Sharks begin long homestand against Avalanche

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Sharks begin long homestand against Avalanche

March 1, 2011

COLORADO (26-30-7)
vs. SHARKS (36-21-6)
Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast Sportsnet California

SAN JOSE (AP) -- After piling up victories while spending most of February on the road, the San Jose Sharks open March with a season-high six-game homestand.

They'll begin the stretch against a Colorado Avalanche team they beat rather convincingly in their last home game.

The Pacific Division-leading Sharks look to extend their season-high winning streak to seven Tuesday night against the free-falling Avalanche, who haven't won at HP Pavilion in more than three years.

Despite playing all but three of its 13 February games on the road, San Jose (36-21-6) still went a Western Conference-best 11-2-0 last month. The Sharks, who decided not to make any moves at Monday's trade deadline, completed the daunting portion of their schedule with a 4-3 shootout win in Calgary on Friday.

RATTO: Sharks stay out of the fray on deadline day

San Jose, winner of six straight and 15 of 18, is in third place in the West but only seven points ahead of 11th-place Anaheim.

"We're not out of the danger zone yet," center Joe Thornton said. "We still have to continue to win and our fate is in our own hands. But we can't stop getting points. Every game is really important right now."

Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi again led the Sharks on Friday, as each scored their 18th goal. Clowe has four goals in his last five games, while Setoguchi has six in his last four.

REWIND: Clowe leads Sharks past Calgary in a shootout

Setoguchi recorded his first career hat trick in a 4-0 win over Colorado on Feb. 19, the Sharks' last home game.

Clowe had the other goal and Antti Niemi made 25 saves as San Jose moved to 8-1-2 against the Avalanche since the 2008-09 season. The Sharks, winners of five straight home games, have outscored Colorado 15-5 in winning the last five meetings in San Jose since a 3-1 defeat Feb. 6, 2008.

Colorado's loss in San Jose two weeks ago marked its 10th straight defeat. The Avalanche (26-30-7) bounced back with a 4-3 win in St. Louis three days later but have since dropped their last three.

They suffered a 3-2 loss to Anaheim on Sunday, falling just short of forcing overtime when Milan Hejduk hit the post with a sharp-angle shot just before the final horn sounded.

"I thought it was our best game in a long time," coach Joe Sacco said. "We played as a team. We were alive and there was desperation in our game. Guys were playing for each other."

Although Sacco was pleased with the effort, the Avalanche, who were tied for seventh in the West before losing 13 of 14, still dropped to 0-25-3 when scoring fewer than three goals.

That doesn't bode well for Colorado if Niemi is between the pipes.

Niemi, who has started the past 18 games, is 10-2-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average and three shutouts in the last 12.

In addition to its offensive woes, Colorado's penalty-killing unit is also struggling. The Avalanche have allowed at least one power-play goal in a season-high eight straight games, killing just 23 of 34 penalties.

The Sharks are 9 for 21 with the man advantage in their last six home games.

A's spring training Day 41: Maxwell's two-HR day can't stave off bad news

A's spring training Day 41: Maxwell's two-HR day can't stave off bad news

PHOENIX — Bruce Maxwell homered twice against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, and his reward was a demotion to the minors.

Awkward timing, for sure. But the news itself wasn’t much of a shock to the A’s catcher, who knew he was the odd man out in a three-man roster battle. The A’s like the left-right platoon behind the plate. Stephen Vogt, who like Maxwell hits left-handed, wasn’t going anywhere. Josh Phegley is back healthy after knee surgery and has the advantage of being a right-handed hitter.

“I mean, I could have come out here and hit 1.000 and I probably still would have been in the same situation,” Maxwell said. “I can’t really do much about it. I try not to worry about it. At the end of the day everybody wants to play in the big leagues, but if the opportunity is not there you can’t stress about it.”

Manager Bob Melvin gave Maxwell the news in the dugout after he exited Oakland’s 11-1 victory, and Melvin certainly couldn’t give Maxwell a justifiable reason for the demotion except that the roster math doesn’t add up.

