McGinn trending upward on third line

598186.jpg

McGinn trending upward on third line

SAN JOSE Lost in the shuffle of Thursdays game, in which the Sharks reunited second line of Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Marty Havlat was dominant in a 4-3 shootout win over Montreal, is that gritty forward Jamie McGinn continued his upward trend.

McGinn tallied a first period goal just 41 seconds after the Canadiens opened the scoring, jamming home a backhanded pass towards the net from Michal Handzus. It was just his third goal of the year, but the 6-1, 210-pound winger has been generating more and more scoring chances and physicality since a quiet first six weeks of the season.

Im just keeping things simple, and playing with confidence, he said on Friday. I know that the chances are there and the puck is bound to go in. Thats one of the things Im concentrating on is just keeping it simple, playing hard, and not giving their D any free outs and creating momentum for the team.

Todd McLellan mentioned earlier in the week how pleased he was with McGinns recent contributions. Although the third line hasnt generated a whole lot of offense up to this point, with just seven goals on the year, the coach senses a growing comfort level between McGinn, Handzus and Torrey Mitchell.

Credit 13-year NHL'er Handzus for helping in that regard.

Zeus is a very good pro, understands how that line needs to play, and he realizes the assets he has on either side of him, whether its Ginners grittiness or Mitches speed, said McLellan. Hes the glue on the line and keeps everything together.

Playing with a guy like Zeus makes things a lot easier, said McGinn. He controls things and slows things down, and keeps me under control, too. Ill try and go get the puck for him, and I have a habit sometimes of running out of position so its good when hes there an older player which knows the game and settles me down a little bit.

Handzus comes off as a fairly quiet reserved guy, but McGinn mentioned that they are constantly chatting off of the ice.

Yeah, all the time, he said. Hes really great, and were getting along great. We talked that maybe the chemistry wasnt there at the start of the year. It takes a little bit of time to get used to each other and know where each other are, so we feel pretty confident on the ice every shift. Hopefully, we start producing a lot more now.

McGinn may be the hardest player on the current Sharks roster to figure out. He began the 2010-11 season on the teams top line, but has bounced between the Sharks and their AHL affiliate in Worcester in each of his first three seasons as a pro.

He played seven games in the playoffs last spring, totaling one assist and 30 penalty minutes, before starting this season on the teams third line where he has been almost entirely.

McLellan admitted on Friday that the Sharks staff may not have done McGinn any favors in how it handled him last year, especially early, after he scored 10 goals in 59 games in 2009-10.

We have to take some of that responsibility. We started the year by putting him in a position where maybe we expected too much offensively, and got him mixed up, said the coach. By the time the middle of the year came around he was a confused player. He was listening to a lot of different people and everyone was trying to help him and had good intentions.

I think we all anticipated 10 goals was going to go to 15, and thats not the way it works for him, said McLellan.

So what did the coaching staff ask from him this September?

Hes using his speed and his size on the forecheck, hes going to the blue paint, and hes good defensively: those are the three things we asked him to do at the beginning of the year, and hes done a pretty good job with it.

The coach is showing confidence in me, and I cant let him or my teammates down with the more the minutes I get, said McGinn. I have to continue playing that way.

McLellan has been so pleased with McGinn lately, specifically the last three-and-a-half weeks, that hes considered moving him up to one of the top two lines. Its unlikely that McLellan will break up the Clowe-Couture-Havlat combination, though, especially after the success they had on Thursday night.

Theres been a temptation on our behalf to bump him up lines, but I think he fits very well where he is right now, said McLellan. Lets not mess him up. Hell have his share of numbers at the end of the year if he maintains that menu that we gave him.

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.