Sharks fight to keep season alive in Game 5

Sharks fight to keep season alive in Game 5

May 24, 2011

SHARKS (1-3) vs.
VANCOUVER (3-1)

Coverage begins at 6 P.M. on Versus

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Sami Salo waited 12 seasons, and endured countless injuries for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.

One win from his first Cup finals, the Vancouver Canucks' defenseman doesn't want to wait any longer.

With a 3-1 lead over San Jose in the Western Conference finals heading into Game 5 Tuesday, Salo knows how important it is for the Canucks to finish off the Sharks fast. It's something they failed to do against their opponents in Game 5 at home in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

RELATED: McLellan, Sharks deny they have demons

"We noticed from series past we have to have the killer instinct to finish the other team off," Salo said one day after scoring two 5-on-3 goals in Sunday's 4-2 win at San Jose. "Otherwise it will give them momentum and too many chances."

The 36-year-old Salo also knows his team has a chance that doesn't come around often. He started his career in Ottawa, but was traded to the Canucks long before the Senators made their lone Stanley Cup finals appearance in 2007. The hard-shooting Finnish defender became a punch line after more than 40 career injuries included a snakebite and a pulled butt muscle. He then tore his Achilles' tendon playing floorball last summer.

After undergoing surgery, Salo missed the first 4 12 months of the season.

"It's been a long journey, not just in a career way, but the whole year with things that happened," Salo said. "All the blood and sweat you poured during the season has paid off."

Salo was injured again in Game 6 of the opening round after Vancouver failed to finish off Chicago in five games, then had to watch as the Canucks survived overtime in Game 7 to advance. He was back for the final three games of the conference semifinals against Nashville, and again Vancouver failed to end things on home ice against the Predators, forcing another long road trip.

"They say the fourth win is the toughest one to get and that's been the case for us," said captain Henrik Sedin, adding the team has learned from the previous failures. "The other team is for sure treating it as a Game 7 and if you are not doing it yourself, it's tough to win those games."

VIDEO: Versus' Roenick and Jones preview Game 5

Against Nashville, that meant two more long flights, and two fewer days off for Henrik, who labored against the Predators. He was criticized after combining with brother Daniel Sedin for seven points and a minus-10 rating. But after six days off, the twins already have 15 points against San Jose.

"That was key," said Henrik, who never admitted to an injury but took two extra days off even after teammates returned to practice. "Get off the ice, recharge and get ready for the next series."

Henrik stressed that wasn't the only reason to try to finish off a talented Sharks team that was second in the Western Conference during the regular season. As the playoffs become physical, the Canucks have already lost two defensemen to hits by San Jose's big forwards.

One of them, Christian Ehrhoff, took part in an optional practice Monday but refused to speculate on his status, saying only that he was day-to-day after a hit by Jamie McGinn in Game 3. Aaron Rome, who was also knocked out of Game 3 by McGinn, didn't skate and isn't expected to play.

Asked if he would be playing if it was Game 7, Ehrhoff said, "It is kind of. ... In the playoffs, every game is like a Game 7."

The Sharks didn't promise to treat Tuesday's contest like a Game 7, but defenseman Dan Boyle liked their chances of forcing one if they can get the series back to San Jose for Game 6 on Thursday.

"We're going there to win a game and we like our chances coming back here so it's going to come down to seven games," Boyle said before the Sharks flew up to Vancouver Monday afternoon. "That's the thought process right now."

Coach Todd McLellan said captain Joe Thornton will play despite being knocked out of Game 4 by Raffi Torres and not taking part in an optional skate Monday. Defenseman Jason Demers, out the first four games with an undisclosed injury, said it was up to the coach if he returns.

RELATED: Playing hurt part of the job for Thornton

No matter who plays, the Sharks know they have to stay out of the penalty after giving up three 5-on-3 goals in 1:55 Sunday, and be better when the Canucks take penalties after failing to convert the game's first five power plays. If not, the Sharks could soon face a second straight summer of questions about coming so close to the franchise's first trip to the Stanley Cup finals.

"You want it more than anything," said Patrick Marleau, who has played all of his 13 seasons in San Jose. "It is hard to put into words, but it means everything basically."

Salo agrees. And he doesn't want to wait much longer for it.

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the All-Star big man to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. 
#LoyaltyisLove #sactownkingforever

Cousins, 26, averaged 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 34.4 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. #LoyaltyisLove

A post shared by DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) on