Sharks notebook: McLellan's lucky line change


Sharks notebook: McLellan's lucky line change



BOSTON -- Sometimes it takes a little luck to find the right chemistry. Sharks coach Todd McLellan admitted as much on Sunday, when he could have easily branded himself a genius for putting Ben Eager, Kyle Wellwood and Logan Couture together for the 2-0 win against the Bruins on Saturday. Although it didnt generate any even strength goals, the trio was the most effective line of the afternoon in terms of putting pressure on a very good Boston defense corps. Thats no small feat, as the Bruins allow the fewest goals-against per game in the NHL.RECAP: Niemi skunks Bruins, Sharks 2-0 on road trip
The only reason they were together, though, was due to Coutures recent illness, McLellan said after practice on the campus of Boston University. The star rookie was seeing his first action since a two-game absence with a devastating flu bug, and McLellan wanted to monitor his minutes.I was concerned about his energy level and the ability to play more minutes than he normally would, McLellan said of Couture. We put him with Ben because Ben has some energy, and Kyle can play the middle and the wing. It was more a way to protect Logan coming off the flu than it was to alter our lines.Its safe to say that he was happy with the resulting effort.As it turns out it was one of our better lines, and we may just keep it that way for awhile, he said.Ever the good soldier, Couture doesnt seem to care who hes playing with or on what line. His power play goal in the first period, which ended up as the game-winner, is evidence that he is still going to find a way to contribute no matter who he is skating with five-on-five.Couture considered playing with Eager, especially, to be advantageous.It seemed like we had some chemistry, he said. Hes a big body, protects pucks well, and creates space for Welly and me on the ice. When the D-men see him coming down the ice theyre not so sure they want to go get the puck. I enjoyed playing with him.Eager, who arrived on Jan. 18 in a trade with Atlanta, had what was probably his best game in a San Jose uniform against Boston. He was skating well and was up and down the ice all afternoon at TD Garden, throwing his 235 pounds around and causing a commotion in front of the goal crease. Although his incidental contact with Bruins goalie Tim Thomas nullified a goal in the second period, thats exactly the kind of play that McLellan wants to see out of the hulking winger.In fact, Eager has already been rewarded for his strong play by the coach.Ben Eager came in as a guy that we penciled in on that fourth line, but hes played well enough and worked his way up to that third line now, said McLellan. Its his job to keep it. He did a really good job Saturday against the Bruins.Eager came to San Jose as a familiar face, having been with the Chicago Blackhawks for parts of three seasons, including last years Stanley Cup champion club. He benefitted in that he already knew two players on the Sharks roster goalies Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki. In fact, he won a championship with both, as Niemi was his teammate last year in Chicago while he and Niittymaki won an AHL Calder Cup. That came during the NHLs lockout year of 2004-05 with the Philadelphia Phantoms, then the farm team of the Flyers.His friends helped to ease his transition back into the Western Conference.They were great, said Eager. Me and Niitty stayed in touch throughout the years, and whenever weve played each other we always chat. Antti I was with last year, and it was nice to have them on the roster.Eager admitted that when the trade happened, he was a bit shocked. Fortunately, though, he knew what he was getting into in joining San Jose.Its been a new experience, but I played against them a lot the last couple of years when I was in Chicago. Its what I expected a hard working group of guys and theres a lot of skill in this room and character. Im happy to be here and its been a lot of fun so far.Whats likely making it even more enjoyable is that Eager has steadily seen his ice time increase, culminating in more than 12 minutes on Saturday.Yeah, it was good. I got to play, played some good minutes, and was playing with two good players. I just tried to keep it simple and I thought we did a good job.Super Bowl plansThe Sharks flew to Washington immediately following practice in Boston, where they had spent the last three nights adjusting to East Coast time. They should get to the nations capital in plenty of time to catch the Super Bowl between the Packers and Steelers.McLellan was asked if he had any plans for the game.Well watch the game, he said. I think its an exciting event. Theres a lot of build-up to it, but it will be fun to watch.

Bumgarner throws three innings of no-hit ball in first rehab start

Bumgarner throws three innings of no-hit ball in first rehab start


Madison Bumgarner was back on the hill Sunday night in a Giants jersey for the first time since being placed on the DL on April 21 due to a dirt bike accident

Bumgarner took the mound for the Arizona Rookie League Giants and did not allow a hit in three innings pitched. The Giants' ace also struck out two and walked one. 

In both the first and third innings, Bumgarner pitched a perfect three up and three down frame. 

