Game 3 of Round 2 of the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil will provide a strong test for Team Teal. San Jose showed they can play well on the road in Round 1, taking two of three games in Nashville. Edmonton however, will provide a different challenge for the Sharks as the crowd will rival that of the HP Pavilion faithful. The game will be aired by OLN, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com at 7 p.m. PST.
On the road, NHL players know they will face a firestorm in the first ten minutes and those in Edmonton will try to crank it up a notch to rally their team from a 2-0 series deficit.
“The crowd works both ways,” said McLaren. “We know we can win in a hostile environment. We won in Nashville. We’ll try to take the crowd out the best we can. Sometimes you can’t though. And if you do, the momentum can change in the blink of an eye and they will be back into it.”
While the cheering is not for them, the Sharks can gain from the raucous atmosphere.
“Their crowd pumps us up too,” said Tom Preissing. “We take energy from their crowd.
But silence is truly golden.
“There is no greater feeling on the road than the dead silence when you shut another team down,” said Preissing.
McLaren knows that the Oilers fans will keep cheering through thick and thin.
“They’re boisterous and will be there for 60 minutes,” said McLaren. “We have to be focused and ready to go.”
Former Oiler Scott Thornton knows just how loud the Edmonton crowd can be.
“I played in my first playoffs game here,” said Thornton. “The atmosphere was unbelievable. They are passionate here. Our fans do a great job and theirs will be crazy tonight.
From a preparation standpoint, the Sharks want to keep doing what they have been since December when they posted the second best record in the West.
“I don’t think we need to do anything much different,” said Kyle McLaren. “We’ll approach it much the same as we do home games.”
“I think we have to continue to play as we have,” said Thornton. “We can’t change the way we play from building to building.”
San Jose may have seven players skating in their first playoffs, but those who have been through it before aren’t worried about how the younger players will respond in Edmonton.
“On some level or another, they’ve experienced it,” said Preissing. “You can surmise that it will be a little tougher for everyone in here, but we’re prepared. Even if we take the crowd out of it, they can easily get back into it.”
The younger players feel strength in numbers.
“We’re confident playing with this group and we feel they’re comfortable with us,” said Grant Stevenson. “A lot of us played together in the minors so we’re not going through this by ourselves.”
Part of the reason the Sharks playoff rookies are playing so well is they are not constantly watching over their shoulder.
“Why is it that when a mistake is made by a rookie it is a problem, but not if a veteran does it,” questioned Ron Wilson. “We all have the same standard. We try to create a fun atmosphere and do the right thing in practice. We have peer pressure in our room to do the right thing all the time and the young guys are confident in that environment. There is less fear of making a mistake and that leads to less mistakes.”
Wilson knows why there seems to be an influx of youth on several other playoff teams.
“It used to be the third and fourth lines on teams were players who cheated the best,” said Wilson. “They played a neutral game – tried not to get scored or to score.”
Now the NHL’s rules don’t encourage that type of play and skill and hard work rule the postseason.
McCAULEY LIKELY Alyn McCauley could return to the lineup for Game 3 as he skated in the morning skate.
“I’m planning on playing,” said McCauley. “It felt good this morning and I’m hoping to be in the lineup at 8:00. I feel a lot better than before Game 1 with Nashville. Things are less irritated.”
McCauley wishes he had sat out by his own decision earlier in the Nashville series.
“Maybe it was the wrong move to play in Game 4,” said McCauley. “I probably knew I shouldn’t have played, but the competitive drive to play took over. I didn’t push hard enough to see if I was ready and then when I got out their, it was too much.”
NET CRASHERS One item Wilson has seen enough of is the goalie crashing that has been going on with Vesa Toskala.
“I would question if the goal they scored in Game 2 should have counted,” said Wilson. “That will happen until they call it. It’s like speeding. If the cop gives you a warning, you will keep speeding. Maybe we’ll see a call and it will end it.”
INENSITY Part of the intensity that follows hockey in Canada is not always a positive for the home club, especially when things aren’t going well.
“It can be burdensome with that kind of scrutiny,” said Wilson. “It can be tough in that environment. Here, you can run, but you can’t hide.”