“Great day to have to do that,” Melvin said sarcastically. “But, he’ll be here at some point. We saw his progression last year, he did a great job for us. There’s nothing he did to suggest he needed to be sent down. It’s just a numbers game for him right now.”

The A’s batted around in a five-run third, knocking Brewers starter Matt Garza from the game after he recorded just seven outs. They tacked on four more in the fourth, with Maxwell going deep to left-center for a two-run homer off Jhan Marinez. In the sixth, he hit a solo shot off Corey Knebel to right-center and also added a run-scoring single to complete his four-RBI day.

Melvin has spoken often of the improving power shown by the 26-year-old Maxwell, who hit .283 with a homer and 14 RBI in 33 games with Oakland last season in his first major league call-up.

“If you look at the power numbers over the years, he’s getting better and better,” Melvin said. “He’s got the chance to be a 20-home run guy in the big leagues.”

NOTEWORTHY: Jharel Cotton held Milwaukee to just a run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. He bounced back from a wobbly start against Seattle in which he walked five. On Sunday, his toughest challenge was staying loose as the A’s offense put up two time-consuming rallies. Twice, Cotton had to play catch while his teammates paraded around the bases.

But it sure didn’t affect him, as he struck out seven and walked one in his second-to-last spring training start.

“This one, I was more on the attack, using my fastball more so I can set up my changeup and off-speed pitches,” Cotton said. “I know everybody raves about the changeup, but I need my fastball to be there so I can throw that pitch off the fastball.”

He had an entertaining ongoing battle with six-time All-Star Ryan Braun. He struck out Braun on a cutter in the first, gave up a homer to left in the fourth, then battled back from a 3-0 count to get Braun swinging through a fastball in the sixth.

“I got him twice, he got me once,” Cotton said. “I think I won that battle today.”

HEALTH UPDATE: Daniel Mengden, who has missed all of spring with a broken right foot, is scheduled to get his walking boot removed Monday. Mengden said he’ll stay in Arizona for anywhere from two to four weeks, taking part in extended spring training. The good news for the right-hander: He’s been able to play catch while wearing the boot, so that’s a bit of a head-start for him once he gets full mobility with his foot. There’s no timetable yet for his return.

ODDS AND ENDS: The A’s knocked out 16 hits and recorded double-digit runs for the fifth time this spring. They improved to 16-12. … Alejandro De Aza, fighting for an outfield roster spot, went 2-for-3 with an RBI to raise his average to .300. … With few regulars making the trip to Maryvale Baseball Park, second baseman Max Schrock came over from minor league camp and once again made an impact, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. … John Axford threw a scoreless inning of relief. Frankie Montas handled the final two innings, allowing one hit with two strikeouts and a walk. The hard-throwing prospect is a candidate for the bullpen as a multi-inning guy.

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

After requiring a visit to a local hospital in Nashville due to being struck in the face with a deflected puck on Saturday night against the Predators, Logan Couture was able to fly back with the team to San Jose on Sunday morning.

The severity of his injury is still unknown, although his father, Chet, said on Twitter that it was “an ugly injury sadly.”

Another source close to the situation told CSN the injury is “brutal.”

Couture, who lost several teeth, visited with Sharks medical personnel on Sunday and a further update is expected on Monday. 

Perhaps the best-case scenario is that the injury looks a lot worse than it actually is, such as when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sidelined for one week when he took a puck to the face from the stick Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere in late December.

Losing Couture for any period of time would be a difficult blow to the Sharks, who have lost their last six in regulation, including Saturday’s 7-2 defeat to the Predators. Couture is third on the team in scoring with 52 points, and has a team-leading 11 power play goals. He entered Saturday’s game with four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, and has arguably been the team’s best player since mid-January.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after the game Saturday. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”

Couture was set up just outside the crease in the third period when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. He quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.

The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season, hosting the Rangers on Tuesday and visiting Edmonton and Calgary later this week. They are tied in points (91) with Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division.