Bumgarner was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain of his left throwing shoulder and sustained bruised ribs from his dirt bike accident on an off day in Colorado. Pitching in a game for the first time in over two months, Bumgarner was throwing between 88-91 miles per hour, according to Tommy Stokke of FanRagSports. 

After finishing his three innings of work, Bumgarner went down to the bullpen to increase his pitch count, reports Sande Charles of FanRagSports

Before sustaining the injury, Bumgarner was 0-3 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts this season. 

The Giants have gone 21-41 since Bumgarner's injury. They are 27-51 on the year and sit 24.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. 

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after yet another missed opportunity at the plate Sunday, a voice came over a speaker in the press box at AT&T Park and announced a 524th consecutive sellout. It nicely summed up this current stretch of Giants baseball. 

The seats are emptier than they used to be at first pitch, and they were just about abandoned in the ninth inning of an 8-2 loss, but for the most part the fans are still showing up in droves. One woman brought a toaster by the dugout Sunday morning and asked players and coaches to sign it, hoping to recapture the magic from across the bridge. Another, Bryan Stow, made his first appearance of the season at AT&T Park, met with Bruce Bochy, and said he hoped to see a win. As Matt Moore started warming up, a band set up on top of the visiting dugout to play hits that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. 

For a while, AT&T Park was rocking. And then, as has happened so often this summer, the game started. 

The Giants turned in another epic clunker in a season full of them. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games and 21 of 26, but it’s worse than the raw numbers. On most nights, some in the organization have noted privately, they are simply boring. It’s one thing to lose, it’s quite another to do it in this way. 

“There’s no getting around it,” Bochy said after the sweep. “I’ve been through some tough stretches here and this is as tough as any stretch I’ve seen. For some reason the baseball gods are really testing us here and (testing) this group. It’s not that they’re not coming out ready or trying, but enough is enough.

“At some point, we’ve got to find a way to get this thing turned around.”

Even a slight pivot would be welcomed by the faithful. There were scattered boos Sunday, the latest in a growing trend. This is a fan base that has seen the highest highs, but rarely in franchise history have the lows been this low. 

The crowd no longer turns to the rally lights that were used so often in an awful April, but the noise still grows with each new rally. And then, every single time Sunday, the Giants killed off any hope. 

In the second inning, a Brandon Belt bunt single and Brandon Crawford bloop put two on, but a pair of rookies flied out. 

In the third, the bases were loaded ahead of Buster Posey. He flied out to bring one run across, and there were still runners on the corners for Belt, who leads the team in homers. On a 2-2 count, Hunter Pence inexplicably took off for second. He was caught, the inning was over, and the two-run Mets lead was intact. Bochy said he did not send Pence. 

In the sixth, there were two on with no outs for Posey. Both runners bolted to stay out of a double play. Posey popped up to first -- for a double play.

“He’s not a guy that strikes out, so I’m pretty confident sending runners with Buster,” Bochy said. “We can’t keep laying back. We’re trying to force the issue a bit and stay out of double plays.”

In the eighth, the Giants loaded the bases for Posey and Belt. Posey grounded out. Belt struck out for the third time. 

“We’re getting guys out there,” Bochy said. “We’re not doing enough damage.”

Matt Moore’s damage was self-inflicted. He twice gave up homers to the guy — Rene Rivera — hitting in front of the pitcher. Moore said he has stopped throwing his cutter the past three starts and tried to get his four-seamer going, but the Mets were teeing off. Moore gave up five runs on seven hits. He was pulled in the fifth, left to think about mechanics that still aren’t right. 

“The cutter is a little bit different of a pitch and at times it can take away from the four-seam fastball location-wise, and command of the four-seam was starting to go down the more I threw (the cutter),” Moore said. “I’m anxious to get back to it, but the foundation has got to be throwing the four-seam fastball. I need to execute where they’re carrying through the zone, not running or cutting.”

Moore said his confidence is fine and his problems are not physical. Others can no longer say that. Austin Slater, a rare bright spot in this five-win month, was pulled with a tight hip flexor. He was headed for an MRI. 

Slater is too young to be one of the players Bochy approached after the game. He said he talked to a few, though, passing along that “enough is enough” message. Moore, last in the National League in ERA (6.04), was not one who needed a reminder. 

“I’m sitting on a six right now with not a lot of wins and not enough team wins when I’m throwing,” he said. “It’s been 'enough' for me for the last couple of months.”