Programming note: Sharks-Coyotes coverage gets under way tonight at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE – They haven’t put the puck in the net since they were assembled two games ago, but the Sharks’ new fourth line of Scott Gomez, James Sheppard and Andrew Desjardins has had a direct impact on each of the last two wins over the Ducks and Red Wings.
That’s reflected in their ice time, as each of the three has skated at least 10-to-13 minutes in the 4-0 win over the Ducks on Wednesday that preceded a 2-0 blanking of the Red Wings on Thursday.
Getting pucks in deep behind the opposition's defense has been the key, according to Todd McLellan.
“Once they establish time in the offensive zone, they’re a pretty hard group to handle,” he said. “They get on the cycle, they get in on the forecheck, they can be physical and they created some scoring chances. For them, it’s getting it there, and they’ve done a much better job lately.”
Gomez, who has had his ups and downs since he joined the team early in the year, credited his linemates for the recent effectiveness as a group.
“I think Shep and Desi have taken their games to a different level,” said Gomez, who has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 27 games. “You’re really seeing every shift they are creating something. Desi isn’t just a guy that goes in there and hits, he’s got a lot of skill."
“We’ve done everything, now we’ve got to put it in the net. I’m still a firm believer when you get opportunities, you’re doing stuff right. I’ve got to give those two credit.”
Desjardins, who was pulled from the lineup for a couple games in recent weeks, has seven combined shots on goal in the last two games after not getting more than two shots in his previous 24. Although he’s had an impact on some games with his physical play, he has just one assist this season.
Still, he thinks his line has been a difference-maker in the last two games.
“Yeah, definitely. Any time you can keep the puck in their end for a shift and just have momentum, that’s just as good,” he said. “We’re not scoring and stuff, so we have to do those kinds of things. It’s been feeling good the last few games, for sure.”
Communication on the ice has been important.
“It just seems like we’re on the same page working together,” Desjardins said. “We’re staying tight in the [offensive zone], and creating turnovers, staying together and getting pucks back. That’s been key, and lots of talk on the ice, as well.
“Communication on the ice is a big thing, and we’re getting used to each other quickly. Lots of talk goes a long way.”
The Sharks’ depth has been in question for most of the year, as nearly all of the offense for two months was coming from Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski or Logan Couture. Lately, that hasn’t been the case, and it’s no coincidence that the wins are starting to follow. San Jose will try and increase its streak to four in a row on Saturday.
“I think our depth has showed with the lines being mixed up a little bit,” said Ryane Clowe, who has been playing wing on the third line with Joe Pavelski and TJ Galiardi.
Clowe has assists in back-to-back games since returning from a shoulder injury, while Pavelski has a three-game goal streak.
“We’re having pretty good chemistry with our third line with me, Pavs and Gali. One thing I like about that is we’re all on the same page, and we all know our games and where we want to play. A lot of it has to do with puck possession, below their goal line, and working them down there.”
Gomez said: “I think we’re starting to find a formula. We’ve got a deep team. When we use that, you can tell we just wear teams out. I said it right when I got here, it is a deep team.”
On the Coyotes
Phoenix snapped a seven-game losing streak (0-5-2) with a win in Nashville on Thursday, 7-4. The Coyotes managed just eight goals in those previous seven games.
McLellan said: “Their team looked a little bit like ours, where they had some chances but it just wasn’t going in. They filled the net in Nashville and they’ll be ready to play tonight, four lines that an roll, solid blue line that are active and involved in the play.”
Coyotes defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle each have 19 points, tying them for third on the team in scoring.
“Our wingers are going to have to do a good job of being in lanes and making sure they don’t get their shots through, and making sure we don’t get beat up ice, as well,” Patrick Marleau said of the offensively gifted rearguards.
He continued: “They’re a hard-working team, so we know they’re going to come in and have that mentality. When you don’t win for a while you simplify your game, and that’s what they’ve been doing. They got rewarded last game, so they’ve got some confidence over there. It’s going to be a good test.”