Sharks can't complete comeback, fall to Coyotes


Sharks can't complete comeback, fall to Coyotes

April 8, 2011


GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) A three-goal lead nearly blown against the team they never can seem to beat, the Phoenix Coyotes could have gotten that here-we-go-again feeling.Instead, the Coyotes dug in and dug out a confidence-boosting win, finally securing that playoff berth they had been chasing for what seemed like a month.Building a big lead and withstanding a furious late flurry, the Coyotes beat back the charging San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Friday night to secure a playoff spot in their final home game."At the start of the year, your goal is to win the division and get into the top eight to give yourself a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Sometimes, that happens earlier than others. This year, it didn't happen until the second-to-last game of the season, but we are still in there."Phoenix had lost eight straight to San Jose and limped toward the end of the season, putting its seemingly once-certain playoff chances in doubt. The Coyotes appeared ready to end both dilemmas in one swoop, building a 4-1 lead on Shane Doan's goal midway through the third period.Then they got complacent, which doesn't work against an opportunistic team like San Jose.Joe Thornton scored for his 1,000th career point, Danny Heatley knocked in his 26th goal with 3:39 and the Sharks smelled in the frozen water after that, racing into Phoenix's zone like they had 10 men on the ice.Sensing his team needed a break after an icing call kept the puck in the Coyotes' end, Tippett called a timeout to set up a crucial faceoff. He also had a simple message: "Let's get it done."The Coyotes did, getting several tough saves by Ilya Bryzgalov down the stretch, including three in the final minute, to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999-2000.To reach the playoffs after struggling to get that final point and to knock off the Sharks to boot was worthy of a big celebration, from cheers and high-fives on the bench to a little dancing in the locker room."I think the guys were a little more animated than usual," said Doan, who also had an assist on Ray Whitney's goal in the second period.Radim Vrbata scored in his 600th career game and Andrew Ebbett had his second goal of the season for Phoenix, which is tied with Nashville for fourth in the Western Conference with 99 points.The Sharks had already locked up the Pacific Division, but had a chance to secure the second spot in the West after Detroit lost to Chicago earlier Friday night. San Jose will have to wait for a rematch against Phoenix at home Saturday night to get it after falling into a big hole and coming up short on their fast-and-furious rally."We feel good about our club and we feel confident," Thornton said. "We've got three more periods before the big party starts so it's nice. We've got back-to-back games, go home and play these guys right back again."Phoenix seemed to be in prime position to lock up a playoff spot after a five-game winning streak in March. The Coyotes hadn't been able to finish it off, though, losing three of their previous four games, the last two in shootouts.That set up a make-or-break weekend, where the possibilities ranged from fourth in the Western Conference with a home-ice advantage to ninth and watching the postseason at home. Phoenix needed to either win one game or have Dallas lose just one, but the Stars weren't cooperating; they beat Colorado for the second time in two nights earlier Friday.Worse yet, the Coyotes were facing San Jose, which had outscored them 17-6 in four games this season.Intent on ending the losing streak and finally secure that playoff spot, Phoenix came out hard at the start, knocking the Sharks on their heels. It paid off late in the first period, when hard hit by Paul Bissonette set up Ebbett's goal on pass from Kyle Turris that bounced off his skate.Ian White tied it a couple minutes later with a shot that caromed off someone past Bryzgalov, but the Coyotes seemed to take control after that.Whitney put Phoenix back up with a one-timer from Doan, Vrbata followed with a 2-on-1 one-timer from Eric Belanger 2 12 minutes later and Doan became the Coyotes' first 20-goal scorer this season early in the third.The Sharks roared back in the final half of the period, though, getting goals from Thornton and Heatley and continuing to put pressure on the Coyotes. They just didn't have enough to finish it off, stopped by Bryzgalov, who passed Bob Essensa's team record with his 130th career win."I thought we had a number of players that had pretty good games, but a number of key people that we count on bobbled or fumbled the puck around a bit too much," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "The ice wasn't very good and we tried to get a little too cut at times and ended up being a little too risky."NOTES: San Jose C Scott Nichol returned after missing 19 games with an upper-body injury, but RW Devin Setoguchi didn't play after sustaining an undisclosed injury during warmups. ... Phoenix C Martin Hanzal returned after missing 14 games with a lower-body injury.

