Thornton’s all the time,” said McLellan.
For the game-winner, it was a top liner who found the back of the net as Joe Pavelski
ripped the winner while on the power play.
Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau
skated just seven minutes and 20 seconds on the night. He left in the first and briefly skated in the second, before retiring for the night.
“Patty probably won’t skate tomorrow,” said McLellan. “He came out really late in the first and he came out for a shift in the second. It wasn’t working.”
McLellan noted Marleau had a lower body injury.
With Marleau out, the lines were mixed all night, but McLellan was proud of his club’s response.
“The lines got shuffled,” said McLellan. “Some guys who play six to seven minutes played 12 to 13 minutes and contributed. I’m proud of the way the guys dug in.”
Saturday’s morning skate was a little bit more crowded than usual with the recent influx of call ups from the Worcester Sharks and the return of a handful of injured players to the ice.
“There was a large group of guys skating out there today so that’s a good sign,” said McLellan. “It’s the first time we skated at home in a while too.”
Right winger Jonathan Cheechoo also participated in the morning skate, but did not play in the game.
The injured Tomas Plihal, Mike Grier, Marcel Goc, Claude Lemieux and Kent Huskins also joined the team in the morning.
“They need some practice time now, a little more rehabbing, but they’re closer,” said McLellan.
Of the group, McLellan singled out Plihal as the closest Shark to returning to the lineup.
Still missing are Rob Blake, Ryane Clowe
and Torrey Mitchell
“Blake and Clowe still need a little more time to heal,” McLellan said. “Both are progressing, but still need time. Blake it turns out will be out a little bit longer, but the doctors aren’t saying these guys will be out for a month or anything like that. Clowe is progressing like we thought he would; he’s not behind or ahead.”
The Sharks will depart to Canada on Sunday for battles with Calgary and Edmonton.
“If you can skate, you’re making the road trip,” McLellan said. “But we’ll see on Blake and Clowe.”
IT’S A HOCKEY OFFICIAL
NHL linesman Darren Gibbs took a puck to the back of the head in the first period, but just like hockey competitors, after a visit to the Sharks training room, he returned to the ice later in the period.
San Jose will visit Calgary on Monday with the 6:30 p.m. PST game available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.