The Sharks by no means consider themselves a lock for the playoffs, but they have recently created some separation from the clubs sitting on the outside looking in. Team Teal currently sits seven points ahead of the current ninth place club and that is as much room as they’ve seen all year.
San Jose has won six in a row and five have been one goal games. In three of those victories, the
man-advantage has scored, effectively proving to be a difference maker in the contest. The games where the power play made a contribution were Pittsburgh, Detroit and Washington. Along with outstanding defensive play, goals need to be scored and the power play is doing its part.
“It has,” McLellan said. “When you think about most nights, half a goal makes a difference and the power play can get you that as well as the penalty kill. As the year goes on you’re less likely to score on power plays, the goalies are sharper. If your power play can get you that goal, it makes it a world of difference.”
San Jose ranks third in the NHL in power play percentage at 22.6 percent. At home, they click at an amazing 25.2 percent success rate. San Jose will need continued success from their skilled lineup when up a man to keep the current winning ways going.
A well-timed power play goal can change more than just the scoreboard, it alters momentum and that is immeasurable in hockey.
“The power play swings momentum of the game,” Devin Setoguchi said. “You can score a critical goal late in the game on the power play or score one early. If you can win the specialty team battles, you are going to win the game. That’s usually how it works. We’ve been doing that lately and we’ve got keep doing that.”
McLellan says the key for his club is to be as hard on the puck as possible as the offensive potential raises a level when an opponent is in the penalty box. The players are following their marching orders precisely.
“Our power play hasn’t changed throughout the year,” McLellan said. “There was a segment earlier in the year where we weren’t aggressive. We didn’t get pucks back and didn’t have a lot of traffic in front of the net. We were trying to play on the perimeter.”
That is in the rear view window now.
“We’re back to a formula that works well for us so we’re finding ways to score,” McLellan said.
With the next six games at home, if the Sharks can continue finding timely power play goals, they could see a surge further up the conference standings.
McLellan gave several of his players time to recuperate Sunday.
“Some players had maintenance days (Ben Eager and Dany Heatley) and some are banged up and bruised,” McLellan said. “Scottie Nichol and Kent Huskins are still injured and won’t be ready for Tuesday. Niitty will be a little while yet. Dan Boyle
is the one I’m sure everyone is interested in. He’s feeling better and we’ll see how he is tomorrow and if he can get out and skate and participate in a full practice.”
Those that went on the ice definitely got a workout in.
“Practice today had some bite to it, some energy,” McLellan said.
McLellan did enjoy seeing Niittymaki practice with the club for the first time in a while.
“First skate in a long time, I haven’t talked to him since practice,” McLellan said. “It was good to see him out there. From what I’m told, he will be indefinite until we can confirm his health is where it needs to be and he can get back to game shape and game timing.”
As for Niittymaki, no question it is better than watching from afar.
“A normal practice, so it felt good,” Niittymaki said. “I still have a ways to go.”
Monday is the NHL’s annual trade deadline, but the Sharks may have already done the bulk of their work. Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manger has already acquired several players who have made a difference in Ben Eager, Kyle Wellwood and Ian White. With how well the team is doing, it would be a surprise if anything drastic happened with the current Sharks lineup.
When the Sharks visit Calgary as they did Friday night, there is no shortage of fans supporting Setoguchi from his home area of Taber, Alberta.
“Every time I go there, there are close to 200 people,” Setoguchi said. “They all came and I finally got a goal for them. It took three and a half years to finally get a point in that building. It was definitely one of my better games I’ve played there.”
San Jose will host Colorado Tuesday at 7:30 and tickets can still be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.sjsharks.com. The contest will be available on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.