Potential playoff preview as Sharks visit Anaheim


Potential playoff preview as Sharks visit Anaheim

April 6, 2011

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SHARKS (47-23-9) vs.
ANAHEIM (44-30-5)

UPDATE: Goalie Antero Niittymaki will start for the Sharks; Ryane Clowe will not dress due to a lower body injury and Scott Nichol will play in two of the final three games, although no determination has been made regarding his status for tonight.
Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

ANAHEIM (AP) -- The Anaheim Ducks would have already wrapped up a playoff berth had they simply won in regulation the last time they took the ice.

Now a home victory over the Pacific Division champion San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night still won't guarantee them a postseason trip.

Anaheim (44-30-5) is just ahead of both Calgary and Dallas with three games to play, and owns the tiebreaker over each. The Ducks can keep the Flames, who have two games remaining, from catching them if they defeat San Jose, but the Stars have three games left and can still move past them.

RATTO: An early look at the Stanley Cup playoffs

This could have been avoided had Anaheim defeated Dallas at home in regulation on Sunday, but it suffered a 4-3 loss. The defeat was especially discouraging because the Ducks had a pair of potential tying goals taken away in the final 2:04 of the third on an interference call and a hand pass.

"At this time of year, it's tough to dwell on," winger Bobby Ryan said. "You have to just put it in the past. We have to regroup and get ready for San Jose."

Anaheim is hoping to avenge Saturday's disappointing 4-2 loss to the Sharks.

The Ducks, who had won 12 of 15 before losing their last two, led 2-0 after one period, but San Jose rallied to hand Anaheim its third defeat in five meetings this season.

The Sharks (47-23-9) defeated Los Angeles 6-1 on Monday to wrap up their fourth straight division title, an impressive accomplishment considering all five Pacific teams could make the playoffs and San Jose was in last place following a six-game losing streak in January.

The Sharks are 26-4-4 since then, and now they're hoping for the Western Conference's second seed. They are one point ahead of third-place Detroit.

"We have a pretty darned good division, so it's a feather in your cap," said Joe Thornton, who had a goal and an assist Monday to give him 999 career points. "But we still have some work to do. We're still fighting to get that second seed. But it's a good step for us."

Kyle Wellwood added a goal and two assists, and defensemen Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for the Sharks, who have outscored opponents 43-19 in going 8-0-1 since March 15.

Patrick Marleau has been instrumental to this offensive surge, tallying 10 goals and nine assists in his last 10 games. He had two goals against the Ducks on Saturday.

Goaltender Antti Niemi, who has made 34 straight starts, has been just as important to San Jose's playoff push, posting a 1.99 goals-against average with a shutout in his last nine games. He stopped 20 shots against the Ducks over the weekend and is 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA against them this season.

BRAZIL: To Nemo or Nitty? That is the question

Niemi was aided by some strong defense in front of him Saturday, as NHL scoring leader Corey Perry was held without a shot for the first time since Feb. 2, also against the Sharks.

Perry, who scored his 47th goal Sunday, has 16 goals and nine assists in his last 13 games, but he has no goals in his last three games against San Jose.
NOTES: The Sharks have won three of their five games against the Ducks this season. San Jose has also won 18 of its last 29 trips to Anaheim. ... The Ducks have lost each of their last two games after losing just three times in their previous 15 contests. ... San Jose has won four straight and eight of its last nine games, scoring at least four goals in seven of their eight wins in that span. The Sharks have collected points in 12 of their last 13 contests. ... Patrick Marleau has 10 goals and nine assists in his last 10 games and had two goals and one assist in his last game against the Ducks on April 2. ... Corey Perry has 18 points (11g, 7a) during his current nine-game point streak. Perry has three goals and five assists in his last six games against the Sharks, including two points in each of his last two against them. ... Currently at 999 career points, Joe Thornton will be looking to become the fourth player this season to reach the 1000 NHL point milestone (Daniel Alfredsson, Alex Kovalev and Jarome Iginla).

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

It’s lonely at the top, which is where Markelle Fultz sits on almost every 2017 NBA Draft board. The Brooklyn Nets should be set for the next decade with a big time scoring point guard. Instead, it’s the Boston Celtics who have no choice but to take Fultz with the No. 1 overall selection after a savvy trade that sent veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets for a stack of picks and players back in 2013.

Fultz can do it all. He’s deadly from the outside, he can take you off the bounce and he has elite passing skills to boot. In a draft packed with star potential, specifically at the point guard position, the freshman from Washington stands out well above the rest.  

It would take a major shake up at the top for Fultz not to have his name called first on draft night, but there are plenty of very talented players sitting on the board behind him. Here is a deeper look at the potential top overall selection.

The Positives:
Fultz has tremendous size, length and athleticism for an NBA point guard. He measured in at 6-foot-5, 195-pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and has a frame built to take on muscle. At just 19-years-old, he is already well defined physically and has plenty of room to grow and get stronger.

A crafty, high-end scorer, Fultz changes speed and direction well and has an advanced Euro-step for a young player. He averaged 23.2 points in 35.7 minutes a night for the Huskies while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three. He can score from all three levels, finish well above the rim and play through contact.

In his lone season in college, Fultz showed that he is not only a legitimate scoring threat, but he is a willing passer and an unselfish teammate. While Lonzo Ball is considered the true pass first point guard of the draft, Fultz had a higher assist rate (35.5 to 31.5) and lower turnover rate (13.4 to 18.2) than the star guard from UCLA.

Fultz rebounds well for his position, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game at Washington. He also has potential as a defender, posting 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks, although he is a work in progress on that end of the floor.

Known as a high-character kid and tireless worker off the court, Fultz has the entire package. He can also play the lead or shooting guard spot, which will come in handy if the Celtics decide to pair him with All-Star Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt.

The Negatives:
9-16 is a concern. Great college players should be able to will their team to victory, even if the talent around them is suspect. Washington was certainly worse off without Fultz down the stretch, losing their last six while he sat with a knee injury.

Shot selection and sloppy ball handling was also an issue this season. In Fultz’ defense, he played with a group that lacked overall talent and those issues might eventually disappear when he’s added to a roster that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.  

Fultz is a quality chase down defender, but he fell asleep on plenty of plays or didn’t show a consistent fight on the defensive end. Lack of focus allowed for plenty of back cuts. He also showed an inconsistent effort fighting through screens.

He’s a work in progress on the defensive end, like most young players coming into the league. Most of these issues can easily be coached out of him at the next level.

Fultz has an advanced feel and tons of room to expand his game. On the court, he resembles another former Husky in Brandon Roy. Fultz is much further along than Roy was at the same age, but possesses both the ability to score from anywhere on the court, as well as rebound and set up his teammates.  

It’s hard to imagine the Celtics passing on Fultz with the top overall selection, but if they do, teams will scramble trying to move up to select him. He would fit perfectly in the Kings starting backcourt alongside sophomore Buddy Hield, but Sacramento lacks the assets to move from five to one, Fultz’ likely landing spot.


Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale


SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.