Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion

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Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion

SAN JOSE – The sights, the sounds, and the smells were all very familiar to Ryane Clowe. The view, though, was just a little bit different.

Clowe, the locked-out Sharks forward who is currently acting as an assistant coach for the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls, saw his new team drop a 6-4 decision to the Stockton Thunder in front of nearly 13,000 fans at HP Pavilion on Monday night. Despite the loss, it was a pleasant experience for the guy who would have been in a Vancouver hotel getting ready for a game against the rival Canucks rather than standing behind the bench, had the NHL season started as scheduled.

“It was pretty weird, actually. I think more than anything, I just miss being out there,” Clowe said.

But, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have fun. The 30-year-old veteran of seven NHL seasons has enjoyed his time mentoring the young minor-leaguers, a small percentage of whom will graduate to the American Hockey League or higher, but many of whom will have to find work outside of hockey when their brief careers are over.

The Bulls’ experience of suiting up in the Sharks’ locker room, taking the ice in an NHL arena, and hearing so many thousands of fans cheering them on is something that most ECHL’ers never get to do. In fact, it had been more than 10 years since an ECHL team played a game in a pro arena, and that arena (Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh) isn’t even standing anymore.

For Clowe, he could see the enthusiasm on his players’ faces.

“That was the best part for me, just watching those guys and how excited they were. Especially that we got to use [the Sharks’] dressing room, they were pretty stoked about that,” he said.

“It was awesome. It’s probably one of the biggest stages that a lot of guys have played on, and they treated us really well here,” Bulls winger Kris Belan said. “We walked in and got the whole show, so it was pretty cool.”

Clowe even had a special message for defenseman Mikael Tam, who had just arrived on a flight from Worcester after playing for San Jose’s AHL affiliate over the weekend. Tam got changed in Clowe’s regular space.

“He was sitting in my stall and I said, ‘you’ve got to score tonight.’”

Tam opened the scoring at 9:21 of the first period.

Clowe wasn’t surprised by the large turnout, some of which were wearing Bulls orange but the majority of which had on their black and teal. The official announced crowd was 12,881 (all free), and by all appearances, that number was not at all inflated.

“They were obviously craving hockey, and I obviously feel bad for them that they’re not getting it right now,” Clowe said. “It sucks, but they were great tonight. I told the guys to be ready, because these fans get loud.”

Clowe signed with the Bulls on Nov. 7 and continues to practice with them, but he still has no plans to play for the team while the NHL lockout enters its fourth month. Despite the lockout moving from the meeting room to the courtroom with the latest legal filings by the NHL and players’ association, Clowe is hopeful that he’ll get to return to his regular job of bruising NHL agitator very shortly.

“Being back here, I think it’s really made me, more than anything, miss it.”

Apparently, he’s not the only one.

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

For the first time in five tries this season the Sharks managed to secure a regulation win over the last place Coyotes, 4-1 at Gila River Arena on Saturday. They keep their four-point lead over Edmonton, and are assured of going into the bye week in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Here are our three takeaways from the win…

1 – Burns turns the tide…again

For the second time in a week, Brent Burns changed the momentum of a game with his deadly wrist shot. The Sharks were on their heels early – Arizona had a 16-9 shot advantage in the first period, perhaps jolted be a pregame ceremony – but Burns’ shot through traffic staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead and they were on their way.

“We kind of weathered their storm early,” Joe Pavelski told reporters. “There was a lot of energy in the building.”

It was similar to a game in New Jersey last Sunday, when Burns had a pair of second period goals, erasing a 1-0 deficit and putting his team on the track to victory.

According to Elias, Burns – who added a third period power play goal, too – is the first defenseman to score 18 goals on the road since Paul Coffey’s 22 in 1983-84. His 26 goals equal his total from last season, tying his franchise record.

“He’s having an MVP season,” Pete DeBoer told reporters. “He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.”

Burns remains in third in the league in scoring with 63 points, four points behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.

2 – Dell gets the job done…again

Getting his second start in a week, Aaron Dell made a new season high (and, thus, career high) with 36 saves. His best stop was early in the second period on Radim Vrbata, when he managed to snag a pin-balling puck from crossing the line, keeping the Sharks ahead 2-0. Had that one trickled over, the Coyotes might have been able to seize the momentum.

“I think I had it the whole time,” Dell told reporters. “I kind of saw it for a second and then when I turned back I was able to find it and scoop it underneath me.”

