Kovalchuk kills Sharks' streak in New Jersey


Kovalchuk kills Sharks' streak in New Jersey

Kevin KurzCSNCalifornia.com

NEWARK The New Jersey Devils have been doing it for what seems like forever.Hang back. Dont take too many chances. Play sound positional hockey. And most of all, capitalize on the other team's mistakes.Thats just what they did to San Jose on Friday night at the Prudential Center, scoring a pair of goals in the third period to end the Sharks five-game winning streak, 2-1.REWIND: Sharks rally to keep roadie rolling, beat Columbus
I talked to the team and told them that the little things would add up at the end of the night, said Todd McLellan.He proved to be prophetic, since the little things to which hes referring are a pair of ill-timed penalties and a lost defensive zone faceoff.After two-plus action impaired periods, Patrick Marleau scored the first goal of the game on a rebound at 6:08 of the third. The Devils Henrik Tallinder was whistled for a hook shortly after, and the Sharks were in prime position to take control.But consecutive penalties to Joe Thornton and Logan Couture instead gave New Jersey the man advantage, and Brian Rolstons one-timer at 9:12 past the glove of Antti Niemi knotted the score.NHL Standings NHL Stats
I just thought I got his stick, to be honest with you, said Thornton of the penalty. I dont know about that call. Thats the way they see it sometimes.Were up by one with seven or eight minutes to go and going on the power play and get penalized, so thats not a very good thing, said McLellan.Later, Couture lost a faceoff to Travis Zajac, and the puck ended up on the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk. The Russian sniper quickly wheeled around in the faceoff circle and fired one past Niemi with 3:59 left in regulation.It proved to be the difference, as the resurgent Devils improved to 12-1-3 in their last 16 games.Its disappointing, said Couture, who along with linemates Ryane Clowe and Kyle Wellwood generated the best scoring chances of the night for San Jose. Im disappointed to take that penalty, and on that second goal, I lost the faceoff. Thats the way this game goes. The players on that team can strike quickly and they showed it to us tonight. That was a tough game to lose.It looked early on like San Jose would be able to take advantage of the Devils having tired legs, as New Jersey played an overtime game the night before. While the Devils were battling for a 2-1 win over Toronto, the Sharks were enjoying a complete day off the ice in the midst of their season-long seven-game road trip.San Jose registered nine of the first 10 shots of the game and held a distinct territorial advantage in the first period, but was unable to beat Johan Hedberg.They didnt have their legs right away. We would have liked to get one or two in the first and get on top of them, said Couture. Im sure they were happy after the first to still be tied.The second period it was more of the same, but Hedberg kept San Jose at bay.In his best save of the night, Hedberg robbed Clowe on a three-on-two rush on a feed from Wellwood. The normal backup to Martin Brodeur, Hedberg threw his left pad in front of Clowes redirection attempt, and kept it there as Clowe tried to whack in the rebound about five minutes into the second.Brodeur missed his third straight game with a sprained knee.Kovalchuk, who was Exhibit 1A in the Devils horrifying start to the regular season, finally appears to be earning his gigantic, 100 million contract. It was the second consecutive night in which he scored a game-winning goal on a perfectly placed wrist shot.No one was blaming Niemi for getting seemingly handcuffed by the quick turn-around laser from one of the pure goal-scorers in the NHL.He can score from those situations, said McLellan.The frantic finish to the game helped to salvage some excitement after a monotonous first two frames. There wasnt even a penalty called until Rolston was sent off for interference at 18:43 of the second.The Sharks were unable to score on that power play, though, and didnt generate enough offense against one of the more defensively responsible teams in the NHL.All they need to win games right now is two goals, said Thornton.At least this game, anyway.

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is reportedly “almost certain” to accept the 49ers’ offer to become head coach.

Shanahan is the lone remaining candidate among the six individuals who interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe. The 49ers plan for a second interview with Shanahan and a job offer, a source told CSNBayArea.com. Shanahan is expected to accept the 49ers’ offer, reports Michael Silver of the NFL Network, citing sources familiar with both parties.

