Ex-Shark Malhotra appears on ice with Canucks

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Ex-Shark Malhotra appears on ice with Canucks

May 13, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (APCSN) Even though Manny Malhotra still can't play for the Canucks, his surprise return to the ice Thursday provided a pick-me-up to his Vancouver teammates.

Out with a career-threatening eye injury since being hit by a deflected puck on March 16, Malhotra skated with the team for the first time since being hurt as the Canucks began to prepare for the Western Conference finals against the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose advanced Thursday night with a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7.

RELATED: Sharks-Canucks series schedule

Associate Coach Rick Bowness said there was "no chance" Malhotra, who already had at least two operations on his injured left eye, was coming back during these playoffs. Still, the Canucks were happy to see him.

"It was a thrill for all of us to see him on the ice," Bowness said. "Getting back in the room and getting ready for practice, there's always excitement back in the air - we're getting back at, we're getting ready for the next round - but when Manny walks in and goes on the ice with them ... it just gave everyone an extra boost and the guys really enjoyed having him on the ice with them."

Wearing a Canucks-colored tracksuit and full-face shield on his helmet, Malhotra skated around before practice. He even joined the team for warm-up drills and took part in few line rushes before returning to the bench after 15 minutes.

"Just a couple shifts, but it was nice to see him out," goalie Roberto Luongo said. "To be on the ice with the boys like that, it was really special."

It's not like Malhotra hasn't been around during the playoffs.

Named an assistant captain in the first season of a three-year, 7.5 million deal he signed as a free agent, the 12-year NHL veteran has become an extra coach during the playoffs.

He's in penalty kill meetings for a unit he helped lead the league in the regular season, and dishes advice on everything from shooting to faceoffs, which he was second in the NHL at 61.7 per cent.

Bowness compared it to seeing Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby, out with a concussion, wearing a headset while watching the Penguins play in the playoffs.

"He's helping out a lot," added forward Daniel Sedin. "Everyone respects his opinion and he's been around this league for a long time so guys are going to listen when he talks. He's being a good, positive impact on a lot of guys."

Malhotra's advice could become more meaningful in the Western Conference finals - Vancouver's first trip this deep into the playoffs since 1994 - especially because the Canucks will open the series at home against San Jose on Sunday. Malhotra played last season for the Sharks.

"He gives tips on what's going on in the game," defenseman Sami Salo said. "He sees the game from upstairs and the TV so he has little inside scoops."

Malhotra, 30, still hasn't addressed the media other than releasing an April 6 statement thanking the surgeons, organization and fans for their support. His teammates are thankful for his support in the postseason.

"He's so positive every day even with what he's gone through," Salo said.

Salo knows better than most how hard that can be. He missed the first four and a half months of the season recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon suffered last summer, yet another injury in a career filled with injuries.

"It is tough, especially when the team is in the playoffs right now," Salo said, "but he's been really positive and supportive and it's been good to have him in the locker room. That shows you what kind of a great character he is."

And why he was such a good candidate to be an assistant captain so soon.

"Maybe he should have an A on his T-shirt right now," Salo said.

Bowness said Malhotra won't need the A for his jersey anytime soon. The team announced Malhotra's season was over just a few days after a hard pass glanced off a stick and struck him in the left eye, and that hasn't changed.

"Unless there is a complete miracle, no chance," Bowness said of a playoff return. "He's getting a little workout with the guys, it's a big thrill for all of us to see him back on the ice, but nothing has changed."

In terms of Malhotra's impact off the ice, that's a good thing.

Malhotra spent the 2009-10 season with the Sharks, signing as an unrestricted free agent just prior to the start of the season. He scored a career-high 14 goals before signing with the Canucks last summer.

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

SAN JOSE – For at least one night, the Sharks’ depth players – most of which have been missing in action for weeks – found the scoresheet against the Rangers in a 5-4 overtime win on Tuesday.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The Sharks were playing their first of what will surely be at least a few games without center Logan Couture, and are still in the hunt for a Pacific Division title with four of their six remaining games against Edmonton and Calgary – teams they are trying to fend off to earn home ice in the first round. And, of course, they ended a wretched six-game losing streak in which they never had a lead in any of the defeats.

Coach Pete DeBoer mentioned earlier in the week that the coaching staff had challenged the depth players to do more, especially now that their second line center is out indefinitely. The response on Tuesday included two goals from Chris Tierney (including a late game-tying score), one goal and one assist from Jannik Hansen, a shorthanded goal by Melker Karlsson, two assists from Mikkel Boedker, and an assist from Tomas Hertl.

Consider the challenge met.

“We want to score. All the depth guys know, and talked about stepping up,” Tierney said. “It's good that we broke through tonight, especially with Logan out of the lineup. We're going to have to keep doing it throughout the playoffs."

DeBoer said the internal challenge “didn’t involve much more than just ‘Hey, we need some contributions from you.’ We can’t always look to the big guys to get the job done. We got that tonight. Those guys got on the board. It’s never a lack of effort with that group, but we’re the sum of our parts. We need those guys to get on the board for us on a regular basis and they did that tonight.”

