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.

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.

Projection:
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

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USATSI

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

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Johnny Cueto pitched 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. The two-time All-Star was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

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.

The Giants scored their first run in the first inning on a passed ball by Kurt Suzuki, who was handling Dickey's knuckleballs.

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

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.

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

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

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left the game in the top of 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.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. Teheran 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.