Game notes: Sharks vs. Red Wings, Game 3

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Game notes: Sharks vs. Red Wings, Game 3

May 4, 2011

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Coverage begins at 4:30 on Comcast SportsNet California.

Kevin Kurz
CSNBayArea.com

Sharks lead best-of-seven series, two games to none

Starting Goalies

Antti Niemi has quickly put his first round numbers behind him, and has allowed just two goals in two games for a 0.95 goals-against average and .966 save percentage. Hes been the beneficiary of some very good team defense in front of him, as well, which is probably the bigger reason hes been able to succeed.

Jimmy Howard has also been good for the Red Wings with just four goals allowed in the two games, but his mishandling of a shot from Niclas Wallin in Game 2 proved to be the difference. Typically, the high powered Red Wings usually win games in which they only surrender two goals.
Previous Games

San Jose defended its home ice in the first two games of the series with a pair of 2-1 victories. On Friday, Benn Ferriero was the hero with a goal in overtime, improving the Sharks to 4-0 this postseason when a game goes past regulation. San Jose had trailed for the majority of the game before Joe Pavelski tied it with a power play goal midway through the third period.

In Game 2 it was the Sharks who led most of the way, thanks to Ian Whites first period goal. Wallin increased that to 2-0 in the third period, and San Jose was able to withstand a late charge by Detroit.
Whos Hot

Niemi and the Sharks defense as a whole has been the key to the series through the first two games. That includes White, who scored the first goal in Game 1 and is tied for the team lead in assists (5) and plusminus (6). Ryane Clowes nine points in the playoffs (4g, 5a) leads the team.

Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg have scored the only goals of the series so far for Detroit, but one player the Sharks will have to keep an eye on is Danny Cleary. The energetic winger was among Detroits most effective players in Game 2 on Sunday, firing five shots on net.
Roster Watch

There was a whole lot of shuffling going on Tuesday in Detroit, and it had nothing to do with the nearby casinos in Greektown. The Sharks and Red Wings both made some notable changes to their lines at their respective practices as they seek to generate more offense, with just six combined goals between them in the series.

On the Sharks side, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were split up, as were Clowe and Logan Couture. Couture was bumped up to the wing to play alongside Thornton and Devin Setoguchi, while Marleau was between Clowe and Dany Heatley. Its a look that coach Todd McLellan used sparingly in the regular season.

The big change for the Red Wings is that stars Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were not together. Datsyuk centered Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom, while Zetterberg was in the middle of wingers Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi. Whether or not the coaches keep these lines intact for the start of Game 3 is unclear.

Storylines

Much has been made of the Sharks giving Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard repeated snow showers, when they put on the brakes in front of the goaltender, thereby spraying him with ice. Of course, thats just a byproduct of going hard to the net in search of rebounds, and theres no rule preventing such actions. Still, the Red Wings would be wise to try and rattle Niemi the same way, in the hopes of getting him out of his groove. When a goaltender is playing as well as Niemi, the key for the opposition is to create more traffic in front of the crease. Look for Detroit to put some of its big bodies in front of the net in Game 3, and maybe give Niemi a shower or two of his own.

Something else to watch will be whether or not the coaches stick with the line combinations they showed in Tuesdays practice and for how long, should things start going south for either team.

The numbers certainly favor the Sharks as they try to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the second consecutive season. They have won 10 of their last 12 games overall in Detroit, and the Red Wings are just 5-21 all-time when losing the first two games of a seven-game series. Still, the Red Wings arent getting outplayed by a very large margin, and getting in front of their home crowd could be the boost they need to climb back into the series.

A's position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

A's position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

The A’s have options at the catcher position, and with those options come decisions to make.

Figure that manager Bob Melvin and the rest of Oakland’s front office will use the length of spring training to evaluate their catching corps, and the decisions that eventually come down will impact the rest of the roster.

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley could form a natural left-right platoon, as they did to begin last season. But Phegley is coming off right knee surgery that ended his 2016 season in July and proved more problematic than anticipated as he recovered. His status can’t be adequately judged until camp begins and he’s behind the plate testing his mobility.

