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.

Sharks to support San Jose flood victims with $20,000 donation, raffle

Sharks to support San Jose flood victims with $20,000 donation, raffle

SAN JOSE - The San Jose Sharks announced today that they will support San Jose flood victims with a $20,000 donation from the Sharks Foundation and at upcoming home games on Thursday, March 9, Saturday, March 11 and Sunday, March 12, through the Foundation's 50/50 Raffle.

The $20,000 donation and half of the evening's jackpot, during all three games, will be donated to the San Jose Flood Victims Relief Fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation to support nonprofit organizations providing immediate and long-term relief and recovery assistance to flood victims in San Jose.

The Sharks Foundation will also accept monetary donations during each game at the Sharks Foundation booth located at section 118 on the concourse or to donate now, click here.

A series of heavy rain in the area caused Coyote Creek to rise to a 100-year peak. With widespread flooding as a result, 14,000 residents have faced mandatory evacuations.

About the Sharks Foundation
The Sharks Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the lives of youth and families in our community with an emphasis in the areas of education, health and safety, and character development. During the 2015-16 season, the Sharks Foundation donated a franchise-record $1.5 million in funding to support the Bay Area. Since its inception in 1994, the Foundation has given nearly $10.1 million to hundreds of high-performing non-profit organizations serving youth and families in need. To learn more about how the Sharks Foundation is helping underserved children and families in the community, visit SharksFoundation.org or read our 2015-16 San Jose Sharks & Sharks Foundation Community Report.

About Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Silicon Valley Community Foundation advances innovative philanthropic solutions to challenging problems. As the largest community foundation in the world, we engage donors and corporations from Silicon Valley, across the country and around the globe to make our region and world better for all. Our passion for helping people and organizations achieve their philanthropic dreams has created a global philanthropic enterprise committed to the belief that possibilities start here. Learn more at siliconvalleycf.org.

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Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

SAN JOSE – There are no glaring holes for the San Jose Sharks to fill ahead of next week's NHL trade deadline on March 1.

Still, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is a notorious tire-kicker, and he’s surely working the phones these days to see if there’s anything out there that could help his hockey club, which has a comfortable five-point lead on the Pacific Division midway through its bye week.

“We’ll see, but we do feel really good about this group,” Wilson told CSN earlier this month. “We believe in our players and we believe in our guys on the Barracuda, because they’ve earned that.

“Having said that, our history speaks for itself. If there’s a way to help this hockey team or add something, we’ve always done it, and we’ll always explore it.”

So, what might the Sharks be exploring? There are two areas that make the most sense – a backup goaltender, and a scoring winger.

* * *

No question Aaron Dell has exceeded expectations in his first NHL season. He’s 7-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .934 SP in 12 games, and his .953 even-strength save percentage is tops in the league among goalies that have played at least 10 games.

Still, it’s unknown if Dell would be able to handle the day-to-day grind, if anything were to happen to Jones. Even in the minors last season when he earned the number one job with the Barracuda, he wasn’t playing three and four games a week due to the AHL’s Pacific Division having fewer games than the rest of the league. He’s also not been overly tested at the NHL level – of Dell’s 10 starts, only one has come against a team currently in playoff position, and the Calgary Flames are only barely in the second Wild Card spot.

There are some goalies thought to be trade bait as pending unrestricted free agents. They include Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavalec, the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak, or Philadelphia goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. All could likely be gotten for some combination of young players and/or draft picks.

But is it worth it for the Sharks to make a move for a player that might not even be needed in the postseason? According to one NHL analyst, the Sharks should just take their chances with the inexperienced North Dakota product.

“I probably wouldn’t put a whole lot of resources in [finding a backup goalie],” NBCSN analyst Keith Jones told CSN on the latest Sharks Insider Podcast. “If Martin Jones was injured you’d have a real problem, it would be tough to find a goalie to replace what he brings to the table. I know they tried James Reimer last year, and the book is out on him. … I’m not sure that that’s a major upgrade on Aaron Dell.”

That said, Keith Jones would like to see Martin Jones – who’s on pace to play 69.5 games – get more time off after the schedule resumes. That means increased playing time for Dell.

“I think you might just want to take a chance with your backup a little more frequently,” Jones said. “You may want to sacrifice a few games along the way. [Dell] gains some experience, and Jones gets some rest.”

The impression here is that the Sharks will probably stick with Dell. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has been nothing short of glowing in his reviews of Dell lately, as well he should be. The goalie has earned his place on this team, and none of the other goalies that the Sharks could acquire would be obvious upgrades at this stage of the season.

* * *

A much stronger case can be made that the Sharks are in need of another scoring winger. 

While the offense has been more dangerous in recent weeks than it was over the first half of the season, it still doesn’t look as effective as it was last season going into the playoffs, when it finished fourth in the league. Yes, the power play has been relatively power-less, but there’s more to it than that.

Mikkel Boedker has been a disappointment after signing a four-year deal as a free agent, and was benched yet again on Sunday. Joonas Donskoi, still out with what looks like a shoulder injury, hasn’t taken that next step after his strong playoff run last season. Joel Ward is off his scoring pace from last year. Patrick Marleau has been outstanding, but remains streaky. Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier have done some nice things as rookies, but neither of them has “arrived” yet, to borrow a word commonly used by DeBoer. Nikolay Goldobin failed in his two-game tryout last week, too.

Finding a winger to play on the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line should be a priority, as DeBoer has tried seven different wingers there this season without finding a permanent fit. 

Among the veterans that could be available are Dallas’ Patrick Sharp or Patrick Eaves, Arizona’s Shane Doan, Colorado’s Jarome Iginla, Detroit's Thomas Vanek, or even Vancouver’s Alex Burrows or Jannik Hansen, if the club is looking for a more agitating type.

Sharp is perhaps the most intriguing name on that list. Although he’s been hurt off and on this season and his numbers are down on a bad Dallas team, he’s a veteran scorer that has won three Stanley Cups as part of Chicago’s dynasty. He’s an obvious upgrade over the players that have rotated through the Thornton line.

Bringing in one of those aforementioned forwards would require some salary cap juggling (especially Sharp, who carries a $5.9 million cap hit) and perhaps a salary from the current roster going the other way, as the Sharks don’t have a whole lot of room right now. But it’s worth exploring, as a consistent offensive attack should be this team’s biggest worry right now with seven weeks until the postseason.

* * *

If the Sharks don’t make a move, DeBoer and company are still confident with the team in the dressing room. After all, most of those players were a part of the team’s run last season, when the Sharks were just two wins from capturing the Stanley Cup.

“For us, it’s not whether a piece comes in or whether we don’t bring any pieces in, I think we’re confident in our group,” DeBoer said. “It’s about us…playing to our identity for as long a stretch as is possible, because that’s what wins in the playoffs. Whether we don’t do anything or whether a piece comes in here, I don’t think that mindset changes.”

Justin Braun said: “Management is going to do what they’re going to do, but if they don’t do anything, we have confidence with everyone in here to get the job done.”