SAN JOSE – The first two-day break between games in nearly a month was a welcome one.
The Sharks took Friday off after their 6-1 drubbing of the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, and reconvened at their practice rink on Saturday morning. San Jose had played at least every other day since March 21-22, and it was the team’s first back-to-back off days in the Bay Area since March 7-8.
“It feels a little weird having the day off yesterday and not having a game today,” Brad Stuart said. “It’s good, just to get that mental break and come in here today and have a chance to work on some stuff, which we haven’t had a chance to do a whole lot. It’s good for us.”
Logan Couture said: “It’s was nice yesterday doing nothing, and today just having a short practice.”
The Sharks are a near-lock to make it to the postseason, although it’s not yet official. They could clinch a playoff spot as soon as Sunday against the Blue Jackets, who are one several teams fighting to make it to the postseason. Columbus sits in eighth place with 49 points, two ahead of Detroit and Dallas, but has played two more games that the Red Wings and one more than the Stars.
The Blue Jackets have handed the Sharks two of their worst losses of the season, both at Nationwide Area. They’ve outscored San Jose 10-2.
“They’ve cleaned our clocks the last two times in there, and it wasn’t even close,” Todd McLellan said. “You have to play a pretty smart, detailed game against them. They compete really hard, they have four lines that come after you, their goaltender has been exceptional this year, and they’re highly motivated.
“There’s not one area of our game that I can say, 'if we fix this, we’ll be fine.' It’s our whole game that has to get better against this team.”
The Sharks would clinch a spot with a win or overtime/shootout loss against the Blue Jackets. Home ice in the first round is also still within reach.
“We’ve got four games left - to get in, first, and looking at home ice advantage,” Couture said.
“You play to get in. Ideally you’d like to finish up there, but at the end of the day you’ve just got to get in,” Dan Boyle said.
The Sharks will likely be without banged up defenseman Jason Demers, who didn’t play hardly at all in the third period of Thursday’s win and didn’t practice on Saturday. That means Scott Hannan, who played against the Kings on Tuesday but not against the Wild, will return to the lineup.
The Sharks are injury-free otherwise, although McLellan pointed out that this time of year, every team has to battle through bumps and bruises.
“If you talk about long term injuries, we don’t have any of them,” he said. “But, we’re in the same shape as a lot of teams that play 48 games in less than 100 days. At this time of year, the mental aspect at the mind driving the body is what’s real important to be able to get through it.”
Couture said: “We had some guys miss games this year to injury, but that’s the nature of this sport. As of right now, knock on wood, aside from a couple bumps and bruises, guys are looking pretty good. Hopefully we can stay like that.”