Clowe, Handzus have been key in shootouts

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Clowe, Handzus have been key in shootouts

SAN JOSE Like them or not, shootouts are going to play a large role in determining which Western Conference teams end up in the playoffs and which end up on the golf course.

Thats probably why the Sharks ended their practice on Thursday with a shootout drill. Counting the 4-3 win against Phoenix on Saturday, six of the last 11 Sharks games have gone past regulation, and four of them have been decided via the skills competition. San Jose is now 2-2 in the last four, and 8-5 on the season.

After some recent odd choices for the shootout in previous games, coach Todd McLellan decided to go with his bread and butter on Saturday.

Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe have been the Sharks most reliable shooters, both improving to 5-for-10 this year after finding daylight on Mike Smith in what was the most important extra point of the year. After Handzus was able to beat Smith to the stick side, Clowe was asked if he was trying to find that same spot on purpose before he fired in a goal where Handzus had just converted earlier.

I noticed on Handzus goal that Smith was back in his net a bit. Ive went to that move a few times this year, and Im starting to feel confident with it, said Clowe, who has had success going to his backhand in shootouts in prior seasons. If I have to go to the backhand, hopefully I can still use that, as well. I had it in my mind I was going to go there.

Clowe was pleased with the way the team was able to handle adversity for the second straight game, particularly when it surrendered a goal late in the first and then early in the second to fall behind, 3-2.

The last two games, I like how were just going, he said. If something happens, we just forget about it. Go after them. We did that.

Marleau gets one: Offense has been a struggle for the Sharks in recent weeks (months?), as the team has now gone 20 straight games without scoring more than three goals in regulation.

One big reason for that is Patrick Marleaus failure to light the lamp. The winger and sometimes center had just one goal in his last 14 games before scoring the tying goal in the first period against the Coyotes.

I finally found the back of the net, so thats good, Marleau said after the game. Ill look forward to getting some more chances and some more goals.

Is there a personal sense of relief?

Probably a little bit, but you try and play the same way whether or not youve scored, he said.

Coyotes displeased with start: Phoenix may have scored the first goal of the game, when Daymond Langkow took advantage of a Sharks turnover behind their own net, but coach Dave Tippett didnt like the way his team started the game. The Sharks seemed to have the early energy.

I thought in the first period, we didnt have everybody in, Tippett said.

Still, the Coyotes were able to make a game of it and record a point while missing captain Shane Doan (suspension), leading goal-scorer Radim Vrbata (lower body injury), and big-minute defenseman Adrian Aucoin (lower body injury).

I thought we made a couple of little mental mistakes early. Everybody does that, and it happened, but the good thing is were mature enough to believe we can come back and stay in games and brush those little mistakes off and tighten up, defenseman Derek Morris said.

We got out there and we competed hard and found a way to keep ourselves in the game, Tippett said. Unfortunately we couldnt get the two points. But, we came into a hard building here and with some injury situations like this, I thought our guys competed hard and we found a way to get a valuable point.

The Coyotes host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night, and are off until hosting the Sharks on Thursday, March 29.

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.”

Sharks forward Haley could face supplemental discipline from NHL

Sharks forward Haley could face supplemental discipline from NHL

NASHVILLE – Sharks forward Micheal Haley could be in line for supplemental discipline from the league, after earning a match penalty in the third period of Saturday’s 7-2 loss in Nashville.
 
After absorbing a borderline hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok, Haley tracked down the Predators forward and promptly delivered a left jab to Jarnkrok’s face at 12:56 of the final frame, with the Sharks trailing 5-2 at the time.
 
Naturally, there were differing opinions from the two head coaches on the play.
 
Pete DeBoer said: “When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth.”
 
Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters: "It's an ugly play. This isn't the wild, wild west. I mean, Calle hit him. We took a penalty. If we start doing that, we're in trouble, so hopefully it gets looked at."
 
Any player who earns a match penalty "shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the commissioner has ruled on the issue,” according to league rules.
 
In 54 games this season, Haley has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. His 110 penalty minutes is fifth in the league.
 
Jarnkrok did not return after the punch, but told reporters after the game he felt “OK.”
 
"I feel pretty good," Jarnkrok said. "Obviously, I saw him coming. There were a couple other guys coming, too. I didn't really know what to do. He got in a good punch on me.”