Clowe optimistic about NHL CBA talks

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Clowe optimistic about NHL CBA talks

SAN JOSE Anyone who has read about or paid attention to the recent NHL-NHLPA collective bargaining negotiations knows theres been a dearth of optimism. The two sides remain far apart on core economic issues with just five days to go before the expiration of the current deal on September 15, and no formal meetings between the two sides are scheduled this week.

Ryane Clowe, however, offered a glimmer of hope - faint as it is - on Monday, after an informal practice at Sharks Ice that featured more than 20 NHL players and prospects.

I think when you get to these situations, people say why didnt you start negotiating sooner? But, it always seems to come down to the last minute anyway, Clowe said. Im guessing thats whats going to happen.

My feeling is that both sides want to get something done. I strongly believe that. When, and how soon? Maybe sooner rather than later, but thats just my gut feeling.

Make no mistake though, Clowe doesnt think a deal is imminent, and by no means is he declaring that he expects the season to start on time. Like every other member of the players association, the rugged Sharks forward of seven NHL seasons views the owners initial CBA proposals as unfair. The owners would like to significantly reduce what they are paying out in terms of player salaries from the 57 percent that was agreed to under the current CBA.

Increased revenue sharing from the big money makers, to the smaller clubs that struggle to generate enough money, remains a key issue for the players despite Gary Bettmans declaration that that particular issue is distracting.

We understand that if were going to give something back, we want the owners to do that also, and contribute, sad Clowe. We feel like with the proposal we made, it takes care of some of the issues as far as having a strong league in the future, and a healthy league.

Clowe doesnt foresee the players waiving that revenue sharing request, and is hopeful that the owners will reconsider their stance on the issue when they meet on Thursday.

We feel strongly about that. I dont feel like thats something thats going to change or come off the table.

The owners took some time, I think, to think about that one, and theres a Board of Governors meeting this week in New York, and I think what they discuss in there will be key for how we go ahead here.

Its believed that some of the big market clubs are, not surprisingly, reluctant to write bigger checks to some of the small market teams despite record revenues and the fact that theyve cashed in on extravagant expansion and relocation fees over the years. The league also has a new 10-year, 2 billion television contract with NBC set to begin.

The NHLPA will be holding meetings of its own in New York, and several hundred players are expected to attend. From the Sharks, Tommy Wingels, Brent Burns and Douglas Murray will be boarding a cross-country flight to sit in on the meetings led by union boss Donald Fehr. Murray, the Ivy League graduate from Cornell, has been involved in a number of sit-downs with Fehr and Bettman in recent weeks.

How do players not directly involved in the meetings stay up to date? Well, theres an app for that.

No, really.

You log in and read what went on for the day, and Fehr keeps us really informed, Logan Couture said.

Like Clowe, Couture is trying to remain optimistic as the deadline approaches. He recently returned to San Jose, as has most of the roster, in the hopes that training camp opens on time on September 21.

Were all here ready for the season to start, Couture said. Thats why you see so many guys here. We all came out early, working out together as a team and skating as a team. Were all getting ready for the season to start so well see what happens when the time comes, but right now were all getting prepared.

We all want to play the game we love. We play in the best league in the world, and we want it to start on time. Im sure all of us are optimistic, but as time gets closer and nothing happens, you can only start to get a little pessimistic.

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

DALLAS – Brent Burns hasn’t altered his routine, despite his name not showing up on the scoresheet for a little while.

“It’s not like I stopped eating the same meal or I’m not sleeping anymore,” Burns said on Thursday, after a rare Sharks road practice. “It’s the same. I do the same thing every game.”

What he hasn’t been doing every game, like he seemed to be for the first three-quarters of the season, is racking up points. The Norris Trophy frontrunner hasn’t potted a goal in his last 14 games, and is scoreless in his last seven. He still leads the Sharks with 70 points, and has four more points than Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the most among NHL defensemen, but there’s no denying he’s hit a cold streak. Previously, he hadn't gone more than three games without a point.

He’s not the only one, of course, as the Sharks have managed just four goals in their last four games, all regulation losses. But when a team is struggling to put the puck in the net, it’s often the top guys that have to lead the resurgence. And no one has been better or more important to the Sharks this season than the 32-year-old blueliner.

Could it be that as Burns goes, so do the Sharks? The team is 33-9-3 when Burns finds the scoresheet, and just 9-15-4 when he doesn't.

Coach Pete DeBoer doesn’t think so, though, pointing to the Sharks putting up plenty of offense at the start of Burns’ dry spell, including nine combined goals in wins over Dallas and Buffalo last week.

