Kings surging while Sharks continue slide


Kings surging while Sharks continue slide

LOS ANGELES It wasnt very difficult to see on Tuesday night which team is making a strong playoff push and which is staring down an early summer.

The Los Angeles Kings have won five straight games, and are playing their best hockey of the season. Their offense, which had been a huge problem, is clicking - and then some.

Since acquiring Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets a dozen games ago, Los Angeles has poured in 43 goals, including five last night against the fading Sharks in a 5-2 win. That averages to 3.58 a game, or a goal and a half better than their 2.11 goals-per-game rate before the trade.

Theyve done a really good job. Darryl Sutter has come in and put his mark on the team, Todd McLellan said. Jeff Carter is a 40-goal scorer. They dont grow on trees, and when you get them and put them in the right spots, they can be very dangerous.

They skate very well and theyre deep up front with Carter being here now, Joe Thornton said. They have a bunch of good forwards.

Add that to a strong defense corps and one of the best goalies in the game in Jonathan Quick, and the Sharks will have their hands full in the final two games of the regular season, which ends with a home-and-home against the Kings. That is, if the Sharks are even still in playoff contention by then.

Theyre playing very well defensively, said Marty Havlat, who had a goal and an assist on Tuesday. I dont think they give up any odd-man rushes and thats the most important thing right now. They always have three guys back. Its very tough to beat their defense and their goalies been great.
More from Boyle: Dan Boyle was brutally honest after last nights loss to the Kings, which we got into in the game recap. After Boyle said that the Kings were probably trying harder, he was asked how the Sharks could fix that this late in the season.

You work as hard as you can. You need everybody. I think we weve got guys going and others arent, thats not going to work at this time of year. We need everybody, Boyle said.

Watching the scoreboard: Did you keep an eye on the Calgary-Colorado, Phoenix-Dallas games last night? All five teams the Sharks are competing with for a playoff spot including Los Angeles were in action on Tuesday night, head-to-head.

Youre probably well aware by now that the Sharks are the only team that didnt get at least one point, as the other two games ended in a shootout (Dallas beat Phoenix, 4-3) and overtime (Colorado defeated Calgary, 2-1).

Mathematically, the Sharks have just a 37.6 percent chance of making the postseason, according to

Thats the name of the game these days. A lot of them are three point games. The last thing we need to do is scoreboard watch, Boyle said.

We cant control what happened in Dallas or Denver tonight, McLellan said after the game. Theres no sense worrying about it. Weve got to worry about our own group and what we can do. Weve got to get home, get some rest and play against the Stanley Cup Champions on Thursday, which will be a great challenge for us.

The Sharks, who have a day off on Wednesday, host Boston on Thursday.

From the Kings room: Heres what former Sharks coach and current Kings bench boss Sutter had to say about his teams 5-2 win:

I think tonight, because we had four lines and they San Jose played last night, they could push it a little bit; catch guys at the end of shifts, catch guys that played a lot, catch them a little bit tired and we looked fresher. That was the difference in the killer part of it. I think we took advantage of that.

Anze Kopitar, who has a goal in each of his last four games after scoring and adding two assists on Tuesday, said, Theres obviously always room for improvement, but tonight was a huge game. We knew what was at stake and I think we came up big. It was a full team effort and thats what weve got to do down the road.

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

SAN JOSE – It took overtime for the Sharks to surpass the worst team in the NHL, but the points are valuable any way they come in the second half. Here are our three takeaways from the 3-2 victory on Saturday night…

1 – Top guys struggle, but depth comes through

It wasn’t a very good night for the captain’s line, which was particularly sloppy on Colorado’s tying goal in the third period. Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic weren’t much better, as the former was caught out of position a couple times, and the latter was tagged with six giveaways.

But those guys have been playing the bulk of the minutes lately, so they’re allowed to have an off night. At least, that’s how Pete DeBoer saw it.

“We've ridden our big guys pretty hard,” DeBoer said. “They played some tough minutes with some of the opponents we played this week, in L.A. and on and on. Tonight's a night you're looking for your depth guys to step up and give you some energy, and I thought we got that."

The Sharks’ fourth line was probably its best from start to finish, including Melker Karlsson’s goal, from Ryan Carpenter.

“[Tomas] Hertl's missed 30 games, so we needed somebody to come in and help us out in that area, and he's done that,” DeBoer said of Carpenter.

2 – Making it too easy on Martin

Spencer Martin was making his NHL debut in difficult circumstances, playing in front of what has been an incredibly loose team in its own end against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. But, the Sharks made it easy on him most of the night.

Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon, who had a tremendous game, told the Denver Post that he thought Colorado was the better team.

“Tonight, we outplayed them,” he said. “We outplayed the team that went to the (Stanley Cup) Finals last year, and there were some bright spots for us. We have to climb out of this hole and have a good last 30, 40 games here and go into next season feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

They’ll get another chance against the Sharks on Monday at Pepsi Center as the teams conclude their two-game season series. San Jose will try and give the Colorado goalie, whoever it is, a more difficult time.

“When we’re on our game, we’re making it tough with grind time and traffic at the net, some chances,” Joe Pavelski said. “Tonight we didn’t have as many as we could have had. We’ll try to find a little bit more for next game.”

Schlemko said: “We just didn’t have as much grind time in the o-zone as we usually do. If you’re not playing in their end you’re usually playing in your end.”

3 – Ward gets another on the power play

Joel Ward’s resurgence continues, as the forward again found a way to contribute on the scoresheet. His first period power play goal was one of the easier scores he’ll have, on a nice setup by Joe Thornton.

“[Thornton] had it behind the net and came around the side, and sent it to me on the far side, so it went in,” Ward said.

The 36-year-old Ward has nine points (3g, 6a) in his last 13 games. To put that in perspective, the last time he was a healthy scratch on Dec. 20, he had just nine points in 31 games on the season.

Sharks win 'ugly' vs Avs as they fight through brutal schedule

Sharks win 'ugly' vs Avs as they fight through brutal schedule

SAN JOSE – Playing their fifth game in eight days thanks to the condensed (some would say foolish) NHL schedule this season, perhaps it’s not all that surprising that the Sharks looked like they hit a wall on Saturday night at home against Colorado.

Still, this was the Avalanche, who have been far and away the NHL’s worst team for the past six weeks. Even a subpar effort should be enough.

And, it was. The Sharks got a power play goal by Joel Ward and another from their fourth line, while David Schlemko pounced on a rebound in overtime to push the Sharks to a 3-2 win.

It was an uninspiring victory, but a victory nonetheless.

“Two points is what was the important thing,” Ward said. “It wasn't our best, but we found a way."

Joe Pavelski said: “We had some moments where we were good. Some that we could have been better. It’s a game right now that you’ve got to really stick to your foundation, because there’s a lot of games in a lot of nights here.”

Coach Pete DeBoer, who has skillfully managed his veteran team’s rest since taking over at the start of last season, wasn’t all that critical of the Sharks’ effort, either, even though they made life far too easy on rookie goalie Spencer Martin making his NHL debut.

To DeBoer, the Sharks may be in the midst of their toughest stretch of games on the calendar. By the time they host the Oilers on Thursday in the final game before the All-Star break, San Jose will have played seven games in just an 11-day span.

“I feel the fatigue, and I haven't played a game. I'm just coaching,” he said. “We found a way to win. It was ugly, but we found a way."

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect from the Sharks’ perspective is that their fourth line continues to make an impact, scoring a goal for the third straight game. Ryan Carpenter got on the scoresheet for the second straight, floating a puck towards the net that was redirected by Melker Karlsson. It gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead with five minutes to go in the second period.

“I think we fit pretty good together,” Karlsson said of playing with Carpenter. “Good centerman, good guy. It’s fun.”

Pavelski said: “You can see [the fourth line is] playing with confidence. They’re playing hard. They’re in on a lot of pucks, and giving us energy that way, and they’re getting rewarded.”

The game-winner was a simple one from Schlemko’s perspective. He hopped over the boards, slithered towards the crease, and stickhandled in a Logan Couture rebound for his second goal of the season.

“The rebound came right to me and I just had to tap in,” Schlemko said. “I’ll take those any day.”

While the Sharks were fighting through some physical and mental sluggishness, Colorado looked better than a team that hasn’t won a regulation game in a month and a half. Playing in front of a goalie making his first NHL start likely had something to do with that, as they tried to give Martin an honest effort.

Nathan MacKinnon was particularly effective, generating a game-high seven shots and setting up Colorado’s first score. Just before that goal that was finished off by Mikhail Grigorenko, MacKinnon breezed through the neutral zone untouched, and Pavelski mentioned that area of the game as a troublesome one for his club.

“Whether they were good in the neutral zone or we weren’t as sharp – that wasn’t a very strong point of our game, I don’t think. Turned over a few too many pucks,” he said.

The Sharks will have a better idea of what to expect headed into Monday’s rematch in Denver. Whether they have their legs back by then is uncertain.

“It was hard from an energy point of view for us today,” DeBoer said.