Sharks face daunting schedule over final months

Sharks face daunting schedule over final months
February 7, 2012, 5:00 pm
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SAN JOSE There are exactly two months left in the regular season for the San Jose Sharks, and what a two months it will be.

The team gets to enjoy a three-day break between games last Saturday in Phoenix tomorrows home matchup with the Calgary Flames. After that, the rest and the practice time will be scarce, but the games will come one after another after another.

In total, San Jose has 32 games left in 59 days, or one every 1.84 days. There are just three separate breaks of two days between games, and six back-to-back instances.

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For the Sharks, theres no time to even complain about it.

Its the way the schedule is. We got to be at home for Christmas and New Years, and now were paying the price for it, Marc-Edouard Vlasic said on Monday. Its the way the scheduling goes. Other years weve had it packed at the beginning, and this year its packed at the end.

Every NHL team has quirks to its schedule, but San Joses has been quirkier than most. The club played opening night on Oct. 8 and had five complete days off before its second game, had another four-day break in mid-November, and then played just five times in a 16-day span in late December and early January. As the standings sit on Tuesday morning, no team in the NHL has played fewer games than have the Sharks (the New York Rangers have also played just 50).

Is it better to have longer breaks at the end of the season as opposed to the beginning?

Yeah, but the reality is we just dont, Joe Thornton said. Well work these two days, and were going to get busy in the next two months. It would be nice to have these in April, but we dont. Well take it, and work on things we have to do right now.

Monday for the Sharks was called a work day by coach Todd McLellan, after the team enjoyed its annual fathers trip to Phoenix and then a day off for the Super Bowl on Sunday. Tuesdays practice will feature more systematic strategy.

Weve probably got upwards of 20 real good practices left this year and thats it, with the amount of travel and how much were going to play on the road, McLellan said. When we do get them, we have to take advantage of the time.

McLellan was asked again about the schedule after Saturdays 5-3 loss in Phoenix, and its safe to say hes not going to use it as any kind of excuse if the team falters in the coming weeks.

I dont want to hear about it anymore. I want our group to come to the rink and get prepared to play one game at a time, he said.

The part that I was really worried about was the part before All-Star break, when we played nine games in 15 days. Weve slowly caught up, and we should be able to handle ourselves.

Despite practice time being at a minimum, the Sharks are determined to improve their game as another the postseason appearance approaches.

Well fine-tune, but try to get better, as well, Vlasic said. We still have 32 games left until the end of the year so I think guys still want to improve. Guys are getting out there before practice 15 and 20 minutes early. You have to keep the stamina going and work on some things, because everybody wants to get better.

Murray clears - Sharks forward Andrew Murray has cleared waivers, according to a tweet from TSN's Bob McKenzie. He'll be reassigned to the club's AHL affiliate in Worcester.