Sharks-Avs: What to watch for

714108.jpg

Sharks-Avs: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Monday nights Sharks-Avalanche game at HP Pavilion will have a bit of a different feel as the clubs are meeting for the first time since swapping forwards at the trade deadline, but the objective doesnt change.

The ninth-place Sharks (38-27-10) can greatly increase their already improving playoff chances with a win over 10th-place Colorado (40-31-6). Each team has 86 points, but the Avs have played two more games than San Jose.

KURZ: Reunion night at The Tank

In fact, San Jose could all but kill Colorado's chances with a regulation victory. That should add extra incentive, according to Ryane Clowe.

As much as you can try to bury teams out of this race, the better for us, Clowe said. Obviously, it would be great for us if we beat them tonight and it will hurt their chances, big time. Thats pretty high motivation that we should use tonight.

This is a great chance, the fact that we have a couple games in hand and if we can beat them tonight it kind of separates us, so that would be good.

San Jose could even re-take the Pacific Division lead if everything goes its way. The Dallas Stars visit Calgary and the Los Angeles Kings are in Vancouver in other Monday night action around the league.
REISS: Will the real Sharks please swim forward?

Its an important game for us. We need to take that jump and not fall behind, Joe Pavelski said. We want to keep moving forward.

San Jose is 5-2-1 in its last eight games.

We need everyone in the locker room to play well, and bring to the table what they can bring. I think thats the biggest thing, is weve had more team efforts lately, Pavelski said.

McGinn returns: Jamie McGinn already has eight goals and four assists in his first 13 games with Colorado, and has found good chemistry while playing the wing alongside Paul Stastny. In 61 games with the Sharks, McGinn had 12 goals and 12 assists.

Todd McLellan isnt surprised at McGinns success.

Hes a hell of a player. Hes had a career-type year. He is scoring goals, and hes given an opportunity to play a few more minutes there with a young team, said the coach.

He went there, established himself, and hes a confident player right now. And thats Jamie McGinn. We all liked him when he was here, and our job now is to go beat him when hes over there.

Daniel Winnik, meanwhile, has two big goals in the last two games.

Emotions will probably be running high with those players. It was tough seeing a guy go like Ginner, but its been great having the guys step in and theyve brought a lot to our team, Pavelski said.

Lineup the same: The Sharks are expected to ice the same lineup against the Avalanche that played in wins over Boston and Phoenix. That means Winnik will play with Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels, while Michal Handzus is between Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell.

Which one of those lines is the third, and which is the fourth? The Desjardins line, assumed to be the fourth line before the Phoenix game, played more minutes than the Handzus line on Saturday and was very effective.

As a coach you have a memory of last game, and you have to reward that group for doing what they did well, McLellan said. Its on a night-to-night basis. Theyre going to have to go out and establish themselves again.

I expect Zeus line to be much better than they were last game. Its good to have that healthy competition. There is no three, there is no four. Its just two lines that will get some ice time and whoever is playing well, is going to play.

On defense, Colin White and Jim Vandermeer are expected to be the healthy scratches again. TJ Galiardi wont get a chance to play against his former team, as hes still out with an upper body injury.

In the crease: Antti Niemi will make his 15th straight start in net for the Sharks, opposed by Semyon Varlamov.

Niemi is 1-0-1 in two games against Colorado this season, allowing seven goals in 123 minutes (3.39 goals-against average, .883 save percentage).

Varlamov hasnt been any better against the Sharks this season, going 1-1-0 while allowing eight goals in 123 minutes (3.88 GAA, .875 SP), although he recorded the overtime win on Dec. 13, 4-3.

Varlamov is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts.

The Sharks are 2-0-1 against Colorado this season, including a 5-4 win at home on Dec. 15.

Colorado still in the mix: Despite losses in their last two games, the Avalanche are 7-2-2 in their last 11. Mondays game in San Jose is the start of a three-game road trip, with stops on Vancouver and Calgary before a two-game homestand closes out their season.

A lot of speed, balanced scoring and a lot of scoring from different people, very good power play, McLellan said, when asked about the Avs. Varlamov has played extremely well over the last 10 or 15 games, and looks very confident in the net.

I think the game is going to have some tempo to it, and were going to have to be prepared to play that way.
Odds and ends: Patrick Marleau leads all scorers in the season series with five points (4g, 1a) including a hat trick on Nov. 20 in Denver. Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson will return after a five-game absence.

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.