“I don’t think we only score when Brent Burns is on. I think we’re deeper than that. I think we’ve shown that,” DeBoer said. “He hasn’t scored in awhile, and up until a few games ago we were putting up some significant goals and numbers and offense. 

“I think even the nights he’s not scoring, we’ve generated lots of chances. Other than the St. Louis game (a 4-1 loss on March 16), the last three games we’ve lost, we’ve generated enough chances that on a lot of nights that’s three or four goals. But, that’s not just [on] Burnzie…It’s some other guys bearing down and sticking it in the net. It will come.”

Joe Thornton believes that the forwards can also do more to help Burns, who has become the team’s most valuable offensive weapon with his ability to get shots or passes through from a distance with velocity and precision like few players in the NHL can.

“He’s obviously a dominant player, and I think we just need to help him out,” Thornton said. “It shouldn’t always be on one guy, I think we’ve got to give him better opportunities to put him in better spots. It shouldn’t all lay on his shoulders. We’re not doing a good enough job to kind of work away from him, and getting him opportunities.”

Burns, of course, is a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. During practice, his hooting and hollering can typically be heard echoing throughout the rink. Simply put, no one has more fun than this guy.

So, is the cold streak weighing on him? Maybe a little bit.

“I think it weighs on him, for sure,” DeBoer said. “We have good dialogue, there’s a lot of communication, especially with him and [assistant coach Bob Boughner]. And also, him and his teammates. The guys know how much responsibility he takes on himself – sometimes too much. Guys are good with that, they recognize that.”

Thornton said: “When you’re a d-man and you get so many goals and so many assists, you kind of expect it’s going to happen every night, but that’s just not the reality of it. He’s doing something that hardly [any] d-men do in the history of the game. … He’s capable of just getting out of that quick, and pouring it on like he has in the first 65 games of the year.”

For now, Burns is taking every new day and new game as it comes, and said: “It’s no different if you’ve won four in a row and you’ve got 10 points.”

And if he did have 10 points in his last four games?

“You want 12. If you’ve got zero, you want one. Then 12,” he said.

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

DALLAS – Injured Sharks forwards Jannik Hansen and Melker Karlsson both returned to the ice for Thursday’s practice in Dallas, in what Pete DeBoer called “a good first step” in their recoveries.

The coach left open the possibility that one or both could play against the Stars on Friday night, even though neither was skating on a set line for practice.

“We’ll have to wait and see how they feel [Friday] morning and what the recovery is,” DeBoer said. “I’m not prepared to say they’re in tomorrow, but it’s a good sign they’re on the ice and participated.”

Hansen has been out for the past two games since getting a stick in the head from defenseman Brandon Montour on Saturday against Anaheim. 

“Took a couple days [off] to make sure everything was aright,” Hansen said. “Getting better, back on the ice today.”

Officially, it’s an upper body injury. When pressed if it was a concussion issue, Hansen said: “I don’t know. It’s tough to say to begin with, but obviously you do all the precautionary things that [are] involved now.”

Although he has just one assist in his first six games with the Sharks, Hansen seemed to spark the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, as the line generated one even strength goal in each of the first four games Hansen played.

Karlsson has missed the last six games with a lower body injury. He has 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games with a plus-nine rating.

* * *

The lines remained the same for Thursday’s practice. Patrick Marleau was with Thornton and Pavelski; Logan Couture centered Joel Ward and Mikkel Boedker; Tomas Hertl was between Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, while the fourth line sweaters were worn by Chris Tierney, Micheal Haley, Timo Meier and Danny O’Regan.

San Jose stayed over in St. Paul on Tuesday night and flew to Dallas on Wednesday morning on their day off.

The Wild game, a 3-2 loss, was the Sharks’ fourth straight. They’ve generated just four goals over that span.

That game also capped off a stretch of seven games in 11 days for the Sharks, who now have just a two-point lead on Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division – a lead that was nine points before the losing streak began.

Was the day off good?

“Yeah. We’ve been kind of struggling scoring goals, so just to kind of relax yesterday and then kind of get back and refocus today,” Thornton said. “But sometimes you just need a little time away from the rink. I think yesterday was needed.”

DeBoer said: “I think our group is pretty mature. I don’t think we’re overeating to the situation. No one’s happy we’ve lost a few, but we also know that we’ve done enough good things that we could have won two or three of those games. We’ve just got to stick with it, clean up a couple things, and score some goals.”

* * *

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic skated after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. Tierney missed Monday’s game in Dallas, also due to illness.

Is that all gone now?

“Knock on wood. Nothing today. Hope so,” DeBoer said.