Sharks notes: To Columbus, looking for different outcome

Sharks notes: To Columbus, looking for different outcome
April 8, 2013, 11:00 am
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The Sharks are 14-1-5 at home, but they're leaving San Jose for a four-game road trip, where they are 6-10-2 this year. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN JOSE – The Sharks are set to begin another road trip in Columbus, and they’re hoping Tuesday’s game goes better than the first time they visited the Buckeye State.

On Feb. 11, the Sharks were embarrassed by the Blue Jackets in a 6-2 loss. That set the tone for the rest of their road trip, in which San Jose was 1-4-1 in a six-game stretch away from HP Pavilion. Tuesday’s game is the first of four on a trip that includes stops in Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix.

Columbus (16-16-7) is still battling for a playoff spot, and made some significant moves at the trade deadline, acquiring the skillful Marian Gaborik from New York while trading ineffective goalie Steve Mason to Philadelphia.

“It’s going to be a battle. We know they’re paying good hockey and want to make the playoffs,” Tommy Wingels said. “It will be a good test for us.”

Joe Pavelski said: “We were not good at all when we were there. It’s going to be a hard game, and they’ve played hard and well all year, for the most part, to put themselves in that position. They’re a little different team and made some additions at the trade deadline, but it’s still about what we do.”

San Jose’s home record (14-1-5) is drastically better than it’s mark on the road (6-10-2). That will have to change if the Sharks have any chance of getting home ice advantage in the first round, or if they want to make any sort of noise in the postseason.

One disadvantage for San Jose – and many other teams, in the shortened, condensed NHL season – is the lack of practice time. Throughout their successful 6-0-1 homestand, the Sharks did not skate on their off days, opting for complete days off from the rink or lighter, off-ice workouts with the training staff.

It was a decision that the Sharks made at the end of their previous five-game road trip, which concluded on March 25 in Anaheim.

“We had a real good meeting in Anaheim with myself and some of the leaders, and we talked about where we were energy-wise and fatigue-wise,” Todd McLellan said on Friday morning, before a game with the Calgary Flames. “I’m not sure we had the energy reserves we needed to have to compete at the right level. We adjusted our practice schedule a little bit. The players have shown us they like it, because they come out and play hard each of the nights.”

That was before the last two games, though. The Sharks needed a late third period goal from Pavelski to beat the lowly Flames on Friday, 2-1, and their game against Dallas was a couple notches below how they had been playing lately, especially in the defensive zone.

The Sharks opted to stay in San Jose on Sunday night and fly to Columbus on Monday morning, rather than depart immediately following the game against the Stars. Wednesday is a scheduled off day between games against Columbus and Detroit. Their next real practice isn’t until Friday at a rink near Dallas.

“It’s so tough right now because I think our team needs a practice or two,” McLellan said after the 5-4 shootout loss to the Stars. “I don’t know when we’re really going to get it, when we can expend energy and work on things. It’s going to have to continue to come from video, and one-on-one sessions, and that type of stuff.

“I think right now we need to clean our game up. When you look at the Calgary game, [we played] two good periods and one soft one. Here (against Dallas), not engaged the way we need to be to win. We’ve got to clean it up going on the road. It’s going to be a tough task.”

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It’s hard not to notice that the Sharks look like a faster club since the trade deadline and the days leading up to it. That could be a result of the team trading three of its slower players in Douglas Murray, Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe.

Murray was traded on the morning of March 25, the day the Sharks began their current 7-0-1 run. Handzus and Clowe were traded just prior to last week’s deadline.

McLellan was recently asked if his team is now faster.

“Depends how you define fast,” he said. “I think we’re moving the puck more efficiently. We are creating more offensive chances, and that’s probably because of the tempo that we play at. I don’t know that we’re skating faster, but our game is faster. Skating could be a large part of it, but I do think we’re a quicker team right now.”

* * *

The Sharks signed unrestricted free agent goaltender Troy Grosenick to an entry-level contract Monday, the team annouinced in a press release.

"We think that Troy is a quality goaltender and we are excited to bring him into the fold," said GM Doug Wilson. "He has excelled the past couple seasons at Union playing for coach Rick Bennett and his staff, and we feel he can be a valuable member of our organization."

Grosenick, 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds at the age of 23, has spent the past three seasons at Union College of the ECAC. In 2012-13, Grosenick posted a 17-15-5 record. His 2.12 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and .609 winning percentage ranked him 4th among all ECAC goaltenders in each category.

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Minnesota’s Dany Heatley is having shoulder surgery as a result of his tussle with Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Heatley will have arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder on Tuesday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

"(We're) hoping it won't be too long," Wild head coach Mike Yeo said in a text message to the paper.