Sharks limp in to Big D for another test


Sharks limp in to Big D for another test

March 15, 2011

SHARKS (39-23-8) vs.
DALLAS (37-24-8)

Coverage begins at 5 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

DALLAS (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks have a rather tenuous lead in the Pacific Division. They certainly won't be able to hold that lead if they keep playing anything like they did the last time they hit the ice.

The Dallas Stars know they can't afford too many more losses if they hope to catch San Jose.
RELATED: NHL Conference standings

Two of the teams vying for the title in the tightly-packed Pacific square off Tuesday night in Dallas, where the Stars can pull within two points of the Sharks with a fifth victory in six meetings against their division rivals.

San Jose (39-23-8) seemed to be pulling away in the Pacific on March 3, when it stretched its winning streak to eight by beating Detroit. That victory - the Sharks' 17th in 20 games - gave them a six-point division lead.

What was the NHL's hottest team has cooled down over the past 10 days. San Jose is 1-2-2 in a five-game stretch that began when it fell 3-2 to Dallas (37-24-8) on March 5, with Monday's 6-3 loss at Chicago its first defeat by more than one goal since Jan. 13.

WATCH: Highlights -- Chicago 6, Sharks 3

"If I was going to sum up the game: They skated and we glided," coach Todd McLellan said.

"We were looking for a win the easy way. I don't know why we chose that route tonight, but it's not the recipe we've followed for success."

Los Angeles and Phoenix are three points behind the Sharks for the division lead, while Dallas sits four points back. Both the Kings and Stars have one game in hand.

Dallas could have gone into Tuesday's game with a chance to pull even had things gone differently Sunday against Los Angeles. Jamie Langenbrunner tied the score with 43 seconds left, but the Kings' Michal Handzus scored with 20.8 seconds remaining to deal the Stars a tough 3-2 loss.

RELATED: Handzus' last-minute goal stuns Dallas

It was Dallas' first regulation defeat following a 6-0-2 stretch, but coach Marc Crawford didn't sound overly concerned.

"It was a well-played game, very much like a playoff game with the hitting and the intensity," Crawford told the NHL's official website. "We're going to be better for this. We just have to again not be disparaged by it and even though it is disheartening, we have to move forward from it."

Each of the four meetings in this season series has been decided by one goal, including a shootout and a 4-3 San Jose overtime victory Dec. 16 at Dallas, thanks to Logan Couture's power-play tally. That's the Sharks' only win in their last five tries against the Stars.

Perhaps Dallas' biggest edge has come with the man advantage. The Stars have gone 4 for 11 (36.4 percent) on the power play in the season series, while Couture's overtime winner was San Jose's only success in 16 chances (6.3 percent).

The Sharks are 30-9-3 when they score a power-play goal and 9-14-5 when they don't.

San Jose scored the game's first goal Monday before a five-goal second became its undoing in Chicago. Getting an early lead on Dallas could prove critical. The Stars are an NHL-best 28-3-2 when scoring first, and a conference-best 22-1-1 when leading after one period.

The Stars have scored nine power-play goals and four shorthanded goals in their last nine games against the Sharks. ... The Sharks have lost three straight games (0-1-2) for the first time since their six-game losing streak January 3-13. ... As a team, the Stars have had single-digit penalty minutes in three consecutive games for the first time since January 14-18. ... The Sharks have allowed multiple power-play goals three times over their last four games, after doing so just twice over their previous 28 games. ... The Stars and Sharks are two of the three teams (Blackhawks) to have four different skaters with at least 21 goals apiece this season. ... With two assists last night in Chicago, Patrick Marleau reached 400 assists for his career -- making him the second skater to ever dish out 400 assists in a Sharks uniform. Joe Thornton passed the 400-assist plateau for the Sharks last Thursday against the Canucks.

Reports: Weber, Hornets agree to deal hours after Warriors release him

Reports: Weber, Hornets agree to deal hours after Warriors release him

Briante Weber wasn't unemployed very long.

Less than 12 hours after the Warriors released him, the guard has reportedly agreed to sign a 10-day contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

News of the agreement was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

Weber's second 10-contract with the Warriors expired following Saturday's game against the Nets. Immediately after the contest, the team announced they were releasing the 24-year-old.

In seven games with the Warriors, Weber averaged 1.7 points, 0.7 assists and 0.6 rebounds in 6.6 minutes.


Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

The 49ers’ new regime heads to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week with the first major wave of offseason activity set to kick off.

Already, the 49ers have made roster improvements. And there figure to be plenty of activity ahead in the coming weeks.

Here are some questions submitted by readers on Facebook for this edition of 49ers Mailbag:

Do you see the 49ers cutting ties with larger contracts like Bethea, Torrey Smith and Ahmad Brooks?‬ (Blair Wilkins)
The 49ers have approximately $75 million in space under the salary cap – and that’s before any adjustment of Colin Kaepernick’s contract. So it’s not as if the organization needs to create cap room.

Any decision made to part ways with veteran players will be made solely on how that player fits into what the 49ers envision on the field.

And that’s what general manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff are doing now. They are studying the video from last season to determine which players fit their ideals.

Safety Antoine Bethea is scheduled to earn $5.75 million. Bethea, 32, enters the final year of his contract. There is no question he is everything the 49ers want in a player off the field. If one of the younger guys is not better than Bethea, there is no reason to get rid of him.

Brooks is on the books to earn $5.3 million in 2017. That’s not a huge amount for a starting outside linebacker or defensive end – whichever spot he might fit best. The 49ers must look to upgrade their pass rush. Brooks turns 33 next month. He’s good for six sacks a season. Again, it’s not as if the 49ers can’t afford him. And, as of now, it’s not as if the 49ers have anyone better.

Smith is scheduled to earn $8 million. He has been vastly underutilized in his two seasons since signing with the 49ers. He’s the most interesting case of the high-priced veterans.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is predicated on using the running game to set up the play-action shot down the field. Smith is limited. He’s not a possession receiver. He’s not going to make plays over the middle. He is an outside receiver whose contributions come in the vertical passing game. But that’s what Shanahan wants.

If Smith is paired with a strong tight end, a running back who catch the ball out of the backfield, a slot receiver with short-area quickness to get open underneath, a very good receiver on the other side and an accurate quarterback who can throw the deep ball, there should be a role for Smith in the 49ers’ offense.

Will the 49ers continue to be aggressive pursuing free agents this offseason? If so, what positions?‬ (Bradley Lodge)
The 49ers have zeroed in on two veteran free agents and they signed them both.

The organization has already spent more money than it did all of last offseason on veteran free agency with the four-year, $16 million deal to sign defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, whom the Miami Dolphins recently released.

Nickel back K’Waun Williams has a history with 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley. The 49ers did not have to make much of a financial investment to sign him.

The 49ers will definitely go after a veteran quarterback or two in free agency or via trade. Pass rusher, inside linebacker and wide receiver are other positions the 49ers can be expected to look during free agency.

The opening of the new league year – when free-agent signings and trades can occur – is March 9. The draft is seven weeks later.

The 49ers must fill as many of their needs with smart deals that fit into the long-term plan with veteran acquisitions. Then, the draft is about taking the best players on their board when it’s time to select. Teams that reach for need generally strike out.

What are the chances of drafting a QB with first pick and playing them behind a Kap / Cousins until they're ready to become starter?‬ (Hillory Broussard)
If Colin Kaepernick returns, it will not be as a no-questions-asked starter. Just read what Lynch said on KNBR this week about the team’s needs:

“Do we have some places – probably the ultimate position, quarterback – where we need to improve? Absolutely. And we’re committed to doing that.”

That statement can easily be interpreted that Lynch does not believe the 49ers had a starting-caliber quarterback on the roster last season.

But if the 49ers were to go out and swing a trade for Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s going to take a big commitment – in terms of draft picks and a suitable new contract. Then, the 49ers would have that player.

Cousins or Garoppolo would unquestionably fill the 49ers’ need at quarterback for 2017 and beyond -- at least in the minds of the 49ers' new decision-makers. There would be no reason for the 49ers to then draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick – if the 49ers even had the No. 2 overall pick at that point.