Sharks practice, still unsure of opponent

Sharks practice, still unsure of opponent
May 11, 2013, 2:00 pm
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Dan Boyle (left) doesn't mind all the time off, especially if it allows Jason Demers (right) to get healthy. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN JOSE – No, no one in the Sharks locker room wanted to go on the record in regards to whether they would prefer to face the Kings or the Blackhawks in the second round of the playoffs.

Shocker, right?

“Yeah, nice. Next question,” Dan Boyle said.

Eh, it was worth a try (probably not).

Still, the Sharks were able to benefit at least little a bit by the field getting narrowed by one on Friday night. The Kings eliminated the St. Louis Blues, ending the season for the team that knocked out San Jose last April.

The Sharks skated for more than an hour on Saturday at their practice facility, still unsure of the date and location of their next playoff game.

“Two is easier to prepare for than three,” Todd McLellan said. “We approached practice in refreshing the things we want to do as a team, and then we looked at some situations that both Chicago and L.A. would present to us in certain areas of the game.”

Are the Blackhawks and Kings at least somewhat similar?

“Yes and no. Their teams play a little bit different and their makeup is a little bit different. They have both won Stanley Cups in the last couple years, so they both have experience and have played through some adversity. From that aspect, it’s very much the same. But, the way they play and the makeup of their game is somewhat different.”

It will have been at least a week between games when the Sharks land in either Hollywood or the Windy City. San Jose eliminated Vancouver on Tuesday night, took Wednesday and Thursday off, and has held long practices the last two days. Practice time was hard to come by in the shortened season.

The “rest vs. rust” debate is a valid one, but Boyle will take the long break after the grind of 48 games in 99 days that preceded the first round sweep of the Canucks.

“People often talk about rust coming back, but I’ll take rust over getting beat up over the course of seven games against another opponent,” the 36-year-old defenseman said. “We’re doing the best we can out there. We still don’t know who we’re playing, but it’s about us at the end of the day. I like the days off.”

Saturday, special teams seemed to be the focus, but keeping the energy level high and the drills intense is vital.

Patrick Marleau said: “We’re still doing some battling out there and trying to keep in that playoff mindset, but at the same time getting some [much] needed rest.”

The Sharks haven’t played the Blackhawks since Feb. 22, while all four games against the Kings came in the second half of the condensed schedule, beginning on March 14. Preparing for Chicago may require some more work for the coaching staff than the Kings.

“There’s a little more review,” McLellan said. “Our team is obviously different since then, and they’ve added some people to their team as well. I don’t know if that would be a factor or not.”

Boyle said: “You don’t necessarily change the way you play depending on who you play against. There are little things here and there that we’re going to discuss, but it’s about us. You try to put your game plan versus theirs, and hopefully yours is better.”

* * *

Jason Demers skated for about an hour on Saturday, first by himself, and then with the team for the first half of practice. The defenseman is recovering from a sprained left ankle.

“He got a good skate in today. I believe any time a player joins the group again is a big step. Now, it’s going to be full participation before he could play,” McLellan said.

The Sharks have a hole to fill on their fourth line, too, with Marty Havlat likely unavailable for at least the start of the second round and Adam Burish out for its entirety. Tim Kennedy has been mostly skating with Scott Gomez and James Sheppard in the spot vacated by Burish, but the Sharks have other options, including call-ups Bracken Kearns and Matt Pelech.

The opposition could determine which one suits up, as Kennedy might get the call for the faster Blackhawks and one of the other two for the more physical Kings.

“Each one of them will be prepared to play,” McLellan said. “We’ll see who the opponent is and how we stack up, and we’ll make some decisions.”

McLellan shot down a suggestion that Demers could potentially suit up as a forward.

“Pretty soon you guys will have [Niemi] on the blue line,” he joked.