Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

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Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

Programming note: Blues-Sharks Game 3 coverage begins with Sharks Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. followed by Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda calling Sharks hockey at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California!
SAN JOSE The emotional and frustrating defeat in Game 2 aside, the Sharks have to be somewhat content they are tied with the Blues at a game apiece as their first round playoff series shifts to the Bay Area.

Sure, road teams are 11-8 in the Stanley Cup playoffs so far, but Sharks will take their chances playing in front of what should be a raucous crowd, eager to see its first playoff game of 2012 after the postseason was anything but a certainly in late March.

Its a great place to play. Its fun. Its playoff hockey, and its tough to beat at The Tank, Joe Pavelski said. Hopefully it brings a little speed to our team and we can play that faster game.

Does the home ice really make a difference when the puck is dropped? Pavelski believes it does.

Its definitely extra energy thats brought to you and your team, and were happy to be here right now, he said.

Said Patrick Marleau: It definitely gives you a lot of energy. Our fans are great, and its always so much louder here in the playoffs. Theyre going to be ready, and we have to be the same.

Emotions boiling over: There was a total of 132 penalty minutes doled out in San Joses 3-0 loss in St. Louis in Game 2 on Saturday. Emotions ran high thanks to several hits on both sides that several of the Blues and Sharks labeled as dirty.

The Sharks would like to keep that emotional level at a peak for Game 3, so long as it doesnt mean taking avoidable penalties.

You have to push to that line and find that line and not go over it, Pavelski said. You definitely want to be on the power play more than youre killing.

Ryane Clowe said: You cant go out there and take penalties or do something thats stupid. The ultimate goal is to win four games and win a series. You dont want to put yourself in a hole. Emotions are high and will be tonight, too. Thats just the way it goes.

Dan Boyle has seen it all when it comes to playoff hockey. According to the defenseman, the extracurricular activity diminishes as the games become more and more important.

But, not always.

At the start of playoffs everybody is so energized and I think as the series and stuff goes on, the physical play plays a role, he said. Things tend to taper off a little bit usually. That doesnt happen always, but both teams pride themselves on being physical. Theyre probably saying the same thing, but weve got to keep that going.

Top line scoreless: The Sharks top line of Joe Thornton, Pavelski and Marleau has yet to register a point in the series, primarily matched up against the David Backes-David Perron-T.J. Oshie trio of the Blues.

That didnt matter in Game 1, when St. Louis top line also didnt score and Andrew Desjardins goal in the third period forced overtime, where the Sharks won on Marty Havlats marker. In Game 2, Oshies slick set up of David Backes gave the Blues an important insurance goal, while the Sharks failed to get on the board.

McLellan wasnt giving any hints as to what matchup hell seek now that he gets the last change at home. But, he did talk about how important it will be to get his top guys on the scoresheet.

You can be OK with that when your third and fourth lines find ways to contribute, McLellan said, citing the goal from this fourth line in Game 1. If theyre not contributing offensively, somebody else has to find a way to get it done. Then, playing even isnt satisfactory.

Clowe seemed to suggest that line matchups are a little overrated.

Its not so much who youre playing against, its how you line up against them, and if youre ready to out-compete them, he said. Weve got to do a better job there.

Elliott in goal: The Blues will go with Brian Ellliott, who came in to relieve an injured Jaroslav Halak on Saturday, for Game 3. Elliott was the NHLs leader in goals-against average and save percentage during the regular season, and made 17 saves to preserve the 3-0 win on Saturday. Jake Allen will back him up.

The Sharks saw Elliott and Halak twice each in the regular season, going a combined 0-4. Not surprisingly, they didnt seem too concerned with who is manning the St. Louis crease.

I dont put too much stock in any goalie, really, Boyle said. Goalies are at this level for a reason. Theyre all very good. Its the same answer every time. Get more shots, traffic, rebounds. It doesnt matter.

Clowe would like to see the Sharks test Elliott early. When he entered in the second period of Game 2, San Jose went more than six minutes without a single shot on net.

I thought he came in last game and we gave him a chance to feel comfortable, and we didnt get much action on him early, he said. Tonight, we have to try to sustain pressure and get some second chances, more than anything.

Lineup changes? McLellan predictably wouldnt comment on any potential lineup changes for Game 3. Defenseman Colin White and forward Brad Winchester both came off of the ice earlier than usual, so theres a chance that either or both of them could see their first action of the series.

TJ Galiardi and Dominic Moore did not take part in San Joses optional morning skate on Monday.

The Blues will re-insert Chris Stewart, who was a scratch for Game 2, back into the lineup for Matt DAgostini based on line rushes on Monday morning.

Tommy Wingels saw a lot of the Blues bottom two lines in Games 1 and 2.

I think the players may have changed, but I dont think what they were trying to do changed at all, he said. As the third and fourth lines, your job is to get momentum and wear down the other team. They won the game last game, so it might have been more effective in that sense, but I think well try to play the same way regardless of who were matched up against.

Odds and ends: McLellan would like to see his club improve on faceoffs. The Sharks lost the battle in the circle in each of the first two games. The Blues are 2-for-9 on the power play in the series, while San Jose is 1-for-7. Havlat, Boyle and Clowe each have two points in the series, leading the Sharks. Patrik Berglund, Oshie and Andy McDonald lead the Blues with two points each.

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.