Can season adversity bring playoff success?

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Can season adversity bring playoff success?

EL SEGUNDO More than any other NHL team since the leagues work stoppage, the San Jose Sharks know the feeling of starting the playoffs after a dominant regular season.

Thats not going to happen this year, should the Sharks qualify, which could happen as soon as tonight in Los Angeles. Its been a struggle for just about the entire run, beginning with three losses in the first four games. The Sharks look like they can beat the best in the league on one night, and then fall flat on their faces against a bottom-feeder the next.

With so much on the line in the last month, and especially the last week, can the Sharks take any positives from having to fight tooth and nail just to get in to the postseason?

Logan Couture thinks so.

Weve battled through a lot of adversity, and that makes teams stronger and brings it closer together. I think that definitely helps, he said.

It hasnt been a dream season, but sometimes those seasons, if you get in, you can make them work in your favor, Todd McLellan said. We know what it feels like to cruise through a season and be number one, and then all of a sudden the pressure comes. In this situation, weve been playing with pressure for a month now. I dont know how much can change if were lucky enough to get in. Well just keep on playing and do our thing.

Step 1 is securing a playoff spot, something the Sharks can do with a win against the Kings tonight.

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I dont want to speculate because weve still got to win some games to get into the postseason, but its been a struggle and hopefully it will smooth out during the playoffs, Joe Thornton said.

Ryane Clowe credits the Sharks coaching staff for keeping things positive around the team, even while it was in the midst of a miserable road trip at the end of February and continued with poor results for a couple weeks in early March, too.

I think if youre on the outside looking in at a team, kind of the way its been going with us with high expectations, you probably say wow, it must be miserable in that dressing room. But, every day coming to the rink has been real positive, trying to keep things as light as possible. Guys are upbeat, and still have a lot of confidence. Thats the biggest thing Ive noticed.

I think the coaches are doing a great job. Todds been great as far as being positive, and every day has been a move-forward kind of approach.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Sharks in recent years, of course, is that the team may be a little too loose or too relaxed, but Clowe doesnt see it that way.

I dont think its been a negative loose. If anything, its shown at times, especially in the last couple games weve played free, as far as being able to score goals, make plays, and not take any dumb penalties.

When you get to this situation you dont want to be constantly grinding it out and pushing. I think thats what wears on you. Were fresh mentally, and were good to go.

Kings talk Sharks

The Los Angeles Kings bring a 2-1-1 advantage into the final two games of the season with the Sharks, including a 5-2 win at Staples Center on March 20.

I think theyve played us hard. We always expect a hard game against them, Drew Doughty said. I think we kind of built a rivalry against them, especially with losing to them in playoffs last year. As a team, we match up well against them. Theyve got those two really big lines that put up a lot of points.

Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick said: Theyre a great team. They know what they have on the line, as much as we know what we have on the line. We know what to expect.

Barracuda power play leads the way in Game 2 win over Grand Rapids

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Barracuda power play leads the way in Game 2 win over Grand Rapids

SAN JOSE – The Barracuda struck for three power play goals, including the game-winner in the second period by Joakim Ryan, in overcoming the Grand Rapids Griffins at SAP Center on Sunday night, 4-2.

San Jose’s victory evens the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals series at one game apiece.

Grand Rapids erased a 2-0 hole to tie the game in the middle frame, but less than a minute after Matt Ford knotted the score at 2-2 with a rocket from the circle on a Griffins power play, Ryan’s blast from just inside the blue line at 15:28 staked the Barracuda a lead they would keep for the rest of the night. 

The Barracuda finished 3-for-5 on the power play, after going 0-for-6 in a Game 1 loss on Saturday.

“The power play was a lot better tonight,” Ryan said. “We got set up more. We were able to get shots through from the point.”

One of those shots came early, when defenseman Julius Berman beat goalie Jared Coreau from long range just 3:35 into the game with San Jose on a man advantage. Later in the first, on another power play, Ryan Carpenter found open ice in the slot and redirected a Tim Heed pass at 10:44 for his team-leading eighth of the playoffs.

“Coming out, we wanted to get the first goal tonight,” Carpenter said. “For Bergman to get that first goal was huge for us.”

Ryan and Carpenter both attributed the power play success to winning faceoffs, which is something coach Roy Sommer wanted the club to focus on after it dropped the series opener, 3-1.

Winning faceoffs often is an indication of a team’s compete level, and that, too, was lacking for the Barracuda in an opener in which Sommer said his team played “dumb and slow.” 

Sunday was a much better performance.

“Whenever we’ve had a bad start, or a bad game, the next day these guys have responded,” said Sommer, whose club is the top seed in the Western Conference. “They’ve done it all year.”

The series now shifts to Grand Rapids for the next three games, with Game 3 going Wednesday. The primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, the Griffins posted a 25-11-2 record in their own building in the regular season.

The Barracuda, though, should be a confident group on the road. Against San Diego in the second round, San Jose won all three games in Southern California after splitting the first two at home.

“It’s going to be a hell of a series,” Sommer said. “It’s probably going to go the duration, I imagine. Both teams are kind of feeling each other out and kind of have a pretty good idea of what the other guys are doing now.”

Ryan said: “Honestly, I think they are the team in the league that plays the most like us. I felt like last night they did a better job of taking the game to us. I thought we came out better tonight, and we battled harder, competed more, won more pucks. They’re a really good team, it’s going to be a battle the rest of the series, for sure. They’re not going to lay down.”

Barclay Goodrow’s empty netter with 1:06 left in regulation was the only goal in the third period.

The Barracuda outshot the Griffins, 40-35, including a 20-11 advantage in the first period.

Sharks GM Wilson confirms shoulder surgery for Joel Ward

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Sharks GM Wilson confirms shoulder surgery for Joel Ward

Sharks forward Joel Ward recently had surgery on his shoulder, general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement on Friday.

"Joel was dealing with a minor shoulder injury last season and, once the season ended, had a choice to either rehab the injury or to have a surgical procedure,” Wilson said. “Joel opted to proceed with the surgical procedure, which was completed successfully, and he is expected to be ready for the start of the 2017 season."

Ward was seen at the Oakland A’s game on Thursday night with his right arm in a sling.

In 78 games last season, Ward had 29 points (10g, 19a). He added one goal and three assists in six games in the playoffs.

The 36-year-old has one year remaining on his contract with San Jose, carrying a $3.275 million salary cap hit.