DeBoer said: “He’s been good every time we’ve put him in there.”

Dell, whose goals-against average is down to 1.95, outplayed Sharks nemesis Mike Smith, who had stopped 121 of 127 San Jose shots in three games this season.

“We got to Smitty in the first period, which was great,” Pavelski said. “We kind of know what he’s done to us the past few games, stopping a lot of pucks. … That was a big key for us.”

3 – Fourth line magic

Through two periods, the Sharks’ top two lines had generated a total of three shots on goal – one each from Joe Thornton, Kevin Labanc and Patrick Marleau.

Fortunately for the big guys, the fourth line was there to pick up the slack. Melker Karlsson posted three points (1g, 2a), Micheal Haley had one goal and one assist, and the fourth line generated all three of San Jose’s goals through 40 minutes.

One goal from the fourth line is a bonus. Three is virtually unheard of. 

“They showed up and played the right way,” DeBoer said. “Right from the drop of the puck they put pucks behind the other teams defense, they had good support, they created a lot of chances, and got rewarded for it. I think Dell and them were the difference in the game early through the first half, until we got going a little bit.”

Burns leads the charge, Sharks dominate Coyotes

Burns leads the charge, Sharks dominate Coyotes

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The San Jose Sharks were facing a team that had been playing well in an arena buzzing with energy following a pregame ceremony.

Once they handled the initial onrush, the Sharks struck first to subdue the crowd and their opponent.

Brent Burns scored two goals, Aaron Dell had a career-high 36 saves and the Sharks beat the Arizona Coyotes for the first time this season, 4-1 on Saturday night.

"We kind of weathered their storm early; there was a lot of energy in the building," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "We got to (Coyotes goalie Mike Smith) in the first period. When you get one or two on him early, it kind of breaks them down a little bit and play from behind. That was a big key."

The Sharks bounced back from a slow start in their last game by scoring two goals in the first period and another early in the second to quiet a crowd energized by a ceremony honoring the first Coyotes team in the desert. Dell was sharp in his 11th start of the season, and the Pacific Division-leading Sharks were good in front of him to avoid a season sweep (1-3-1) by the last-place Coyotes.

Melker Karlsson had a goal and two assists, and Micheal Haley had a goal and an assist for San Jose.

Burns, of course, was at the center of the offense from the blue line.

The NHL's third-leading scorer, he had a goal in the first period and his 27th of the season in the third to match the team record for goals by a defenseman that he set in 2015-16. It was his third two-goal game of the season and second in the last three games.

"He's having an MVP season. He's been that good for us all year and it's every night," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I don't know what else to say. In my mind, he's the best player in the league right now."

The Coyotes could not capitalize on a rowdy, sellout crowd. Arizona peppered Dell with 29 shots in the first two periods but didn't score until Martin Hanzal punched in a rebound in the third, when they were down 3-0.

Hanzal scored his fifth goal in five games and Smith stopped 29 shots for Arizona.

"We were pretty good in the period and I don't want to say they were lucky goals, but they scored first and after that, it's hard to chase a team like the Sharks," Hanzal said.

The Sharks trailed 3-1 in the first period and 6-3 in the third before rallying for a point against Florida on Wednesday. On Saturday, they took an early lead when Burns fired a shot through traffic to beat Smith to the stick side.

Karlsson made it 2-0 late in the period, keeping the puck on a 2-on-1 and wristing one past Smith on the stick side again.

San Jose kept the pressure up early in the second, making it a three-goal lead when Haley scored on a one-timer from between the circles for his first of the season.

Burns stopped Arizona's momentum late in the period, wristing a shot that slipped through Smith's pads on a power play.

"That wasn't my best game. I thought our team did a good job tonight to give ourselves a chance to win," Smith said. "They were opportunistic in the first period and we couldn't capitalize on our chances and when that happens, you usually lose."

NOTES

Along with honoring their 1996-97 team — the first after the franchise moved from Winnipeg — in a ceremony before the game, Arizona also announced its all-time starting six, which included current players Smith, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and captain Shane Doan. ... Haley's goal was his first since March 5, 2016 against Vancouver. ... Hanzal moved past Pat Elynuik for 13th on the franchise list with his 116th career goal.

UP NEXT

San Jose hosts Boston on Sunday before getting a five-day break from all hockey-related activities.

Arizona hosts Anaheim on Monday before playing five of its next six games on the road.