Clowe has no plans to play for Bulls ... yet

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Clowe has no plans to play for Bulls ... yet

DALY CITY Sharks forward Ryane Clowe has done everything in his power to stay active during the NHL lockout, which is now in its eighth week.

Hes been to Vail, Colorado, to train and play with a group that included and was organized by Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Later, that assemblage changed locales and convened in Dallas, Texas for some more intense practices and scrimmages. In between, Clowe has been at Sharks Ice, skating with the few remaining Sharks teammates of his that are still within driving distance as opposed to some far-off country.

Now, hes an official member of the ECHLs San Francisco Bulls, but wont suit up for either of their games this weekend at the Cow Palace. Instead, hes practicing with the first-year squad, hoping to stay in tip-top shape should the NHL and its players association strike a deal for a shortened season.

RELATED: Clowe officially signs with Bulls

Just being in the practices is nice, getting a good team and organized skate is something youre looking for, Clowe said on Thursday. Skating on your own kind of gets old, so Im happy they let me come up.

Still, Clowe said, I honestly cant say that I hope to play in two weeks, or that I have a date. I just really have no plans on playing.

Its not out of the question at some point, though. While the league and players association have met for three straight days, theres still a very real chance that talks could break down again, putting the season in jeopardy. Clowe is optimistic that the lockout will end shortly, but also mentioned he never expected the NHL to cancel the Winter Classic last Friday, so his feelings may not be much of a barometer.

NEWS: More talks scheduled for Friday

Both sides are showing they want to get something done when youre hammering it out like that, Clowe said of the meetings, which will resume on Friday in New York. But, anything can turn in those meetings. When it comes down to the main details, like guys getting their guaranteed contracts and the whole make whole thing, when it comes down to those things, thats where youve got to make some ground.

Clowe could use the opportunity with the Bulls to get back into game shape, if a shortened NHL season becomes more likely over the next few days or weeks.

If things start to progress, it might be an opportunity where I could think about playing, because you want to get a couple games in before you get back. That was just an option that I thought about, nothing serious, but Id probably lean more that way if it goes long.

Clowes reasons for not playing just yet are numerous, not the least of which is the 30-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Considering his aggressive nature, in-your-face style of play, a concussion suffered last season, and the possibility that a hulking, low-level minor leaguer might want to target an established NHL forward, and Clowe may be better served watching from the press box.

Or, he could be behind the bench to help out the coaching staff, which includes Bulls owner, president and head coach Pat Curcio.

Its like having another coach, another player and another captain, Curcio said. I cant even tell you how much we like having him around. A guy to lean on, talk to hes been awesome. What hes done for the players already, its leadership you just cant find at this level, so its great.

As Curcio alluded to, Clowe can help the Bulls as much as theyre helping him. One of the veteran leaders in the Sharks locker room, Clowe is more than willing to mentor the young players on the Bulls in any way he can.

The guys are great. Theyre like sponges and like to learn. They are hard workers, and it seems like a good team vibe here. I like being around the guys, Clowe said.

Ive told the guys, ask me if youve got any questions and Ill try to help out. I love to see young guys who want to learn, its great to see.

Still, Clowe would preferably be back in his black and teal sweater, earning what was supposed to be the final year of a four-year, 14.5 million contract. Hes closely monitoring this weeks collective bargaining talks, which could eventually lead to an agreement and even a 60-70 game NHL season. In the last three days, representatives from the NHL and NHLPA have been in the same room for about 18 hours, after not meeting at all since Oct. 18.

Any time you lock two people in a room to try and hammer it out for close to 20 hours, that means guys are bouncing stuff back and forth and people are listening and ears are open, Clowe said. Thats a lot better than what was going on before that.

Sharks get some down time with a break in schedule

Sharks get some down time with a break in schedule

SAN JOSE – A weekend with no games on the NHL calendar is rare enough. A weekend without any games or practices, though? That’s virtually unheard of in the middle of the season.

But with nothing until Wednesday's home game, and after a stretch of 10 games in 18 days, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer chose to give the players and staff a full Saturday and Sunday off. DeBoer and assistant coach Johan Hedberg were seen quickly scurrying from SAP Center a few short minutes after the game ended, while defenseman Brent Burns had his massive camouflage backpack stuffed to capacity while conducing his postgame media availability.

“It’s packed and ready to go,” Burns said, without going into any detail as to what exactly was in the bag.

DeBoer explained his rationale behind the respite on Friday morning.