Notes: Key A's relievers gear up for exhibition debuts


Notes: Key A's relievers gear up for exhibition debuts

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are targeting Thursday to start easing their veteran relievers into Cactus League action.

Manager Bob Melvin said Ryan Madson and John Axford would be among those making their spring debuts Thursday against the Texas Rangers. Similar to last season, the A’s have held back with some of their relievers in an effort to keep their arms fresh.

Lefty Sean Doolittle, who has dealt with shoulder injuries the past two years, has yet to appear in a game. The same goes with Ryan Dull and Liam Hendriks. And the A’s still await Santiago Casilla’s visa issues to clear so he can report to camp from the Dominican Republic.

Melvin estimated that he likes to get his veteran relievers into nine or 10 games during the Cactus League but that it’s not a hard and fast rule.


Also pitching Thursday in relief will be Frankie Montas, a pitcher who has impressed team officials in his early bullpen sessions. One of three pitchers acquired from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade, Montas threw just 16 innings in the minors last year because of two rib injuries, then tacked on some impressive work in the Arizona Fall League.

The A’s want to give Montas a look as a starter this season, but Melvin said Montas won’t be stretched out to start during camp because of his small workload last season. The hard-throwing Montas ranks fifth on Baseball America’s list of top A’s prospects.


Heavy rain hit the Phoenix Valley early Tuesday morning but by 11 a.m. local time, the sun had poked through the clouds and the A’s were taking infield practice at Hohokam Stadium. The wet weather relegated them to taking batting practice in the indoor cages in advance of a 1:05 p.m. (MST) game against the visiting Cleveland Indians. For those curious, yes, Rajai Davis is leading off and playing center for the A’s against the team for which he hit a dramatic Game 7 home run in the World Series last fall.

Also of note, lefty closer Andrew Miller — MVP of the AL Championship Series — is scheduled to pitch for the Indians.

Report: Sharks looking for a goalie before deadline

Report: Sharks looking for a goalie before deadline

The Sharks are reportedly looking for a goaltender prior to Wednesday’s noon NHL trade deadline.

According to TVA Sports’ Ren Lavoie, Canucks goalie Ryan Miller could be a possibility for San Jose. Miller is 16-18-3 this season with a 2.65 goals-against average and .916 save percentage for a Vancouver team that is virtually out of the playoff race.

If acquired, Miller would serve as the backup to Martin Jones, who has started 51 of the Sharks’ first 62 games and is in danger of being overworked headed into the postseason.

Jones has been backed up admirably by Aaron Dell, who is 7-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .934 SP in his first NHL season. Although Dell has started just 10 games, mostly against middling competition, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer recently expressed confidence in his ability to hold down the backup spot past the trade deadline.

“I don’t know what else he could do to show that he’s an NHL caliber goalie so far,” DeBoer said in Philadelphia on Feb. 11. “Those are decisions that [Sharks general manager Doug Wilson] makes, but in my mind, that’s not an issue right now for us.”

On Feb. 2, Wilson was asked if it is a risk going into the playoffs with an inexperienced backup.

“What you’re referring to is the comfort you have with the unknown. When you have a comfort with somebody that you know well, that the teammates and coaches know, that makes it much more comfortable,” Wilson said. 

“We’ll see what transpires between now and then. As I’ve said, we always explore any ways we can add to this hockey team.”

The Sharks acquired James Reimer from Toronto last season just before the trade deadline, giving Jones time off down the stretch. Reimer started eight of the final 19 Sharks regular season games before the playoffs.