Sharks-Sabres: What to watch for

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Sharks-Sabres: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Its been nearly a month since the San Jose Sharks won back-to-back games. After beating the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, theyll try and do just that for the first time since Jan. 31-Feb. 2 when they host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at HP Pavilion.

They may have to do it without their leading goal-scorer again, too. Logan Couture appeared on the ice with his teammates when the morning skate began, but came off much earlier than normal. Officially, hes a game-time decision. Couture missed his first game of the year on Tuesday with a lower body injury, believed to be a knee, that he sustained on Sunday in Minnesota.

The Sharks will, however, be getting at least one piece back. Dominic Moore played in just one complete game for the Sharks since he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has missed the last four games after blocking a shot in Columbus on Feb. 21.

You come to a new team you want to contribute right away. Its frustrating to not be able to, so Im looking forward to getting back at, Moore said.

Moore is expected to center a third line with Tommy Wingels and TJ Galiardi, with Andrew Desjardins likely coming out of the lineup.

Hes a good option for us to put into our forward group tonight. We look forward to seeing him play, said Jay Woodcroft, once again filling in for an injured Todd McLellan.

Defenseman Douglas Murray (fractured Adams apple) remains out.

New shutdown line? With Daniel Winnik in the fold, he, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski did an admirable job on Tuesday shutting down one of the most dynamic players in the NHL in the Flyers Claude Giroux. Philadelphia entered the game as the highest scoring team in the league, but left with a zero on the board in a 1-0 defeat.

Its a safe assumption that the new linemates will be on the ice against Buffalos Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville as the Sharks will get their desired matchups at home.

All three of those guys bring a lot to the table. Its not just offense, Woodcroft said. Pav is a real ethereal-type intelligent player that can play both ends. Patty obviously is a horse in the middle, and can wear other teams out with his speed and his size through the middle. With Winnik, hes a big body, checking type guy that when were controlling the puck in the offensive zone, its to our advantage.

Last game, that was one of those things we talked about before the game, was to play those guys hard, Marleau said of the matchup with Philly. I think everybody as a team did a good job, and played well defensively.

Goalie matchup: Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller made 43 saves in a 2-0 win over Anaheim last night, and could get the back-to-back assignment tonight Buffalo seeks to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Sabres did not skate at HP Pavilion on Thursday morning.

Antti Niemi is in net for the Sharks, and will be making just his second career appearance against Buffalo. On Dec. 9, 2010, Niemi allowed five goals in a 6-3 Sharks loss.

Miller, who has played in 17 straight games, is 5-1-1 against the Sharks in his career with a 2.24 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Backup Jonas Enroth has never faced San Jose.
More on the Sabres: Buffalo is 4-0-2 in its last six games, climbing to within five points of eighth place in the East. The Sabres are still in 12th place, though, and a longshot to make it to the postseason.

That doesnt mean they arent dangerous, and have some talented weapons in their lineup.

Moore said: Theyre a very strong defensive team and have one of the best goalies in the league. Weve got to continue to play good defensively and wait for our chances.

They have some dimensions on their back end with guys like Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff. Then up front, they are very skilled, Woodcroft said. They have a good power play and can make you pay for mistakes. Our game management, puck management, controlling our controllables is going to be huge tonight.

McLellan still sidelined: Coach Todd McLellan will remain out of action tonight, still feeling the effects of getting whacked with a stick in the head on Sunday in Minnesota.

Woodcraft and Matt Shaw continue to man the bench, although McLellan is still involved in the game-planning process.

Hes going to come back when he feels comfortable behind the bench, Joe Thornton said. Im sure the lights still give him problems, and the sound. A lot of guys in here have been through concussions and you never know how long theyre going to last. We just hope he gets back quick.

Hes getting better. Thats the primary concern of not only Matt and myself, but the whole organization to get Todd better, Woodcroft said.
Odds and ends: This is the only meeting between the Sharks and Sabres this year. Buffalo has won the last three. Joe Thornton has six goals and 15 assists in his last 15 games, and was named as the Sharks player of the month. Buffalo is 17-6-4-1 all-time against the Sharks. San Jose is 11-4-1 against the Eastern Conference. The Sharks lead the NHL in shots per game with 34.4. Buffalo is 4-1-0 against the Pacific Division, but 12-16-1 on the road.

Tierney rose to the challenge after comments in Sharks-Blues series

Tierney rose to the challenge after comments in Sharks-Blues series

Prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Final last May, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was asked to respond to Sharks coach Pete DeBoer’s decision to keep Patrick Marleau on the second line wing, rather than skate him as the third line center.

