Late-season acquisitions make their mark vs. Stars


Late-season acquisitions make their mark vs. Stars

DALLAS The Sharks late-season trades are starting to look a little bit better, after all.

Daniel Winnik, TJ Galiardi and Dominic Moore all played a major role in San Joses biggest win of the season, 5-2 over Dallas on Tuesday night. Winnik and Galiardi scored goals, with Galiardis coming after some shifty moves behind the net by Moore just before a pass in front.

For Galiardi, it was his first point in a Sharks uniform in 12 games since being acquired, along with Winnik, from Colorado at the trade deadline on Feb. 27.

Its been ridiculous how long its taken but its been coming for awhile, said the affable fourth-line winger, who missed six games with a presumed back injury last month. Weve had our chances; I think the thinking is you should be worried when youre not getting your chances. Its been a long time coming, but its nice, and this is a good time to start producing.

It may have been the biggest goal of the game, too. Dallas had just taken its first lead of the game, 2-1, about half a minute earlier on a blast by defenseman Alex Goligoski midway through the second. But the fourth line came out on the next shift, and promptly re-tied it.

It was a reversal of fortunes a bit for the Sharks, who were having a problem surrendering goals on the next shift after they had scored one themselves during their struggles in early March. At one point, it happened a total of five times in just nine games for San Jose.

They go out and win a draw, play in the other teams end, and get a big goal, Todd McLellan said of his fourth-liners. They give us valuable minutes, energetic minutes, hard checking minutes, and ended up rewarding themselves with a goal.

Moore said: Hockey is a game of momentum, and you want to push back when you have a chance to do so.

Couture contributes: At Tuesdays morning skate when I mentioned to Logan Couture that he hadnt scored in 10 games, the All-Star appeared to be caught off-guard a bit.

I didnt know it was 10 games without a goal, so weve got to change that, he said.

Change it, he did. Coutures redirection of Marty Havlats tape-to-tape pass on the power play from the high slot turned out to be the game-winner. For the team-oriented Couture, he was happy to break his personal scoring slump.

You want to contribute offensively. It feels good to score goals, he said. You ask anyone in this room, you come to the rink to score every night. Its nice to get one and help the team. But, weve got to move forward here. Weve got two huge games coming up.

McLellan said: To get the one there to make the difference, and for him to feel good about himselfI thought he had a tremendous game, for him to get rewarded I thought was important, too.

Coutures 31st of the season ties him with Joe Pavelski for the team lead.

Playoff feel prevalent: Its an overused phrase in professional sports, but the Sharks-Stars game on Tuesday night truly had a playoff-type feel from the drop of the first puck.

Thats not exactly astonishing, either, given the stakes for the eighth and ninth place teams in the Western Conference. The first period was frantic, back-and-forth, physical, and virtually non-stop. In fact, there was a stretch of more than six minutes without a single whistle.

Absolutely, said Couture, when asked if the players felt the same playoff-type vibe as all of us watching from above. You look at the first 12 or 13 minutes, there werent many whistles and the pace was up and down. Im sure it was exciting for fans. It was fun to play in.

McLellan has been preaching for weeks that the playoffs have arrived early for his club, and he didnt deviate from his coach-speak message post-game.

The two games against Dallas were the two biggest games of the year, said the coach. Were in a playoff series. Weve talked about that. When you can win back-to-back games in a playoff series, one and home and one on the road, youve usually set yourself up pretty well.

The message now shifts to keeping the momentum the Sharks have built in their convincing wins over Dallas. San Jose visits the Kings on Thursday and hosts Los Angeles on Saturday to conclude the regular season. Two more points assures the Sharks of a playoff spot, regardless of what else happens among the other bubble teams.

Good teams keep their highs and lows at a very even keel, McLellan said. We still have work to do. We cannot let our guards down, and that will be the message again sent to the players Wednesday.

The Sharks practice on Wednesday afternoon in El Segundo.

While many bristle over NHL's new bye week rule, Sharks wait their turn

While many bristle over NHL's new bye week rule, Sharks wait their turn

SAN JOSE – Nearly everyone in the NHL is in agreement that this season’s schedule is rough. The World Cup in September pushed the start of the regular season back about a week, and combined with the institution of the new bye week, as requested by the NHLPA, it’s meant more games in fewer days for every team.

Where opinions diverge, though, is whether the bye week is a good idea. 

Just this week, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall called it “the most asinine thing I’ve ever seen.” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter, when asked if he liked it, said: “No, no, no, no. … It’s been an awful schedule this year.”

The Sharks are currently in the middle of a stretch of seven games in just 11 days before the All-Star break. In a normal season, that kind of schedule is rare. This season, it’s commonplace.

Some teams have already had their bye weeks. The Islanders and Penguins were the first, taking the opening week of January off. The Sharks’ bye week isn’t until Feb. 20-24. Only Anaheim’s is later.

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer didn’t give his opinion on the bye week, but indicated that if it’s going to happen, late February is a good time to get some rest.

“The way it laid out for us, I’m happy with that scheduling,” DeBoer said. “There’s not many happy moments when I look at our schedule, but that is one that I felt laid out right for us.”

Neither DeBoer, nor Hextall, nor Sutter is playing games, of course. Polling some Sharks players, they seemed to like the idea of getting some down time in the middle of playing a condensed schedule. The Sharks won’t even be allowed to practice over those five days, and will resume their season on Feb. 25 in Vancouver (the Canucks have the exact same bye week, so they’ll be in the same situation when the teams face off).

