Rejuvenated Clowe benefits from time away

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Rejuvenated Clowe benefits from time away

SAN JOSE Theres no doubt the Sharks missed Ryane Clowe when he sat out for six games with a facial fracture from Jan. 17 until the end of the month. In the first five games Clowe was unavailable, the Sharks managed just eight goals before exploding for six against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 31 in a dominant 6-0 win.

Clowe returned against Dallas on Feb. 2, and scored his 10th goal in San Joses 5-2 win. On Saturday in Phoenix, he registered an assist on each of the Sharks three goals in a 5-3 loss to the Coyotes.

It was Clowes first three-point game of the season.

While the wildly competitive forward never wants to miss time, and is still wearing a shield to protect his face, his two-week break to recover could benefit him for the stretch run. The Sharks have 32 games left in just 59 days, beginning tonight against Calgary, and are going to need a healthy Clowe if they want to challenge for the top spot in the Western Conference -- something that is still well within their reach.

He admitted as much after Tuesdays practice at Sharks Ice.

Im kind of feeling it right now, the fact that I did have that rest. I was kind of worried that jumping right back in Id be kind of behind the eight ball or a little tired, but I actually think it helped me, Clowe said. I think before the All-Star break and heading into the second half, I knew I could take my game to another level. I needed to. Its only two games, but I definitely feel pretty good right now.

Its always easy to say that after the fact, and well say that now. His two-week break, thats great, he should be a little more refreshed than most of the players, Todd McLellan said. But, nobody sets out for that. We would have preferred to have him in the lineup and him manage himself, so that the energy level stays high.

Clowes offensive numbers are solid, with 30 points in 44 games played, and although hell likely never be a 40-goal scorer or 100-point guy, Clowe is able to create space for his teammates with his intimidating style and physical nature. It was evident that was missing from the Sharks when he was out.

Hes also as important player in the Sharks locker room as anyone on the team.

Hes a pretty passionate guy, and it rubs off on a lot of others, McLellan said. Sometimes it gets the better of him and he gets a little frustrated, but hes a big man with good vision, can protect pucks, hes not afraid of anything and will go into hard areas to play.

When Clowie is involved hes making other people better, and I think thats a sign of a real good player.

Like most players that rarely come out of the lineup, seeing the game from a different perspective is also something Clowe may be able to profit from.

You think, why didnt you make that play? or how did you not see that, with so much time? Then you get down in the dressing room and walk out on the bench, and its like, man, this is fast. Am I going to be able to jump back into this right away? Its kind of intimidating down there. Everything is slow up top, he said.

Thats the biggest difference. You realize watching that in certain areas at certain times you might have a bit more time than you actually think.

Clowe was part of a power play goal in the second period on a newly put together unit, recording a secondary helper. McLellan has moved Joe Pavelski to the point on the first unit, meaning Clowe is now taking shifts on a man advantage with Brent Burns, Justin Braun, Jamie McGinn and Michal Handzus.

The top unit will obviously get the majority of the power play time, but Clowe likes his unit and thinks they bring a different element that all of that speed and skill on the other one.

I think right now, those guys have got a lot more motion going on and were a little bit more meat and potatoes, he said. With the goal we scored the last game, I think thats sort of how were going to find ways. Were not going to have the minute and a half to work with, so were going to have to get pucks to the net quick.

Its a different look to have Burnsie back there, and I like being on the power play with Burnsie and the element of a big shot. I like to use the point, and I think Jamie McGinn and Zeus are really good at getting to the net. I like our unit.

When asked if he doesnt mind standing in front of the crease awaiting a big shot from the point that could be coming directly towards him, Clowe reminded everyone again of just how aggressive and competitive he is.

Youre got to man up and get in the goalies eyes. Guys do it around the league, so theres no excuse, he said.

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

Programming note – Sharks-Avalanche coverage starts today at 6:00 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 29-16-2, 60 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Avalanche: 13-29-2, 28 points, 7th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Tonight’s game is the second of a home-and-home for the Sharks and Avalanche, after San Jose’s 3-2 win in overtime at SAP Center on Saturday, and the final game of the season series. David Schlemko got the deciding score 1:18 into the extra frame, as the Sharks improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight against Colorado.

The Sharks have won four straight, while Colorado, just 2-14-1 in its last 17, has lost five in a row. The Avs have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.

***Colorado will reportedly give rookie Spencer Martin his second straight start after he made 27 saves in his NHL debut against the Sharks on Saturday. 

Martin Jones is tied for third in the NHL with 24 wins, and is 5-1-0 in his last six starts.

***Four of the Sharks’ last six games have been decided by one goal, including three in a row. San Jose is 16-10-2 in one-goal games – the second most one-goal wins in the league, and the most one-goal losses in regulation.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Kevin Labanc. The Sharks rookie has hit a bit of a wall since bursting onto the scene, going without a goal for the last 10 games. Coach Pete DeBoer said recently that he had a talk with the rookie about maintaining a high level of play, and Labanc has been more noticeable in his last two games, recording an assist in each. The 21-year-old has 14 points (7g, 7a) in 34 games this season.

Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon. No forward was more effective for Colorado on Saturday against the Sharks than MacKinnon, their lone All-Star, who recorded a game-high seven shots and set up the tying goal in the third period. The first pick in the 2013 draft has 10 points (7g, 3a) in 10 career games when opposing San Jose, and is Colorado’s leading scorer with 32 points (11g, 21a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones 
Aaron Dell

Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen – Nathan Mackinnon – Mikhail Grigorenko
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Matt Nieto
Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen – John Mitchell – Joe Colborne

Francois Beauchemin – Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin – Nikita Zadorov
Patrick Wiercioch – Eric Gelinas

Spencer Martin (starter)
Calvin Pickard

INJURIES

Sharks: Micheal Haley (lower body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Avalanche: Tyson Barrie (lower body) and Rene Bourque (lower body) are day-to-day. Semyon Varlamov (groin) and Erik Johnson (broken fibula) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I felt we did a pretty good job in our end, [but] we probably played there a little too much. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to coming out of our end or through the neutral zone. There’s going to be games like that and it’s good to find a way to win.” – David Schlemko, after Saturday’s win

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.