Sharks look to continue dominance over Phoenix


Sharks look to continue dominance over Phoenix

April 8, 2011

SHARKS (47-24-9) vs.
PHOENIX (42-25-13)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

GLENDALE (AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes need just one point to clinch a second consecutive playoff berth for the first time in 11 years.

The result could be a first-round matchup with the San Jose Sharks, whom they've had little success against recently.

San Jose seeks its ninth straight win over the host Coyotes on Friday night as the teams begin a home-and-home series to close the regular season.

The Coyotes (42-25-13) are tied for fifth place in the Western Conference with Nashville, two points ahead of Anaheim and Chicago. One more point - or a Dallas loss - would ensure that Phoenix makes a second straight playoff appearance for the first time since qualifying five consecutive times from 1996 through 2000.

The Coyotes have been involved in three straight shootouts - losing the last two - but they inched closer to the postseason with Wednesday's 3-2 loss at Los Angeles.

"It's a big point. But when you come all the way out here, you want to find a way to get both of them," captain Shane Doan said. "We've been close, we've been around it, but we just haven't found ways to win games."

Phoenix, the NHL's only team without a 20-goal scorer, returned three players from injury Wednesday.

Taylor Pyatt had a goal and an assist after missing one game with a lower-body injury, while Lauri Korpikoski and Ed Jovanovski also returned to the lineup. Jovanovski had not played since fracturing his left orbital bone Feb. 17.

"This is when it's fun - when the games are really important and everything's on the line," said Lee Stempniak, who scored his 19th goal to tie Doan for the team lead. "That's when you want to be out there and playing your best. I think it's good to get into that mindset."

The Coyotes may need a top-notch performance to end their 0-5-3 skid against the Sharks, a potential first-round playoff opponent if Phoenix slips in the standings.

San Jose (47-24-9) has outscored Phoenix 17-7 in winning four meetings this season, scoring at least four goals in each one. Patrick Marleau has four goals and two assists in those games, while Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski have three goals and four assists each.

The Sharks struggled Wednesday in a 6-2 loss at Anaheim, but they remained one point ahead of Detroit for second place in the West. San Jose fell in regulation for the first time since March 14 and is still 26-5-4 since Jan. 15.

REWIND: Sharks suffer letdown to Ducks in Anaheim, 6-2

"I thought our guys gave themselves permission, after a long, really good stretch, to take the night off. We're all disappointed about that," coach Todd McLellan said. "I expect it to be a one-time event."

Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves in place of Antti Niemi, who had started the previous 34 games. Niemi is 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average against the Coyotes this season and 4-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA in his career.

The Sharks also may get a boost from the potential returns of Ryane Clowe and Scott Nichol. Clowe missed Wednesday's game after suffering a lower-body injury Monday in a win over the Kings, while Nichol has missed 20 straight games with an upper-body injury.

San Jose has won four straight in Phoenix, last losing there Dec. 12, 2009.

Report: Kings expected to waive Matt Barnes

Report: Kings expected to waive Matt Barnes

Programming note: Watch Vlade Divac's press conference today at 12:30pm streaming live right here.

Matt Barnes has reportedly drawn the short straw.

The Kings are expected to waive Barnes, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

After Sunday’s blockbuster trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans and picks, the Kings have some housekeeping to do. Per NBA rules, they must waive a player to make room for the three incoming players.

Barnes, 36, signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Kings during the summer, with a player option for the second season. Sacramento is allowed to use the stretch provision for Barnes’ salary, breaking it up over a five-year stretch.

A Sacramento native, Barnes not only became a locker room leader this season for the Kings, but head coach Dave Joerger relied heavily on the veteran as injuries piled up. 

Barnes averaged 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 25.3 minutes through 54 games, including 13 starts.

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week


Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

SAN JOSE – Despite what was technically their sixth loss in the last eight games, the Sharks seemed to put more stock in the point they gained in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins on Sunday night at SAP Center, rather than the one they left on the table.

They have that luxury. 

The Sharks will enter their bye week five points ahead of Edmonton and Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and figure they’re due for some time off after a short summer followed by a World Cup for some, and a brutal condensed NHL schedule for all.

“[We’ve] showed up and played hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “We’ve been in a lot of games. Games we’ve lost, we’ve battled. There hasn’t been any cheat in [our] game. Defensively, we’ve been strong. There’s a lot of good areas in our game that we like right now.”

Playing in the second of a back-to-back against a Bruins team had was coming off of its own bye week, the Sharks fell behind 1-0 on a first period goal by Ryan Spooner, but notched a Patrick Marleau equalizer in a second period in which they outshot the Bruins 16-9. An evenly played third period gave way to overtime, where Brad Marchand scored on a breakaway to give the Bruins their fourth straight win since changing head coaches.

The Sharks spoke before the weekend about finishing the final two games strong before the respite. They ended up gaining three of four points, including Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona, and were pleased with their effort against the Bruins as they capped off 10 games in 20 days since the All-Star break.

“It was an important push into this break,” Pete DeBoer said. “To go in up [five points] on the next closest team is a real testament to our group.”

Paul Martin said: “I thought we played pretty well, considering the back-to-back with some travel, and a team that was waiting for us.”

Perhaps the most encouraging performance came from Martin Jones, who was one of a number of Sharks players that was looking particularly fatigued lately. The goaltender entered the game with a 1-0-2 record, 4.46 goals-against average and .837 save percentage in his last four starts, including getting pulled after the first period in Boston just 10 days ago.

Jones was impressive, though, making a vital pad stop on the dangerous David Pastrnak in front of the net midway through the third period to keep it a 1-1 score.

“It was a good game. Two teams playing hard,” Jones said. “We can take a lot of positives from that one. It was a good hard game, just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Overtimes have been an issue lately, though. The Sharks have lost their last four games decided during the three-on-three, all coming within the last two weeks. As satisfied as they are with their cushion in the division, it could have been cushier.

Against the Bruins, Tuukka Rask denied Brent Burns on a two-on-one in overtime, and Marchand scored off of the ensuing faceoff, blowing the zone past Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and corralling a long toss from Torey Krug before sliding it home.

“We get to overtime, shootouts – we expect to get that extra point,” Pavelski said. “We haven’t found it lately. We’ll just keep looking for it.”

DeBoer said: “The points are critical, they’re valuable. I don’t read a lot into [overtime decisions], we’ve won our share over the time I’ve been here. We had a chance to win tonight, too. … I concentrate on the effort, and I thought we got better as the game went on.”

Being focused and energized, as they have been most of the season to this point, shouldn’t be a problem when the season resumes next Saturday in Vancouver. The Sharks are in prime position to win their first division title since 2010-11, and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a distinct possibility.

Losing six of eight won’t be nearly as acceptable coming out of the break as it apparently is going into it, but that’s not something to worry about now, even after another defeat. 

“There are some games you wish you could get back and get those points, but we’re still in a good spot,” Marleau said.