Opportunity knocks for Sharks' young forwards

January 19, 2012, 12:59 am
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SAN JOSE Less than a month ago, Benn Ferriero and Tommy Wingels were teammates on the AHLs Worcester Sharks.

Theyre still teammates today, but now that Marty Havlat and Ryane Clowe are both sidelined, they find themselves among the top six forwards on the NHL club.

Its a tremendous opportunity for two young players trying to establish themselves as NHL regulars, and although they probably realized it themselves, their head coach hammered that point home.

Ive talked to them about that. This is their opportunity, Todd McLellan said. What a great chance for Tommy Wingels and Benny Ferriero right now, to finally come up from the minors and play in the top six or at least in the top nine. They get an opportunity to show their stuff.

For as bad as it is to play without Havlat and Clowe, its also really healthy for us to see what these guys can actually do. For the most part, theyve been contributing. Its up to them to continue to do that. Other teams are getting it from their depth players, and we need it from ours.

We touched upon Wingels this morning after his strong effort against Calgary.

Ferriero, who has five points (4g, 1a) in 13 games since he was recalled on Dec. 20, said: When guys get hurt its time for other guys to step up and keep the train going. Thats why its a team, you need a bunch of people throughout the year.

Its more than just the recent call-ups, of course. Players like Torrey Mitchell and Jamie McGinn will shoulder more of the offensive burden as the Sharks battle the injury bug for what appears to be at least the next four games, leading into the All-Star break.

Mitchell, who scored the game-tying goal on Tuesday, has five points in his last six games and may be playing his best hockey of the year. Hell have to keep his foot on the gas.

We depend on those guys so much to produce offensively, Mitchell said. I dont want to say you have to change your game a little bit on the third or fourth line, but its big if you can produce.

Individually, the Sharks forwards also know that each game night brings a bit of an internal competition, too. McLellan doesnt shy away from drastically reducing the minutes of players he thinks might not be skating their best or showing maximum effort. That will likely be even more evident in the near future as he searches for whomever has the hot hand.

You can kind of tell by the third period who hes going to go with the last 15 or 20 minutes. For guys like us on the third and fourth lines, youve got to try and leave your mark on the game in the first two periods and let him know that youre involved, Mitchell said. Hopefully he sees that, and you get the playing time you want in the third period.

It took McLellan all of 20 minutes to make changes to his top lines against Calgary, swapping Wingels and McGinn.

We know when the lines are on the boards, its whoever is going that night is going to play, McGinn said. It doesnt really matter what it says on the board.

When youre short, you look for nightly heroes, guys that can move up and give you something. Well continue to shuffle it around until we get bodies back, McLellan said.