After a respectable road trip in which they earned six out of 10 possible points, the San Jose Sharks will return home Thursday night to face the Phoenix Coyotes in a rare home back-to-back series as the teams will face each other on Saturday.
For Team Teal, the Coyotes present a tougher challenge than what their current last place standings suggest. The Sharks have struggled against them this season, going 1-3-1 against the Pacific Division rivals and being outscored, 21-15, in those contests.
But with just two weeks left in the regular season, this is no time for San Jose to worry about the past. They must focus on finding a way to earn four points against Phoenix.
“We need to bring our ‘A’ game,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “For some reason we haven’t done that against Phoenix this year. The game that we won (an overtime 5-4 win on Feb. 12) was probably our worst game against them. We’ve actually played them pretty well, but in a couple of the games, ‘Cujo’ (Coyotes goaltender Curtis Joseph) played real well. He’s somebody we’re going to have to solve in the next couple games. We need to make sure that while we’re trying to score, we don’t forget to play defense.”
With a light practice on Wednesday afternoon, the Sharks were able to rest up a little bit, skate out some wrinkles, get treatment and save up for tomorrow night’s big tilt.
“Last night, as the game wore on, we were at the end of a long road trip and lacking energy,” said Wilson. “We saw it in Chicago. The first half of the game we had lots of chances and couldn’t put the team away and then we end up in a tight game. All we have to do is recharge our battery and go right back at it. The way we’re playing, we created tons of chances and we just have to stick with it and bury the chances when they come.”
CARLE ENJOYING THE SHOW Although he has skated in just one game since signing with the Sharks on March 19, Matt Carle is thoroughly enjoying himself in the NHL.
The University of Denver defenseman became just the10th Shark to score a goal in his first NHL game. The blueliner joined current teammates Grant Stevenson and Milan Michalek in accomplishing that feat.
“It was pretty cool,” said Carle. “Obviously the game for myself could have been better, but to get my first goal was great. It’s good to get that out of the way.”
Wilson mentioned that Carle should see more ice time in the next few games. But for right now, the rookie is sitting back and taking it all in, while learning from guys who are in the thick of the playoff race.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Carle added. “Everyday has been a learning experience. I’m learning more and more everyday. The guys have been real supportive in helping me fit in and making the transition easy for me.” Wrapping up a celebrated collegiate career in which he led Denver to two national championships, Carle is being recognized as one of the top players in college hockey, as he was announced today as one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.
“It’s a real honor,” said Carle. “I’ll be able to represent the University of Denver for the last time. It’s a great honor to be nominated. I really can’t thank my team and coaches enough for giving me that opportunity.”
Leaving behind his teammates from Denver was a tough decision for the blueliner to make, but at the end of the day, Carle felt he made the right move and is excited about being in teal.
“It was a tough decision,” he said. “I left a lot behind there because I was having a lot of fun. I was playing with a great group of guys and for some great coaches, so it was definitely tough. By no means did I just jump to the conclusion that I wanted to leave. I felt it was the right decision for me.”