Adding intrigue to the catching puzzle was last season’s emergence of Bruce Maxwell, who hit .283 after making his major league debut in July and shows defensive upside.

Might the A’s keep three catchers to begin the season? Melvin acknowledged that possibility when asked about it during the winter meetings. Vogt has played first base and the outfield in the past, so he provides a little flexibility. But keeping him, Phegley and Maxwell would short the A’s roster elsewhere.

There are decisions to make, but a full Cactus League exhibition season should influence how things shake out at catcher.

STARRING CAST: Maxwell’s emergence, and the fact he hits left-handed, made the 32-year-old Vogt a potential trade piece this winter. But the veteran is still an Athletic and has been an All-Star in back-to-back seasons, though his 2016 stats didn’t jump off the page. He hit .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI, delivering a much better first half than second half offensively. But Vogt’s biggest value comes with his clubhouse leadership and ability to connect with his pitchers. He’s the unofficial team spokesman, always willing to stand in front of the cameras after a tough loss. His steadying presence is even more important on a team that annually undergoes such heavy roster turnover.

CAMP COMPETITION: Phegley, 28, missed time in May with a strained right knee, then underwent surgery in July to remove a cyst from the knee. That seemed a rather minor procedure, but Phegley was hospitalized in August after developing a case of synovitis, or inflammation in the knee joints. A’s general manager David Forst said recently that Phegley’s offseason rehab has gone well, but Phegley will remain a question mark until he shows he’s full strength throughout camp.

Maxwell, 26, hadn’t played above Double-A before last season. But he impressed at Triple-A Nashville both with his bat and overall defensive skills. After a slow start in the majors, Maxwell hit .367 over his final 20 games. He began showing flashes of the potential the A’s saw when they made him a second-round pick in 2012 out of tiny Birmingham Southern College.

“Bruce is a guy that maybe in the season you didn't expect to see (before) September, and he’s a guy that came in and made an impact defensively and offensively,” Melvin said during the winter meetings. “It's exciting to have a young catcher like that, especially that hits from the left side of the plate to give Stephen some days off. Stephen is a versatile guy where you can DH him some too, maybe even play him at first base on a day that Yonder (Alonso) gets a day off.”

Could the A’s simply go with Vogt and Maxwell at catcher, though both hit left-handed? Again, Phegley’s health could factor prominently.

PAY ATTENTION TO: A catcher the A’s drafted in the third round last summer, Sean Murphy. He’s a non-roster invitee to big league camp. Murphy, who attended Wright State, is said to be a gifted catcher defensively, with mlb.com’s Jim Callis saying last June that Murphy had the strongest arm of any catcher in the 2016 draft.

Raiders name former Chargers DC as assistant head coach-defense

Raiders name former Chargers DC as assistant head coach-defense

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has hired former Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano, the team announced on Monday evening. He will be the team’s assistant head coach on the defensive side of the ball.

Pagano has spent most of his coaching career in San Diego, working with the Chargers in various capacities since 2002. He was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in 2012, where he led that unit for five seasons.

Pagano and Del Rio worked together in 1997, when Pagano was a New Orleans Saints defensive assistant and Del Rio was the assistant strength coach.

Pagano was a longtime linebackers coach before becoming a play caller. He has worked with several quality pass rushers and has proven to be adept at creating pressure.

The Raiders created a position for Pagano, who will help a defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed and dead last in sacks. Pagano was looking for a different gig after new Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn hired Gus Bradley as his defensive coordinator. 

Ken Norton Jr. remains defensive coordinator, but Pagano will bring experience and creativity to the game-planning process.

He has worked within a 3-4 defensive scheme, but has experience in all formations. The Raiders run multiple defensive fronts.

Pagano is the assistant coach on defense, while offensive line coach Mike Tice has a similar title on the offensive side. The Raiders have a vacancy on the staff, and are looking for a new defensive backs coach.

John Pagano is the younger brother of Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano.