Sharks look to snap skid with sweep of Chicago

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Sharks look to snap skid with sweep of Chicago

March 14, 2011

SHARKS (39-22-8) vs.
CHICAGO (37-24-7)

Coverage begins at 4:30 P.M. on Versus

(AP) -- Antti Niemi has been a big reason why the San Jose Sharks have won all three meetings with the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

Niemi hopes to torment his former team once again Monday night when the Sharks look for a fifth straight road win while the Blackhawks try to avoid their first four-game skid in two seasons.

A hero in leading Chicago (37-24-8) to the Stanley Cup a year ago, Niemi has gone 17-3-3 with a 1.95 goals-against average while starting the Sharks' last 24 games. The GAA is the best of any goalie with at least 16 starts in that span.

Niemi is 3-0-0 with a 1.96 GAA in three starts against the Blackhawks. He made 26 saves in his return to the United Center in a 5-3 victory Dec. 30 in the last meeting between these teams.

RELATED: Antti Niemi career stats

The goalie has dropped shootouts in the last two games for San Jose (39-22-8), which fell 3-2 to the Rangers on Saturday. The Sharks remain ahead of the pack in the tightly bunched Pacific Division as they begin a two-game trip that ends Tuesday in Dallas.

REWIND: Sharks stifled in shootout loss to Rangers

"We're gonna have a couple tough games, Chicago and Dallas," coach Todd McLellan said. "We leave this one behind and let's get going forward."

Eight of the Sharks' last nine games have been decided by one goal. They also lost 5-4 to Vancouver on Thursday.

"We're at the point of the season now where a point isn't good enough," defenseman Dan Boyle said Saturday. "We had our chances, for sure. You never know if that point could cost us in the end. Hopefully it doesn't."

Boyle had two assists against the Rangers as he returned after missing six games with an upper-body injury.

San Jose winger Ben Eager will make his first return to the United Center since he was traded by Chicago to Atlanta in the offseason. Eager, who spent his previous two-plus seasons with the Blackhawks, was acquired by the Sharks on Jan. 18.

His former team is mired in a 0-1-2 stretch after Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss at Washington. The Blackhawks, who last lost four straight during a five-game skid March 13-20, 2009, were outshot 42-30.

REWIND: Knuble's goal lifts Caps over Blackhawks

"We'll take the point," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We weren't very good today. We were very generous in all the goals that we gave them and could've done a better job defending in those situations."

Chicago has won its last four at home, where Jonathan Toews has amassed eight points during a five-game run. Toews scored the tying goal late in regulation Sunday to give him 19 points in his last 12 games.

The Sharks have held Toews without a point in two games this season after the center amassed six in last year's sweep in the Western Conference finals.

Marian Hossa has 13 points in his last 10 games, but just one in two against San Jose this season.

The Blackhawks have outshot the Sharks twice in the first period of their three meetings, finishing even the other time. San Jose has been outshot in the opening period in its last four games.

"It says we have to start better, that's the negative, I guess," McLellan said. "But the will and the drive and the desire is there."

How 49ers' additions during draft fit into the big picture

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How 49ers' additions during draft fit into the big picture

During the course of the three-day NFL draft, 49ers general manager John Lynch made six trades to finish the weekend with 10 draft picks and one veteran player.

There is a specific plan for each of those players, Lynch said.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells sent 49ers CEO Jed York a text and asked him to pass along some words of advice for the first-time general manager.

“He talked about making sure if you’re going to draft someone that everybody from personnel to coaching staff has a clear vision for what this player’s going to be for us,” Lynch said of the text from Parcells. “And we’ve tried to, with each player, challenge coaches to say, ‘How are you going to play this guy?’

“And if there’s any (vagueness) or it’s not crystal clear how they anticipate playing him, then we’ve either challenged them, ‘You better get there or I can’t feel comfortable taking him,’ and move on.”

Here is a look at the 11 players acquired and how they fit into what the 49ers are trying to build:

First round, No. 3: DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford
Thomas has the versatility to play – or at least be given a chance – at every position along the 49ers’ four-man line with the exception of nose tackle. The defensive end position on the strong side is his natural position. He is also a nice fit at the defensive tackle spot next to the team’s pass-rusher position on the weak side. Thomas could also get a look at that pass-rusher position, where Arik Armstead will get a look when he gets healthy from shoulder surgery.

First round, No. 31: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
The 49ers signed veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith to a five-year, $26.5 million contract with $11.5 million fully guaranteed on the first day of free agency. But the 49ers traded up to grab Foster at the end of the first round with the thought of playing him in the same position. Foster will immediately learn the “Will” linebacker position. “That’s where he’ll lineup, but he’s going to be sideline to sideline,” Lynch said. Eventually, Foster could replace Bowman at middle linebacker. In Foster, the 49ers envision a player who can make also contributions on special teams, in pass coverage and as a pass-rusher.

Third round, No. 66: CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson lined up at the cornerback positions during the voluntary veteran minicamp last week. Witherspoon is a talented player who is relatively new to the game. He admitted his tackling needs a lot of work. If he can play with a physicality and an attitude, he could win a starting job as a rookie over some of the other unproven cornerbacks on the roster.

Third round, No. 104: QB C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Coach Kyle Shanahan hand-picked Beathard to develop for future seasons. There is no pressure. Beathard comes to the 49ers as the clear No. 3 quarterback behind starter Brian Hoyer and backup Matt Barkley. “He’s extremely intelligent,” Shanahan said. “Football means the world to him. He really works at it. He’s accurate and he can process and play the game very fast in the pocket, I think that gives you a chance to play in this league. By no means does that mean that he’s ready to do that, but I think that’s a great guy that you have a chance with.”

Trade with Denver: RB Kapri Bibbs
Lynch served as a TV analyst for the Broncos exhibition games, and he liked what he saw from Bibbs, who spent three seasons in Denver. Bibbs finally earned a role last season with 29 carries for 129 yards in 12 games. He figures to compete for action on third downs, where Shanahan can isolate him in favorable matchups to catch passes out of the backfield.

Fourth round, No. 121: RB Joe Williams, Utah
Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his contract, and he is going to have to show a lot to warrant a second contract with the organization. Williams (5 foot 11, 210 pounds) could take over as the team’s top running back. The 49ers initially removed Williams from consideration because he walked away from his college team early in the season. But Shanahan watched him on film and loved what he saw. After digging deeper into his background, the 49ers felt confident enough to invest a fourth-round pick in him.

Fifth round, No. 146: TE George Kittle, Iowa
Kittle is a good blocker who has a lot of upside as a pass-catcher. He is just 4 pounds lighter than O.J. Howard and ran an official time in the 40-yard dash at the combine that clocked just .01 seconds slower than the first tight end selected. The 49ers spent the weekend shopping veteran Vance McDonald in a trade. His time appears to be running out. It does not help him that Shanahan selected a tight end that exhibits the traits he wants from that position.

Fifth round, No. 177: WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Taylor caught 136 passes and led the nation with 1,803 receiving yards as a slot receiver. His addition places oft-injured Bruce Ellington’s future with the team on shaky ground. Taylor is more quick than fast, and that is OK for how the 49ers envision using him. “This was a guy that we were excited with in his ability to separate in the slot, which is such a key component in today’s football,” Lynch said. Jeremy Kerley begins the offseason program as the 49ers' top slot receiver.

Sixth round, No. 198: DT D.J. Jones, Mississippi
The 49ers’ run defense was horrible last year, and it all started nose tackle. The team signed veteran Earl Mitchell as the presumptive starter. The 49ers are still trying to find the best fit for Quinton Dial, who could work his way into that position, as well. Jones gives the 49ers more brute strength on the inside. Said Lynch, “He’s a stout nose, who also has three-technique versatility, but yet I think really dynamic."

Sixth round, No. 202: DE/OLB Pita Taumeopenu, Utah
The 49ers have a few players they plan to audition at the pass-rush spot known as the “Leo.” Most of those players are big-bodied and are not prototypes for that position. Taumeopenu provides the 49ers with a dynamic pass-rusher who recorded nine sacks last season. “We felt like we’ve got so many big guys, we just want a speed rusher off the edge,” Lynch said. “He gave us a guy that, again, a guy that we grew to become very fond of throughout the process.”

Seventh round, No. 229: DB Adrian Colbert, Miami
Colbert is a hard-hitter who could make the team as a rookie based entirely off his play on special teams. The 49ers will place him at cornerback during the rookie minicamp. Depending on how he looks playing that position in Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme, the 49ers could move him to free safety to get work behind Jimmie Ward.

Warriors to celebrate 'We Believe' team at Game 1 of Western Semifinals

Warriors to celebrate 'We Believe' team at Game 1 of Western Semifinals

OAKLAND, CA – The Golden State Warriors will celebrate the 2007 “We Believe” team on Tuesday, May 2, during Game 1 of their Conference Semifinals series at Oracle Arena, the team announced Sunday.  The celebration takes place one day shy of the 10-year anniversary of the 2006-07 Warriors completing their historic First Round upset over the #1 seeded Dallas Mavericks on May 3, 2007, when they posted a 111-86 victory in Game 6 at Oracle Arena to become the first #8 seed to prevail over a #1 seed in a best-of-seven series.

Several members of that iconic Warriors team will be on-hand for the celebration, including Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington, Kelenna Azubuike, Adonal Foyle, Patrick O’Bryant and Zarko Cabarkapa.  Another member of that team, Matt Barnes, is currently playing for the Warriors.

To help celebrate the occasion, limited-edition “We Believe” 10-Year Anniversary t-shirts will be available for purchase at WarriorsTeamStore.com starting Tuesday morning, and at Oracle Arena beginning on Tuesday night.  These special gold t-shirts feature the same “We Believe” logo that was emblazoned across the front of the fan t-shirts given away at Oracle Arena throughout the 2007 NBA Playoffs, with a special 10-year logo on the sleeve. 

Led by Head Coach Don Nelson, the 2006-07 Warriors finished the regular-season with a 16-5 record over their final 21 games to finish with a 42-40 record and claim the #8 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, marking the team’s first winning season and postseason appearance in 13 years. Facing the heavily favored Mavericks, who finished the regular-season with an NBA-best 67 wins, Golden State won Game 1 in Dallas to steal home court advantage and returned to the Bay Area with the series tied 1-1.  Having waited more than a dozen years to host a Playoff game, Warriors fans packed Oracle Arena long before tip-off of Game 3 and roared as the Warriors won Games 3 & 4 at home.  After falling in Game 5 at Dallas, the Warriors returned to Oracle Arena and over 20,000 fans wearing their gold “We Believe” t-shirts for Game 6.  Holding a two-point lead early in the third quarter, the Warriors went on a 24-3 run that blew the game open in an eventual 25-point series-ending victory.

Limited tickets for the We Believe Celebration and all home games during the Western Conference Semifinals are still available. Fans looking to attend Warriors games during the 2017 NBA Playoffs are encouraged to purchase tickets directly from the team by visiting warriors.com, calling 1-888-GSW-HOOP or at the Oracle Arena Box Office. Warriors.com offers fans the only verified marketplace for all Warriors ticket needs, including official resale tickets from Season Ticket Holders and other fans, that is guaranteed by the Warriors organization. The Warriors resale marketplace offers a safe and convenient way for fans to access all levels of tickets throughout the regular season and playoffs. The Warriors have sold out 232 consecutive games at Oracle Arena and currently have a Season Ticket Priority Wait List of over 39,000 members.

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