The 49ers continued to work Tuesday evening on the process of narrowing down the general manager choices, a source said. Shanahan is expected to play a role in the select the team’s next GM, sources said.

On Tuesday, Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner removed their names from consideration for the vacant coach and general manager positions. The 49ers fired Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke after the 49ers' 2-14 season.

One source said Cable and Kirchner believed the 49ers were using them as leverage to hire Shanahan. Cable interviewed with 49ers co-chair Denise DeBartolo York over the phone on Tuesday, NFL Network reported.

The 49ers are allowed to interview Shanahan for a second time after the Falcons’ NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The 49ers are prohibited from hiring or making a formal contract offer to Shanahan until the Falcons' season has concluded.

The top remaining candidates for the general manager job are believed to be Green Bay executives Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf, Arizona's Terry McDonough and Minnesota's George Paton.

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field


Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

BERKELEY — With more than a half-century without a Rose Bowl berth, tougher academic standards than most Pac-12 schools and lackluster fan support in a pro-sports focused market, there are plenty of hurdles for a football coach at California.

Coach Justin Wilcox took the job for the Golden Bears because he embraces those obstacles and he wants players who feel the same way as he seeks to rebuild a program that has one winning record in the past five years and no conference championships since 1958.

"When you come here, there are challenges," Wilcox said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. "You don't come here and go through school and just go through the motions. You'll be challenged in the classroom, challenged on the football field and learn to interact in a dynamic society. I believe in that and that helps guys grow."

Wilcox faces many hurdles in his new job replacing the recently fired Sonny Dykes less than three weeks before national signing day. He has to put together a coaching staff, evaluate the players already on campus and try to keep together, and even add to, a recruiting class that committed to a different staff.

Athletic director Mike Williams fired Dykes after four seasons on Jan. 8 because he wanted a coach committed to Cal instead of flirting with other jobs and needed someone who could excite a fan base that often stayed away from Memorial Stadium in recent years as the Bears teamed porous defenses with sometimes exciting offenses while posting a 19-30 record.

Williams had five finalists for the job but chose a former Cal assistant with a defensive background and familiarity with the Pac-12 as an assistant for seven years at three schools in the conference.

"He truly gets this place, he truly gets coaching in the West," Williams said. "He came in and was very organized and thoughtful. He knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to hire. ... It's a special place and I think he'll treat it as a special place."

While Dykes flirted with job openings at Houston and Baylor this past offseason in part because of his concern about increased academic standards for recruits, the Bears hope Wilcox is someone who wants to stick around after more than a decade of being on a self-described "windy" path as a top defensive coach.

The former Oregon defensive back began his coaching career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Boise State. He spent three years as linebackers coach under Jeff Tedford at Cal from 2003-05 when the Bears nearly ended their Rose Bowl drought during a 10-win season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback in 2004.

Wilcox has spent the past 11 years as a defensive coordinator with stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, Southern California and finally Wisconsin, where he helped the Badgers field a top 10 defense and win the Cotton Bowl.

Wilcox has worked and played for many successful coaches, including Tedford, Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Mike Bellotti, and Paul Chryst.

"I've been extremely fortunate to work for and with people I learned so much from," he said. "Each step along the way, I've seen it done a lot of different ways. I'm not trying to be any of those people. I always try to take pieces and make it my own."

Wilcox has begun putting together his staff, having hired former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator and longtime Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood to fill that role on the Bears.

The Bears will look very different under Wilcox than Dykes. Wilcox said he will recruit tight ends as Cal moves from the spread "Bear Raid" offense that relied on four receivers almost exclusively to a more balanced offense with tight ends and more power concepts.

While he will delegate most of the offensive responsibilities to Baldwin, Wilcox said he will be more involved on defense where he wants to find players who can fit into his base 3-4 system.

Cal ranked 125th in total defense, 127th in scoring defense and 122nd in yards per play out of 128 FBS teams last season on the way to a 5-7 record.

"Every second is critical right now," Wilcox said. "I will not sacrifice the long-term good of the program for what everyone wants which is certainty. Things will happen quickly. I understand the recruits have some anxiety about the situation and there's emotions involved. That's totally understandable. I'd feel the same way."