Clowe's return a timely playoff boost for Sharks


Clowe's return a timely playoff boost for Sharks


SAN JOSE (AP) -- There's a different feeling this year heading into the postseason for the Sharks.

The tag of favorite that has been an albatross in the past is in Vancouver instead after the Canucks raced through the regular season and won the Presidents' Trophy.

The questions about early round collapses that haunted San Jose in recent years have been quieted by last season's run to the Western Conference final.

Instead, the second-seeded Sharks are enjoying being out of the spotlight as they prepare for their first-round series against the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Kings that begins Thursday night.

"It's kind of nice," forward Ryane Clowe said. "We feel like we made progress last year. We took a step forward, now it's a chance to make another stride this year. We feel really good about our team."

RATTO: Sharks face familiar first-round foe in Kings

The Sharks began their playoff preparation Monday with some positive news when Clowe took the ice for the first time since being sidelined a week ago with a lower-body injury. Clowe played only briefly April 4 against the Kings and then missed the final three games with an injury whose origin was a mystery even to him.

Clowe said the time off helped him heal and that he was encouraged by how good he felt at practice Monday.

"I'm not trying to be a hero and rush it or anything. I just want to try to keep getting better every day," he said. "I went four or five days without skating. This was the first time I skated in about a week. But the legs felt pretty good."

While Clowe and the team were always confident he'd be able to play when the postseason started, it was a positive sign that he felt so good on the ice three days before the series against the Kings starts.

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With his big body and relentless work ethic, Clowe has been an integral part of the Sharks' success this season. He is a locker room leader who is never afraid to speak up when things aren't going well, earning him a role as alternate captain.

He also helps in more tangible ways as evidenced by his 24 goals, 38 assists and 100 penalty minutes many the result of coming to the defense of his teammates.

"Clowe is the first to hold himself accountable in front of his teammates," coach Todd McLellan said. "He accepts responsibility for his game and then from there it spreads throughout the room. It's very powerful. When he gets on the ice, his size, strength and toughness are very well documented. He has the ability to play in a finesse way too. He's a very good passer and protects the puck very well. In a year like this when scoring is at a premium, he found a way to put up points."

Clowe spent much of the second half of the season on a line with rookie Logan Couture and Dany Heatley, giving the Sharks another high-scoring line to follow the top group of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi.
BRAZIL: Are Sharks better than last year? Absolutely

That scoring depth is always crucial come the playoffs.

"He's a big part of this team, been a big part all year," Marleau said. "He's a nice piece of the puzzle coming back."

The Sharks were knocked out in the second round for three straight seasons before their most memorable postseason failure in 2009, when they lost to Anaheim in the first round after posting the NHL's best record in the regular season.

Those defeats loomed large at the start of last postseason, but the Sharks overcame a few tough breaks to win their first round series against Colorado in six games and then beat longtime nemesis Detroit in five games in the second round.

San Jose was then swept by eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago in the conference final but the players are hoping to build on last season's success this spring.

"You want to get back there," Thornton said. "We realize we have a good team and we realize how much work it is to get to that point. But it's not the ultimate goal. We know how much you have to go through. We're just that much more experienced and we're even hungrier now to get to that point."

The injury news for the Kings is more of a mixed bag. Leading scorer Anze Kopitar is sidelined with torn ligaments in his severely sprained right ankle. But right wing Justin Williams was cleared to return to practice this week after missing the final nine games of the regular season with a dislocated right shoulder.

The Sharks are expecting Williams to suit up Thursday but know the Kings are a different team without Kopitar, who had 25 goals and 48 assists this season.

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"That's probably like asking us the question how much different are we without Joe Thornton," McLellan said. "He's a dominant player in the National Hockey League. But when you lose a player like that, others tend to pick up the slack."

Notes: The Sharks recalled LW Brandon Mashinter, LW Jamie McGinn, C Andrew Desjardins and G Thomas Greiss. Greiss, the backup last season to Evgeni Nabokov, spent the year in Sweden but was needed as a third goaltender for when starter Antti Niemi does not practice.

Warriors rookie McCaw starts vs Nets with Durant ruled out

Warriors rookie McCaw starts vs Nets with Durant ruled out

OAKLAND -- With Kevin Durant out of the Warriors lineup Saturday night with swelling in his left pinky finger, rookie wing Pat McCaw will start at forward against Brooklyn at Oracle Arena.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr made the announcement two hours before tipoff.

As for Durant, the contusion in his left pinky finger, sustained Thursday, is still in the healing process.

“Kevin’s hand is still a little swollen,” Kerr said. “It’s not anything we want to mess around with. We’ve got a long trip coming up, a lot of games. It made sense to give him the night off. We’ll have tomorrow off, flying in to Philadelphia. So hopefully the next couple days it’ll calm down and be fine. It’s kind of a day-to-day thing.”

The decision to start McCaw -- who often competes with Ian Clark for playing time -- was based mostly on how he matches up against the Nets.

“They both have my trust and my confidence,” Kerr said. “Both of them are very effective. It’s depending what we need. If we need ball movement and cutting, I’m more likely to go to Ian. He’s a great back-cutter and he gives our offense flow and he’ll make spot-up shots. If we need some size defensively, we’ll go to Patrick. They’ve both been effective. I wouldn’t say either one is ahead of the other. They’re both going to play.”

New acquisitions shine as Quakes end preseason with win over USL's Republic

New acquisitions shine as Quakes end preseason with win over USL's Republic

The San Jose Earthquakes concluded their 2017 preseason campaign with a 4-1 win against Sacramento Republic FC at Avaya Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Shea Salinas, Simon Dawkins, Jahmir Hyka and Danny Hoesen each scored for the Earthquakes in the victory to give San Jose a 6-1-2 record in preseason play.

In the 14th minute, Salinas gave the Earthquakes a 1-0 advantage when he one-timed Tommy Thompson's cross into the back of the net. In the buildup to the goal, Nick Lima threw the ball in and found fellow Homegrown player Thompson on the right side of the six-yard box. With one touch, Thompson crossed the ball to Salinas who made no mistake with his finish.

Republic FC equalized the match in the 54th minute with a penalty from Sammy Ochoa after Anibal Godoy was called for a handball in the box.

The Earthquakes regained the lead in the 66th minute when Dawkins sent a powerful low shot into the bottom left corner of Sacramento's goal from the top of the 18-yard box after receiving a through pass from Darwin Ceren.

After entering the match at halftime, Hyka made the game 3-1 in the 79th minute, finishing Godoy's cross with one touch.

Hoesen concluded the scoring for the Quakes in first minute of stoppage time after he dribbled past the Sacramento defense and sent the ball across the goal into the bottom right corner to make the final score 4-1.

"It was good," said Quakes defender and second-ever Homegrown signing Nick Lima, who started Saturday. "It was obviously our first time in the preseason in the stadium. It was good to get out there with our starters and I think we finished the way we wanted to. There's obviously a lot of improvement that we need to do, but now we have a week just to focus on Montreal. That was the ultimate goal from the beginning of preseason to get ready for that game and I think we took a step in the right direction."

The Earthquakes will start the 2017 MLS Regular Season next Saturday, March 4, at 6:45 p.m. against the Montreal Impact.

Earthquakes media services.