“We don't like that match. [Marleau] should stay on the second line,” Hitchcock said on May 17, eliciting laughter from the media. “I'm not telling Pete how to coach. … Just telling him we don't like that match.”

Whether Hitchcock was being truthful or not is up for interpretation, but the comment could have been viewed as an insult to Chris Tierney, who was in just his second NHL season. Tierney, mind you, was the guy that was centering the third line rather than Marleau, and in a series in which the pundits said the Blues were the deeper team up front, there was a lot riding on Tierney’s ability to handle the role.

On the latest Sharks Insider Podcast, Tierney recalled those public comments from the Blues’ legendary coach.

“You see it on Twitter, [in] media clippings, and whatnot. I think when something like that is said…the way I see it is, you want to prove them wrong. Not stick it to them, but show that, ‘OK, I’m going to show you’ kind of thing. 

“I think it just fuels the opposing players when something like that gets said, so I just take it as I just want to prove I can play. I knew I could play against those guys, and I think Pete trusted me enough that I could play against those guys.”

Over the final five games of the series, Tierney posted two goals, one assist and a plus-three rating, while a few of St. Louis’ most dangerous scorers went cold. As it turned out, the Sharks were the deeper – and better – team.

The playoff run gave Tierney, who had 5 goals and 4 assists in 24 games, a big boost in confidence.

“I thought I was going to be a little more nervous going into the playoffs than I was, but once you get playing it kind of feels like you’re just playing another game. … I think I just got more confident every series that I could go up against [Anze] Kopitar, or [Ryan] Johansen, or [Alex] Steen, [Jori] Lehtera or [Vladimir] Tarasenko.”

Tierney gets into several other topics in the podcast, including that he didn't think there was any way he would end up in San Jose after his draft interview.

“I had a meeting with the Sharks. ... I didn’t think it went very well," he said. "They were pretty hard on a lot of guys, though. I don’t know if that’s the way they interviewed back then, but I didn’t think it was going very well. I kind of crossed them off the list.”

Notes: Sharks resume practice after rare weekend off

Notes: Sharks resume practice after rare weekend off

SAN JOSE – It was a spirited, if fairly unstructured practice for the Sharks on Monday as they got back to work following a full weekend off.

Assistant coaches Steve Spott and Johan Hedberg appeared to keep the mood light, as head coach Pete DeBoer was not yet back in the area. The Sharks took Saturday and Sunday off after Friday’s win over Montreal, and host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

“The pace was high, guys were excited to be back on the ice, and we’ll have a more structured practice tomorrow – some system play, and we’ll get ready for Ottawa,” Spott said.

The Sharks coaching staff opted for a two-day break from the rink after San Jose completed a stretch of 10 games in 18 days. The busy schedule resumes with three games in four days starting with Ottawa, and a four-game road trip follows next week, beginning in Toronto on Dec. 13.

The players took advantage of the down time, with several of them catching the Raiders-Bills game in Oakland on Sunday. More importantly, though, they presumably refilled their energy tanks after playing so much hockey and taking so many flights through the first seven-and-a-half weeks of the season.

Spott said: “We thought about a few different scenarios, but we thought having them shut down for two full days and then coming in to have two days of practice would be best for us. I think the players appreciated that.

"One thing we’ve all learned here as a staff, being relatively new to the Western Conference, is the importance of rest and player maintenance. We can’t underestimate how important that is for our hockey club, to make sure they get the maintenance and the rest that they need.”

Sharks forward Logan Couture and defenseman David Schlemko took maintenance days. Schlemko missed a portion of Friday’s game with what looked to be a leg or ankle injury, but he returned in the third period.

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The Sharks reassigned forwards Kevin Labanc and Ryan Carpenter to the Barracuda over the weekend.

Sending Labanc down was a bit of a surprise in that the 20-year-old has averaged 11:58 of ice time in 12 games, with two goals and two assists. In two games with the Barracuda over the weekend in San Antonio, he posted three assists.

Spott was asked what the message was to the Staten Island, NY native.

“Do the same things there that you’ve done here, and that’s compete at both ends of the rink,” Spott said. 

“He’s going to get more offensive opportunities, being on the power play with the Barracuda, but [he has to not lose sight] of how good he has to be defensively, as well. That was our message.”

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Sharks goalie Martin Jones was named as the NHL’s Third Star of the Week, going 3-0 with a 1.01 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.

It’s the second time in two weeks that the Sharks have had a player earn third star, as Brent Burns was honored last week.