Sharks' top line unlikely to change for second round

Havlat: 'Just trying to get better every day'

Sharks' top line unlikely to change for second round
May 10, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Martin Havlat was hurt in the first period of Game 1 against the Canucks and is battling a lower body injury. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN JOSE -- Indications are that Sharks winger Marty Havlat won’t be ready for the start of the second round, as he has yet to skate aggressively on his own or with the team, which had its first full practice on Friday since eliminating Vancouver on Tuesday night.

But, even if the 32-year-old forward quickly recovers (something that hasn't happened in his two seasons with the Sharks), it’s doubtful he’ll get his place back on the wing with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau.

Havlat was hurt in the first period of Game 1 and is battling a lower body injury, forcing Todd McLellan to shift Raffi Torres to that line. Four games and a series sweep later, that trio will almost certainly be together next week, regardless of Havlat’s status.

“Marty is a more cerebral player, not as physical as Raffi is. Raffi plays with a different type of tenacity than Marty does,” McLellan said. “But, I thought that was a big change in the series. Raffi playing there gave that line some energy, and there’s no doubt we miss Marty and hope he’s going to be back for the next round, but the way those three played (Couture, Marleau and Torres), I liked that line.”

Torres had just one point in the series, an overtime goal in Game 2. But, his physicality and aggressiveness, and maybe even his reputation, may have opened up some space for his linemates.

It especially seemed to kick-start Marleau, who had just one goal in his final 16 regular season games before scoring one goal in each of the four games against the Canucks. Three of the four came at even strength, with Torres on the ice.

Couture was asked how the Torres-for-Havlat switch altered what has to be considered the Sharks’ top line.

“It’s different. Marty sees the ice and slows the game down a little bit, finesse guy, while [Torres] is in your face, good on the forecheck and a good shooter. He intimidates other team’s defensemen when they go back for pucks. In that sense it changed, but both are good guys to play with.”

Does Raffi open up more space?

“Tough to say. Probably. When you see him on the forecheck and you see d-men look over their shoulder and see him coming, they usually fumble the puck or turn it over. That definitely helps,” Couture said.

Torres, who was second on the Sharks with 14 hits in the series, said: “My job on that ice is to get the puck in their hands. Any time I can do that and create a little room for them, I’m going to do it.”

As for Marleau and his scoring surge, the line change put him back on the right side of Couture. Despite his lack of production in the goal department down the stretch, it was only a matter of time before pucks started finding the back of the net again, in his view.

“I was always getting real good scoring chances, they just weren’t all going in towards the end of the regular season,” he said. “That, and getting more comfortable with the players I’m playing with – Cooch, and Marty at the time. Raffi has come in and done a great job, too. It’s nice to build that chemistry over time.”

Couture said: “I thought we were playing well as a line down the stretch, and I had no idea he had only scored one goal in that many games. We were playing well and the line was generating a lot of offense. It’s good that we were able to score a couple in the playoffs so far.”

They'll get a chance for more next week against the Blackhawks, Kings or Blues.