It was also surely welcomed that one of their big guys – perhaps their biggest – got the overtime winner. Brent Burns had been mired in a 16-game drought without a goal, but his slap shot got through Henrik Lundqvist half-a-minute into an overtime power play.

While the depth guys will need to continue to produce, the Sharks are going to need more from Burns, too, as the postseason approaches. The defenseman had been kept off of the scoresheet in nine of 10 games from March 5 – 21, but now has one point in each of his last three games. That’s a good sign.

Getting a goal was particularly nice, as was ending the losing skid.

“Yeah on both accounts,” Burns said. “That was a big win, especially coming back, staying resilient, getting that big goal there at the end.”

Still, with all that went right, the game was far from perfect. The Sharks allowed a 3-1 second period lead to turn into a 4-3 deficit in just a span of five minutes and seven seconds, indicating they’re still a bit fragile. Derek Stepan made it 3-2 late in the second with a power play goal, Jesper Fast scored on a deflection early in the third, and J.T. Miller gave New York its first lead of the night less than five minutes into the final frame.

“There’s still room for improvement, definitely,” Joe Pavelski said.

Still, the Sharks fought back for Tierney’s late game-tying goal with less than two minutes in regulation, setting up Burns’ overtime heroics. 

The captain sensed some displeasure from the home fans due to the blown lead, something he surely understood, but indicated that the energy level on the Sharks’ bench was still high.

“Whether you think, like, ‘Here we go again’ or not – I’m sure someone in this building thought that tonight,” Pavelski said. “Guys just kind of stuck with it, and we believed we would tie it up tonight.”

Getting that extra point in overtime brought a sense of relief.

“When you lose six straight, it's obviously a relief when you win one,” Martin Jones said. “But win or lose, we played a lot better tonight.”

 

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Despite blowing a two-goal lead, the Sharks found a way to tie their game with the Rangers late and win it in overtime, 5-4, to end their losing streak at six games.

After New York had turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead, Chris Tierney knotted the score with just 2:15 left in regulation. Mikkel Boedker’s shot from high in the zone rattled around the slot, and Tierney was there to flip it home for this second of the night.

Brent Burns ended a 16-game goal drought with a power play goal at 3:10 in overtime, overpowering Henrik Lundqvist with a slap shot.

After Tierney had given San Jose a 3-1 lead earlier in the second period the Sharks kept up the pressure, recording seven of the next eight shots. But Patrick Marleau’s interference penalty on Jimmy Vesey gave New York a late power play and turned the game in their favor.

Derek Stepan – who was stopped on a partial breakaway midway through the first period – brought the Rangers back to within 3-2. Mats Zuccarello hummed a seam pass through Justin Braun to Stepan, who had an open net to deposit his 16th of the season in the final minutes of the second period.

In the third, Jesper Fast redirected a Brady Skjei floater at 1:24, tying the game at 3-3. A Burns tripping minor during four-on-four play offered a power play to the Rangers, and they capitalized on a J.T. Miller one-timer at 4:44, his second of the night.

The Sharks remain two points back of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and are tied with Edmonton for second.

For the first time in eight games the Sharks struck first. A newly configured third line of Tomas Hertl, Boedker and Jannik Hansen scored on its first shift together, as Hansen chopped in a loose puck at 1:44. Boedker and Hertl both got assists, ending pointless streaks of 10 games and 12 games, respectively.

Hansen’s first goal as a Shark also gave the team its first lead in more than two weeks, as it never led throughout its six-game regulation losing streak.

The Rangers tied it at 13:30 of the first on a goal by Miller, who took the puck from Paul Martin along the wall and lifted a perfectly placed wrist shot over Martin Jones’ near shoulder.

Melker Karlsson, returning from an eight-game absence, put the Sharks ahead 2-1 late in the first period with a shorthanded score. He whizzed a wrist shot past countryman Lundqvist at 18:01 while on a two-on-one with Tierney.

Tierney increased the lead to 3-1 in the middle frame, taking a shot from the slot and following up his own rebound at 11:38. It was just his second goal in the last 22 games, and eighth of the year.

The Rangers won the only other game of the season series back on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden, 7-4. The Sharks finished the season with a 21-7-4 mark against Eastern Conference clubs.

The Sharks were without Logan Couture, who is out indefinitely with a facial injury.

Special teams:
Two of New York’s goals came on the power play, on three opportunities. The Sharks are 11-for-15 on the PK in the last six games.

San Jose had just one power play before overtime, failing to score. Karlsson’s marker was his second shorthanded score of the season, and the Sharks’ seventh as a team.

In goal:
After allowing a career high seven goals-against on Saturday in Nashville, Jones made 24 saves on 28 shots.

Lundqvist suffered the loss with 30 saves on 35 shots.

Lineup:
Micheal Haley served a one-game suspension for punching Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday.

Tierney (upper body) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (flu) both returned after missing Saturday’s game with the Predators. Marcus Sorensen came out of the lineup for Kevin Labanc, who was recalled on Tuesday morning and skated on the top line.

New York’s Skjei had three assists.

Up next:
The Sharks have six games remaining in the regular season – two each against Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

A three-game road trip against each of those division rivals begins on Thursday with the Oilers, as the clubs battle for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and continues on Friday against the Flames and Sunday versus the Canucks.