|Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) is congratulated by center Torrey Mitchell (17) after their 5-2 over the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit on Monday, Dec. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) |
The San Jose Sharks departed today for their final extended road trip of the season that will take them into the Eastern time zone. It’s also the last trip of the year that will extend beyond two games. Starting in March, San Jose will have three, two-game trips in the central and Pacific time zones.
All contests at this point in the season are critical, but there’s no question the Sharks have three hard games ahead. Things begin Tuesday in Detroit, who’s first in the Central Division and is second in the Western Conference. The next day, the Sharks play the injury-riddled Pittsburgh Penguins, who own the National Hockey League’s fourth-best record. The third game in four nights is Friday in Calgary and the Flames are, like the Sharks, one of the NHL’s hottest teams. Calgary has taken points in 13 of their last 14 games to climb into a tie for fifth place in the Western Conference.
“They all are,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said of describing the difficult road games. “We’re playing two of the teams that have been perennial Stanley Cup contenders right off the bat. It’s not going to be an easy task and (with the) with the way the Flames have played and the streak they’re on, we’ll have our hands full.”
|San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski (8) celebrates with teammate Ryane Clowe (29) after Pavelski scored a goal against Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) |
“Calgary is playing extremely well, Detroit is one of the top teams in the League and Pittsburgh, even though they’re battered and bruised, are going to give us a lot to handle,” Dan Boyle
The bad news is the Sharks are back on the road, already having completed a seven-game trip this month. The good news is Team Teal is playing lights out where ever they are right now and went 5-2-0 on the previous season-long trip from the Bay Area.
“Three big games,” Joe Thornton
said. “We feel comfortable playing on the road. It will be three tough games, so we have to be on our game.”
The opponents really don’t matter at this time of the year, just the results.
“No more days off, we took them during the first half,” Boyle said.
“You just concentrate on one game at a game and concentrate on the day’s game,” Thornton said. “Then you look at who you play tomorrow.”
When the Sharks do return to San Jose, they will be among the League leaders in home games remaining with 13.
“The road is the road and at the end of the day, it’s nice to be home and hopefully we’ll take advantage of the number of games we have there,” Boyle said.
|San Jose Sharks' Scott Nichol, left, checks Colorado Avalanche's Cody McLeod during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) |
75 PERCENT DOWN, 25 PERCENT TO GO
San Jose has reached the three-quarter pole of the regular season (60 games played) and have 22 games remaining.
SICK BAY UPDATE
The Sharks have a few bumps and bruises that could affect them on this trip. Center Scott Nichol suffered an upper body injury that forced him from the Colorado contest. In addition, defenseman Kent Huskins could be in the same boat as he didn’t Monday.
“Huskins needed a maintenance day and with the amount of D-men we have here now, he will probably take tomorrow off,” McLellan stated. “Just to heel up a little bit. Bumps and bruises.”
Carter Hutton is still the man backing up Antti Niemi
as Antero Niittymaki is still unavailable.
“Niitty is still out and he’s going to be out for a while,” McLellan said. “It’s more an indefinite thing.”
The good news is that after a night away from game action, Marc-Edouard Vlasic
returned to practice.
“He should be fine,” McLellan said.
|San Jose Sharks' Kent Huskins (40) celebrates his first-period goal with teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) against the Florida Panthers during an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve Mitchell) |
With eight NHL-caliber blueliners in the locker room, McLellan isn’t rushed to put someone back in the lineup who may not be 100 percent.
“We’re comfortable dressing seven and we’re also comfortable dressing six and having two sit out and watch,” McLellan said. “It’s going to be competitive back there right now. We want to stay healthy and we want to continue to win games and we’ll do what we have to do get that done.”
HOCKEY FOR HUGGIES
The Sharks diaper drive, which was held last Thursday in conjunction with Huggies, brought in more than 10,000 diapers that will go to needy Bay Area parents. In addition, Sharks fans donated $2,641.51 to the cause. Everything was donated to Help A Mother Out and appears to be their single largest donation of the year.
The Sharks will visit Detroit Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5 and 102.1 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.