San Jose used a strong 4-2 victory against Phoenix to reach the 100-point plateau for the second time in franchise history and kept pace with Anaheim and Dallas in the Pacific Division race. Anaheim stands in first with 104 points and has games remaining with both the Sharks and Stars. Dallas and San Jose each have 100 points and Dallas does have one game in hand on both clubs.
“I’m going to say all eight (Western Conference) teams that qualify for the playoffs will have 100 points,” said Ron Wilson. “That’s the new line to shoot for. If you don’t have 95 points, you’ve had a bad year. 90 points might make the playoffs in the East.”
The Sharks felt they could have played better in spite of the win.
“I don’t think we came out with everything,” said Scott Hannan. “We were fighting the puck. We ground out two points and it was a big win.”
PENALTY KILLING TOUGH
The Sharks had a tough night in the penalty box, facing nine separate minor penalties, but they persevered and were able to win because of their shorthanded specialists. Team Teal allowed just one power play goal and that came while down two men.
“The guys did a good job and Nabby bailed us out (when he needed to),” said Mike Grier. “With the playoffs coming, it is more important to bear down going down the stretch.”
“We don’t want to kill that many penalties on any night,” said Hannan. “We have some sloppy play to take out of our game.”
The penalty killing duo of Grier and Curtis Brown, used their even strength skills to set up Patrick Rissmiller for the game’s opening tally. On the play, Brown intercepted a Coyotes pass to keep the puck in the offensive zone. He quickly found Grier who quickly found Rissmiller alone in the slot and he buried the shot. The Sharks have won each game in which Rissmiller has lit the lamp.
“It was good stick work by Brownie,” said Grier who recorded his first multi-assist game of the season. “He is always sniffing the puck.”
“Brownie did a good job getting back on defense and turned it into a goal,” said Rissmiller.
The line was temporarily broken up recently, but should be a mainstay through the playoffs.
“I think everyone knows we can get the job done,” said Rissmiller.
The Sharks know that scoring must now come from just the Marleau and Thornton lines.
Grier also set up Scott Hannan for the game-winning tally, which was only Hannan’s third mark of the season. The stay-at-home blueliner joined the rush, but is not straying far from what makes him one of the league’s most respected one-on-one defenders.
“I’m not going to say I faked the goalie out of position,” laughed Hannan.
The Sharks Foundation held their annual Fantasy Camp fundraiser and raised well in excess of $20,000 for charity. Returning players included Todd Harvey, Bryan Marchment, Ron Stern, Al Iafrate, Marty McSorley, Gary Suter, Bernie Nicholls and others.
“It was a great opportunity to see everyone and help raise money,” said Stern.
The Sharks forward who is best remembered for scoring the opening goal in San Jose’s dramatic Game 7 upset over the St. Louis Blues.
“We take for granted what we see on the ice,” said Stern. “Their effort and excitement is fun to see.”
The Fantasy Campers were treated to a morning skate, numbered and lettered jerseys, pregame massages and a pregame meal that NHLers would eat, plus a regulation game playing alongside many stars they’ve watched from their seats over the years.
Gino Spinelli attended his third such event and is likely to come back again.
“This is my third time,” said Spinelli. “I love the event. They do a great job of making it better every year. The guys are great. Last year I needed a ride and Ron Stern gave me a lift.”
And his favorite part of the event?
“Hanging out and watching the guys,” said Spinelli. “The camaraderie with the guys is great.”
Rookie defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
celebrated his 20th birthday tonight. He is currently the youngest defenseman in the NHL and fourth-youngest of all players on league rosters entering tonight’s action. Vlasic also recorded two assists giving him his second two-game point streak of his career (0-3=3) as well as his third career multi-point game.
COYOTES HEAD COACH, WAYNE GRETZKY:
We played pretty solid, except that we played a good hockey club tonight. We turned the puck over for the first goal and battled back after the second goal on the power play. They kept coming at us and made a heck of a play on the fourth goal and Cheechoo made a good shot. As I said, we played against a very good hockey club.
We played Thursday night, got in late and played Friday. It’s the end of the year and you’ve got to motivate yourself from within right now because we’re obviously not in the playoff run. I’m happy with our older guys, Doan, Nolan and Morris.
They (the Sharks) should look to have a good run here in the playoffs. They’ve got solid goaltending and the young defensive playing hard.
The Sharks will host Los Angeles on Friday at HP Pavilion and the 3 p.m. contest will be carried on NBC, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.