DALLAS – He was essentially a non-factor for the first two months of the season, but Sharks forward TJ Galiardi seems to have earned the trust of the coaching staff. He’ll have a great chance to continue trending the right direction in terms of offensive production on Saturday, when the Sharks visit the Stars.
Galiardi, who has seven points in the last 13 games (2g, 5a) after collecting just three points through March 16, will start the game against the Stars playing alongside Joe Thornton and Brent Burns.
“It’s great. I love playing with those guys,” Galiardi said after the morning skate at American Airlines Center. “Just get in on the forecheck hard, and try and get them the puck, and reap the benefits.”
Todd McLellan said: “Burnzie has played well with Jumbo, and I think he established himself in and around the net, which is a good thing that Jumbo can work off of. Gali’s game has been very strong, and he’s got some speed and some tempo. We’ll try it, and see what happens.”
The Sharks have changed their lines often since the end of their seven-game homestand last Sunday, a 5-4 shootout loss to the Stars. Against Detroit on Thursday, it was difficult to keep track of all of the mixing and matching of combinations and defense pairs, as the McLellan reacted to what the Red Wings’ Mike Babcock was doing with his forwards.
McLellan scoffed at the suggestion that he changes his lines more than most coaches, when I told him it was a common question from fans on Twitter and other places at least a couple times a week.
“I don’t know if it’s any more often. When we look at our streak at home, we kept our lines together fairly well. We had last change and could match up fairly well.
“We go on the road, we don’t play very well in Columbus and I thought our game was getting a little bit stale in the last two games of the homestand. They dictate that we had to shuffle them up a little bit. We start the game in Detroit with a set of lines, but immediately we see what they’re doing with [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Henrik] Zetterberg, so we’ve got to change on the fly. They split them up and we adjust, and that’s just how it is at this time of the year.”
Oh, and one other thing.
“You’ve got to stop listening to Twitter,” he said.
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Several Sharks players and the head coach pointed out on Saturday morning that the Stars, who can move into the top eight with a win over the Sharks tonight, are 10th in the league in scoring with 2.80 goals per game.
Dallas has 17 goals over its four-game winning streak, including five in each of the last two games. The Stars won in Nashville last night, 5-2.
“They’ve got a lot of firepower over there and they create it through their cycle,” Galiardi said. “We’ve got to find a way to get them off their game and the best was for us to do that is to just play in their zone and dictate the play.”
Joe Pavelski said: “When they get a turnover they’re ready to go, so we’ve got to be sharp in that area tonight.”
Dallas appeared to be in full rebuild mode at the trade deadline, moving captain Brenden Morrow and forwards Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr. Instead of sinking, the Stars have surged.
Count former Stars forward Adam Burish, who played in Dallas the last two seasons, among those who are a bit amazed.
“Yeah, it’s surprising. You look at the names on their roster and in their lineup, you probably don’t recognize many names on there, but they’re finding a way to get it done,” Burish said.
Several youngsters, like right wing Alex Chiasson, who has five goals in his first five NHL games playing on the top line with Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney, have made an impact. He’s one of several young players on Dallas’ roster, which features eight players born in 1989 or later.
“The age is different, now they’ve got a lot of young guys and a lot of inexperienced guys. But, I think for them, at times it can probably be good,” Burish said. “They’re out there just playing with a lot of energy, and a lot of piss and vinegar, and they almost probably feel like they don’t have anything to lose.”
McLellan said: “They have played very free and very loose, excited, and now they’re into a stretch where there’s probably going to be some pressure. They’ll have to deal with that. They’re a hard working team that gets it done five-on-five.”
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Antti Niemi, tied for the league lead with 20 wins, will make his 19th straight start tonight against Dallas. He’ll likely be opposed by Richard Bachman, as Kari Lehtonen is still sidelined with a groin injury.
The Sharks have back-to-back games on Monday in Phoenix and Tuesday at home against Los Angeles, but McLellan said he didn’t have a date in mind for Greiss’ next appearance. “I don’t have one yet, no,” he said.
Niemi is an obvious choice to play Dallas. In his last nine games against the Stars, he’s 6-1-2 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .933 save percentage and two shutouts. Bachman has stopped 48 of 50 shots in the last two games, both wins.