Experience Sharks' biggest asset on paper

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Experience Sharks' biggest asset on paper

SAN JOSE Its the single leading advantage on paper that the Sharks have over their first round series opponent, the St. Louis Blues.

Experience. Nearly everyone on the San Jose roster has been here before. Many of the Blues havent.

Can it make a difference?

It depends, Ryane Clowe said. Its something weve gained over the past few years. Before, me and Joe Pavelski and Dougie Murray didnt have much experience, but now were a team with experience. Weve been through a lot.

Todd McLellan said: At some point, I do believe experience comes into play. Whether youre ahead, behind, certain moments, dealing with it during the game, after the game. We have some experience.

Keeping emotions in check during a seven-game playoff series is paramount, as the Sharks will have to avoid getting too confident after a win or too discouraged or panicked after a loss. With players like Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Clowe and Pavelski, that shouldnt be an issue.

The highs and lows of a playoff game or a playoff series is a little bit more manageable with the experience, Marleau said. You try to pass that on to the younger guys who havent had that much experience.

When youre in those key situations, you know youre been there before and succeeded, and sometimes failed. You know how to handle those.

Even 23-year-old Logan Couture, who just completed his second full season in the NHL, has already played in 33 playoff games. Thats more than all but four players expected to dress for the Blues in Game 1 (Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott, Kent Huskins, Scott Nichol).

He reflected a bit upon his first action in the postseason in 2009-10, when he had four goals in 15 games before the Sharks lost to the Blackhawks.

My first playoff game and first playoff series, the nerves and intensity goes up so much more, he said. "Experience does make a little bit of a difference. By the time youre a period into your first game, youre playing hockey again. Youre used to it. But, there is a little bit of a difference.

Conversely, the Sharks will be forced to start a first round series on the road for the first time since 2007. It's a place that been kind to them in 2011-12. After winning five of their first six games away from HP Pavilion, the Sharks were just 12-16-7 the rest of the way.

The Blues finished tied with Detroit for the most points at home in the NHL (30-6-5, 65 points).

Were starting on the road going into enemy territory, and youve got to come out with at least one victory to switch that back to home ice advantage for yourself, Marleau said. Its a tough task at the start, but its a great opportunity to get our game going on the road.

Couture said: You want to win no matter what seed you are, whether its eight, or seven or six. Obviously, theyre going to want to win their home games. We want to go in there and beat them in their home rink.

And if they lose the first match in that hostile environment on Thursday, drawing on their experience could help shift the momentum back in their favor in time for Game 3 at The Tank.

Brent Burns, who hasnt been in the playoffs since 2008 and has never advanced past the first round in two attempts with the Wild, said: When you have guys that have been through it, its going to be nice. When things are going really well they can bring you down a notch, and when things are going really bad they can bring you up a notch.

When youre in a seven-game series you want to stay as even keel as possible, because it can change. We have a lot of great leaders here that have won a lot, and been through a lot.

Whether that will make a difference is to be determined.

In push for playoffs, LA Kings acquire goalie Bishop from Tampa Bay

In push for playoffs, LA Kings acquire goalie Bishop from Tampa Bay

The Los Angeles Kings have acquired goaltender Ben Bishop in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Los Angeles sent Peter Budaj, defensive prospect Erik Cernak, a 2017 seventh-round pick and a conditional pick to Tampa Bay for Bishop and a 2017 fifth-round pick.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman announced the trade Sunday night, less than four days before the trade deadline.

Bishop, a pending unrestricted free agent, helped the Lightning reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Kings now have Bishop and 2012 and 2014 Cup winner Jonathan Quick, who returned Saturday from a long-term lower-body injury that had sidelined him since October.

The 6-foot-7 Bishop, 30, is 16-12-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

VANCOUVER – It was a successful first game coming out of the bye week for the Sharks, as they won going away against the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1. Here are our three takeaways from the evening in British Columbia…

1 – Slow start, strong finish

The league-wide trend of starting slow coming out of the NHL’s newly instituted bye week was on display in the first period, as the Sharks and Canucks played one of the uglier frames of NHL hockey you’ll ever see. San Jose was on its heels early, surrendering the first six shots of the game and looking particularly confused. They didn’t register a single hit in the period, either, which is hard to do.

The Sharks were lucky that Vancouver wasn’t much better, and that Martin Jones – whose performance we focused on in primary the game recap – was looking sharp and well rested.

The message after the scoreless first period, according to coach Pete DeBoer, was just to “try and get better.” That’s what happened.

“We knew it would be a little messy, and it was,” DeBoer said. “Jonesy thankfully was our best player, and gave us a chance to get our legs under us. I thought as the game wore on we got better and better. It wasn’t a pretty win, by any means.”

Chris Tierney said: “After the first 10 minutes [we] started to feel good and then kind of felt back to normal in the second there. It definitely took a little bit. Joner bailed us out in the beginning a couple times. I thought we started to get going in the second and third.”

2 – Standing up for Karlsson

Melker Karlsson was lucky to return in the third period after he took a heavy hit from Joseph Labate. Karlsson had to be helped to the dressing room after the blow, when his head violently snapped back as Labate ran him into the boards in front of the bench.

Micheal Haley pounced on Labate immediately after the incident, earning a two-minute minor that the team was probably happy to kill off. Labate, to his credit, answered the bell in the third period when he was challenged by and fought Brenden Dillon. The Sharks will face the Canucks three more times this season, including on Thursday, so a response to the hit was particularly necessary even if it was clean.

“That sends a good message to the team that everybody has each other’s back,” Mikkel Boedker said of Haley and Dillon’s efforts. “Those guys are real standup guys, and they’ve done it so many times. Every time they do it, it means something special to all of us.”

DeBoer said: “That’s a huge part of our team and our team identity. We’ve got a group that you’re not going to be able to push to of games, and I think we’ve shown that over the last two years here. You don’t even have to say anything, that’s just automatic.”

3 – Avoiding the mumps

Some eyebrows were raised in the press box midway through the game when the Canucks tweeted that defenseman Luca Sbisa would not return with the stomach flu. That’s one of the early warning signs of the mumps, meaning Sbisa could have exposed some Sharks to the virus, which is making its way through the Vancouver dressing room.

“What are you going to do? We’ve just got to cross our fingers and get outta here and hope that he didn’t rub up against anybody,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks coach said after the game that he thought “most of our guys” have had vaccinations, but “I believe there’s a couple that haven’t.”

After the virus invaded several NHL dressing rooms two seasons ago, the Sharks’ training staff will likely be on the lookout for symptoms when the team reconvenes on Monday. Hopefully, the outbreak will begin and end in Vancouver this time.

“Definitely, you want to make sure that you stay away from all that stuff,” Boedker said.