Sharks set to face Coyotes in Pacific showdown


Sharks set to face Coyotes in Pacific showdown

March 26, 2011

SHARKS (43-23-9) vs.PHOENIX (41-24-11)
CSN California Saturday lineup5:00 p.m. -- Shark Byte 5:30 p.m. -- Sharks Pregame Live6:00 p.m. -- Sharks vs. Phoenix

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes and first-place San Jose Sharks are separated by two points in the race for the Pacific Division crown.

For the Coyotes to capture the franchise's first division title, they need to figure out a way to win a game in this series.

Meeting for the first of three times in the final two weeks of the season, Phoenix looks to avoid losing its eighth straight to the Sharks and move into a first-place tie Saturday night in Glendale, Ariz.

The Coyotes (41-24-11) moved a point closer to San Jose (43-23-9) with Thursday's 3-0 win over Columbus, coupled with the Sharks' 4-3 shootout loss to Los Angeles. Phoenix now has 93 points, while San Jose has 95 and a game in hand on the Coyotes.
REWIND: Marleau's late pair forces overtime; Kings win

The division race might go down to the wire, with the Coyotes and Sharks set for a home-and-home series to conclude the season April 8 and 9.

"We've got six left and San Jose three times, so those are obviously going to be big games for us," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Going into Saturday night's game you've got to recognize your opponent, and what could be at stake."

San Jose finished six points ahead of second-place Phoenix last season to win its third straight Pacific title.

The Coyotes could be in a first-place tie with a regulation win, but they've lost seven in a row to the Sharks since a 2-1 victory Dec. 12, 2009. They've been outscored 13-6 in this season's three meetings.

Phoenix was on the verge of snapping that losing streak in the last matchup Feb. 1, leading 3-0 late in the second period, but San Jose rallied for five unanswered goals. Joe Pavelski scored twice to start the comeback, and Patrick Marleau's short-handed goal with 6:05 remaining put the Sharks ahead.

RELATED: Joe Pavelski stats splits game logs

Antti Niemi was pulled midway through the second period after allowing three goals, but he's been instrumental to San Jose's playoff push lately. He has made 30 straight starts, going 21-4-4 with a 2.19 goals-against average and three shutouts.

Niemi and the Sharks were fortunate to earn a point Thursday.

Marleau scored the tying goal twice in the final 3:32 of the third period, getting his second with just 4.1 seconds left after the Kings went back in front with 1:42 remaining. Marleau has six goals in his last four games.

"Patty's really played well lately and he's scored big goals for our team," coach Todd McLellan said of Marleau, who has seven goals in his last five contests against Phoenix.

While Marleau is carrying San Jose, which had a four-game winning streak snapped Thursday, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is leading a Phoenix team seeking its first division title in the franchise's 31-year history.

Bryzgalov made 27 saves Thursday to move into a tie with Nikolai Khabibulin for the franchise lead in shutouts with 21. He is 6-1-0 with a 1.29 GAA and two shutouts in his last seven starts.

"He is top notch, and we rely on him heavily," Tippett said.

Bryzgalov, though, has a 3.56 GAA in two starts against San Jose this season.

The Coyotes have won seven of eight, but Bryzgalov feels his team must get off to a better start to have a chance against the Sharks. Phoenix has no goals in the first period of its last four games, averaging just 6.5 shots.

"If we start the game against San Jose like (Thursday) and the previous game, we're going to be behind," Bryzgalov said. "We need to be ready as soon as the puck drops."

A's option RHP Hahn to Triple-A; LHP Detwiler opts out of deal

A's option RHP Hahn to Triple-A; LHP Detwiler opts out of deal

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's optioned starter Jesse Hahn to Triple-Nashville on Sunday and announced that lefty Ross Detwiler has opted out of his minor league contract to become a free agent.

Hahn got off to a strong start this spring but struggled mightily in his last two starts, giving up 12 earned runs combined.

His demotion brings Oakland's rotation into focus, with Andrew Triggs and Raul Alcantara lined up to take the final two spots in the rotation behind Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton. Sonny Gray will begin the season on the disabled list.

Detwiler was on the fringe of the rotation competition and also could have been a bullpen consideration.  But he also stumbled as the spring wore on.


Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

NASHVILLE – Apparently, one wake up call wasn’t good enough for the plummeting San Jose Sharks.
Just one day after suffering what was arguably their worst game under coach Pete DeBoer, Nashville put up a touchdown on the Sharks in a 7-2 win, giving San Jose its sixth straight defeat – all in regulation.
After getting outscored 13-3 the last two nights, including Friday’s 6-1 loss in Dallas, where do they go from here?
“In two years, last year and this year so far, we haven’t had one night like this almost. Now we have back-to-back nights,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think it’s just a reality check. A gut-check time.
“It’s on us as players. Bottom line is we haven’t put the effort in that we need to have right now, and it snowballed on us a little bit at times. I think we’ve got to take a deep breath and really take a look in the mirror, refocus a little bit and understand there’s hockey out there, but it’s not going to fix itself.”
What has to be fixed immediately is the defensive structure that has been so vital to the Sharks’ success in the Pete DeBoer era. Even when the club was going through stretches of struggling to score, as it was earlier in the season, it was still collecting points in the standings with its ability to limit the opposition’s scoring chances.
While the game against the Predators was actually a little better in that regard, believe it or not, it was still nowhere near the level it needs to be for the postseason. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s absence was partly to blame for that, but the Brent Burns-Paul Martin pair has been a disaster lately. Both have a minus-nine rating during the six-game losing streak, and that number is indicative of how they’ve looked, too.
“We’re giving up some goals. It’s a combination of things,” DeBoer said. “Obviously it’s not good enough to win games, so we’ve got to figure it out. I don’t have an answer standing here for you, but I know our group. Every team I’ve ever coached has a tough part of the season. This is obviously ours. We’ll regroup, and figure it out.”
Burns, who admitted to a “bad read” on Nashville’s second goal when Roman Josi sped around him, said: “It’s a tough league when you’re not executing little things.”
The Sharks actually looked strong early, poised to put the Dallas disaster behind them. The first few shifts, they had the puck in the Nashville end.
But Tomas Hertl was outmuscled behind the net by Colin Wilson on Colton Sissons’ goal at 4:14, Burns got beat on the second, and the Sharks never recovered. Patrick Marleau’s second period power play goal offered life, but that was extinguished 24 seconds later when James Neal answered with a power play goal of his own. The Sharks never got closer than two goals after that.
“When things are going bad, those are the things that are happening,” Burns said of Neal’s response to Marleau’s marker. “So, you’ve just got work through it."
Will they be able to work through it with just seven games left in the regular season, though? That this cold spell is happening in late March doesn’t speak well to the Sharks’ chances in the postseason, which begins in just two-and-a-half weeks.
Burns said: “Right now we should be just tightening up everything. … We've got figure it out pretty soon.”