The majority of the current Sharks team is coming off of a short summer following a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, and no NHL team had more than the five representatives San Jose had in the final round of the World Cup between Team Canada and Team Europe. Key contributors Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Martin Jones are all headed to the All-Star Game at the end of the month, too.

So, is having the bye week worth it for the condensed schedule?

“Yeah, I think it is, because if you take away those five days and you sprinkle two games in there, there’s no guarantees that you’re going to get a day off in between those days,” Pavelski said.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: “If I’m in San Jose I might as well play hockey, I’m not sitting around and watching. I get five days to go back home, which is good.”

It’s difficult to predict how the Sharks will respond to their bye week. Joel Ward preferred to take the wait-and-see approach.

“I think with a lot of hockey, it might be beneficial for us, especially for a lot of guys that played in the World Cup, played that many [games] and have played high minutes,” Ward said. “I think it could be beneficial for those guys, and some guys going to the All-Star Game, too. Hopefully it works out in our favor with some rest for our key guys. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Vlasic took issue with the way the bye week has been instituted. He thought it was the same week for every team, which isn’t the case.

“Weird is putting it nicely,” said the defenseman. “Why do some teams have a break in January when there’s an All-Star break coming up, and we get it the last possible week right before the playoff push? I’m not saying we shouldn’t have it at that time, but everyone should have it at the same time.”

A case can be made, too, that the bye week is adversely affecting the NHL product.

Take one game back on Dec. 18 when the Sharks were in Chicago. Instead of what should have been a thrilling matchup between two of the Western Conferences best teams, the game was tremendously dull for the first period-and-a-half. The Sharks were wrapping up a stretch of four road games in six days, while the Blackhawks were playing their fifth game in eight days, and second of a back-to-back with travel.

Playing so many games, with practice time at a minimum, leads to bad hockey, and that’s a disservice to the fans.

For at least one season, though, it’s something everyone is stuck with. The schedule is a reality, and Pavelski believes the Sharks are handling it well.

“At the end of the day, you get ready, you do what you need to do to prepare, and you show up and play,” said the captain. “I believe this group has done a tremendous job of that this year. We haven’t had any games where it’s just been a complete dud from the start.”

Three takeaways: Carpenter making case to stay with Sharks

Three takeaways: Carpenter making case to stay with Sharks

SAN JOSE – Logan Couture got all the attention postgame, and rightfully so, but there were some other notable developments from the Sharks’ 2-1 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Here are three takeaways from San Jose’s third straight win…

1 – Finding a way

It was easy to tell on Wednesday night in the visitor’s dressing room at Staples Center that the Sharks’ win over the Kings was maybe their most rewarding of the season, being down some key players yet taking the rubber match of the five-game season series.

The flip side of that is the game with the Lightning, on the second of a back-to-back against a non-rival, was tougher to get up for. The Sharks found a way, though, despite getting a bit overwhelmed over the first half of the first period.

“We expected the first 10 minutes to be tough coming back from L.A., an emotional win, and they're sitting here waiting for us,” Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we kept them to the perimeter, even though the shot clock wasn't in our favor. As the game went on, I thought we got better."

Aaron Dell said: "We were a little bit tired to start, I think. I think they knew that, so they made an early push. I think we fended it off pretty well."

DeBoer pointed out after the game that the other teams around the Sharks in the Pacific Division are winning lately, too. Anaheim is 5-0-1 in its last six, while the Oilers have won four straight since losing to the Sharks last week.

“We have to find a way, and tonight was one of those find-a-way games,” he said. “They're not easy to play. The deck's stacked against you coming in. We found a way."

2 – Carpenter contributing

Rookie Ryan Carpenter admitted he was a bit surprised to see his name in the lineup when he got to the rink on Thursday. Even with Couture and Joonas Donskoi healthy again, Carpenter remained as the fourth line center, while injured forwards Timo Meier and Micheal Haley were not able to play.

His goal in the second period staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead, marking the second straight game that a fourth liner got on the board in what was another one-goal victory.

The Sharks were pressing the Lightning in their own end before Carpenter hopped over the boards, and he was the beneficiary of some tired defenders.

“[Joel Ward] does a good job in front of the net to create traffic, and even the shift before that, they got a lot of zone time and I just kind of jumped out there,” Carpenter said. “Kind of benefited from that, so that was nice.”

The way he’s played, it’s fair to wonder if Carpenter could be the latest Barracuda player to push one of the regulars out of the lineup. He’s been effective.

“He's been hard, he's been physical, he's a big body and defensively responsible, and he's chipped in some offense,” DeBoer said. “He plays the way we want to play. He's done a real good job for us."

3 – Important win for Dell

Any good NHL goaltender has to have an ability to put bad games, and bad goals, behind them. Aaron Dell wasn’t awful in Calgary on Jan. 11, but he looked shaky for the majority of the game.

Not against the Lightning, though. Dell played very well, particularly early when the Sharks weren’t skating very well in front of him, and late, when they were holding on to that slim one goal edge.

“We like playing in front of him,” Joe Pavelski said. “You see him, he’s aggressive, he’s into the game, he’s attacking pucks. That’s everything you want from your goalie. He’s made all the saves that we can ask him to make.”

The one he allowed was impossible to stop, as Jonathan Drouin easily held off Mikkel Boedker (who was benched for the third period again) in the neutral zone and skated around Marc-Edouard Vlasic before slipping it through. 

“He's a skilled player, made a skilled play,” Dell said. “I didn't think he could get it around me on that one."

Vlasic, of course, rarely gets beat like that. He joked that when he saw he was requested by the media after the game, “I knew you were going to ask me about that.”

“We won the game. It was 2-1. It was a positive win, so we’ll take the positives from the win,” Vlasic said.