“The way [the schedule] laid out after the month we’ve just had – the injuries, the stuff we’ve dealt with – it just made sense. We’ve got another push until the Christmas break after this with a tough schedule. 

“With our travel and the World Cup and everything, it didn’t make sense to come down here and skate when we had a chance to actually recharge mentally and physically.”

Although the team was aware of the break for some time, there’s no question that the Sharks have earned it. As they wake up on Saturday morning (presumably after sleeping in), they find themselves with a three-point cushion in the Pacific Division with a 15-9-1 mark. San Jose has won six of its last seven, including triumphs over perennial contender Chicago, chief rival Los Angeles, and the top team in the Eastern Conference, Montreal.

Their two longest road trips of the season are also already behind them, including a five-game trip in October and a six-gamer in November.

Joe Pavelski is pleased with what he’s seen so far, despite the challenging circumstances.

“Guys have handled it well,” said the captain. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of rest time, and we’ve found a few different ways to win, especially on nights that it hasn’t been easy. The biggest thing is guys have shown up and played hard. We’ve got a pretty good structure in here, guys are responsible, we’ve found a few goals, and [Martin Jones] gives us a chance every night.”

Joe Thornton said: “It’s been a lot of hockey. It will be nice to get a couple days after this to relax and recover a little bit.”

The schedule will ramp up again in short order. After three games in four nights next week, the Sharks will fly to Toronto and open up a four-games-in-six-days road trip with the Maple Leafs on Dec. 13.

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The Sharks reassigned forwards Kevin Labanc and Ryan Carpenter to the AHL Barracuda on Saturday morning. Carpenter was a healthy scratch on Friday as Tommy Wingels got back in the lineup. 

It’s likely that the move was made at least partially because the Sharks are up against the salary cap, and that one or both players could return by the time they host the Senators on Wednesday.

Three takeaways: Sharks see similarities between Jones, Price

Three takeaways: Sharks see similarities between Jones, Price

SAN JOSE – The Sharks continued their hot streak with a 2-1 win over the Canadiens in a classic goaltender’s duel Friday night. The three takeaways from the game…

1 – Price, Jones similarities

Martin Jones was the standout star with his 31 saves, but the Sharks had to beat Carey Price on the other end to reward their own goalie. Price entered the night as the NHL leader in save percentage (.947), and third in goals-against average (1.68) and is probably on his way to another Vezina Trophy at the end of the season.

That the game came down to a battle in net was no surprise, as a prescient Pete DeBoer said Friday morning “we have to be prepared to win 2-1.”

There was talk after the game that there are some similarities between the Sharks emerging goaltender and the Canadiens superstar. 

“Actually, we spoke to [Sharks assistant/goaltending coach] Johan Hedberg about that, and he does see a lot of similarities between the two of them,” assistant coach Steve Spott said. “Their mannerisms in the net – they're both very, very calm. Both very quick. And both hockey clubs believe in their goaltenders. It was a great duo on that ice tonight. I think for any fan to see those two goaltenders was pretty special tonight."

Brent Burns, who won the World Cup with Price in September, said: “Very similar. … [Jones is] unflappable. They’re both big, very calm and great positioning. Very similar.”

2 – Strong start

The Sharks knew they were getting the weekend off from practice after the game, with no chance of any late changes as DeBoer and Hedberg were seen quickly departing for getaway flights after the final horn (that’s why Spott handled the postgame media duties). 

At this point in DeBoer’s second season, there seems to be a real trust factor between the coaching staff and the veteran team that no one will start their mini-break early. The Sharks were flying in the first period, jumping all over the Canadiens and seizing a 2-0 lead that Jones helped preserve over the final two frames.

Spott said: “It was good to come out like that and establish that momentum. We know how fast Montreal is and how deep they are up front, and obviously we know Carey Price. It was a good start. We were able to hold onto that."

“Whether you get the days off, you want to play hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “You want to come out [quickly], especially at home, at the starts.” 

3 – Escaping injury

Injuries are always a concern with so many games in so few days, and there were a few scary moments for San Jose.

The Sharks lost Kevin Labanc for a stretch in the first period after the rookie went hard into the boards on a hit by Alexei Emelin, but he came back in the second after he apparently went through some concussion tests.

Spott said: “He took a good hit. He came back. He went in and had to obviously do some [head injury] protocol.”

David Schlemko’s situation looked much worse, as the defenseman limped off of the ice and up the tunnel in the second period with what looked like a right leg or ankle problem. He returned midway through the third, though.

“It didn't look good when we saw it on video, but thankfully I think we dodged a bullet there,” Spott said.