McGinn trending upward on third line

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McGinn trending upward on third line

SAN JOSE Lost in the shuffle of Thursdays game, in which the Sharks reunited second line of Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Marty Havlat was dominant in a 4-3 shootout win over Montreal, is that gritty forward Jamie McGinn continued his upward trend.

McGinn tallied a first period goal just 41 seconds after the Canadiens opened the scoring, jamming home a backhanded pass towards the net from Michal Handzus. It was just his third goal of the year, but the 6-1, 210-pound winger has been generating more and more scoring chances and physicality since a quiet first six weeks of the season.

Im just keeping things simple, and playing with confidence, he said on Friday. I know that the chances are there and the puck is bound to go in. Thats one of the things Im concentrating on is just keeping it simple, playing hard, and not giving their D any free outs and creating momentum for the team.

Todd McLellan mentioned earlier in the week how pleased he was with McGinns recent contributions. Although the third line hasnt generated a whole lot of offense up to this point, with just seven goals on the year, the coach senses a growing comfort level between McGinn, Handzus and Torrey Mitchell.

Credit 13-year NHL'er Handzus for helping in that regard.

Zeus is a very good pro, understands how that line needs to play, and he realizes the assets he has on either side of him, whether its Ginners grittiness or Mitches speed, said McLellan. Hes the glue on the line and keeps everything together.

Playing with a guy like Zeus makes things a lot easier, said McGinn. He controls things and slows things down, and keeps me under control, too. Ill try and go get the puck for him, and I have a habit sometimes of running out of position so its good when hes there an older player which knows the game and settles me down a little bit.

Handzus comes off as a fairly quiet reserved guy, but McGinn mentioned that they are constantly chatting off of the ice.

Yeah, all the time, he said. Hes really great, and were getting along great. We talked that maybe the chemistry wasnt there at the start of the year. It takes a little bit of time to get used to each other and know where each other are, so we feel pretty confident on the ice every shift. Hopefully, we start producing a lot more now.

McGinn may be the hardest player on the current Sharks roster to figure out. He began the 2010-11 season on the teams top line, but has bounced between the Sharks and their AHL affiliate in Worcester in each of his first three seasons as a pro.

He played seven games in the playoffs last spring, totaling one assist and 30 penalty minutes, before starting this season on the teams third line where he has been almost entirely.

McLellan admitted on Friday that the Sharks staff may not have done McGinn any favors in how it handled him last year, especially early, after he scored 10 goals in 59 games in 2009-10.

We have to take some of that responsibility. We started the year by putting him in a position where maybe we expected too much offensively, and got him mixed up, said the coach. By the time the middle of the year came around he was a confused player. He was listening to a lot of different people and everyone was trying to help him and had good intentions.

I think we all anticipated 10 goals was going to go to 15, and thats not the way it works for him, said McLellan.

So what did the coaching staff ask from him this September?

Hes using his speed and his size on the forecheck, hes going to the blue paint, and hes good defensively: those are the three things we asked him to do at the beginning of the year, and hes done a pretty good job with it.

The coach is showing confidence in me, and I cant let him or my teammates down with the more the minutes I get, said McGinn. I have to continue playing that way.

McLellan has been so pleased with McGinn lately, specifically the last three-and-a-half weeks, that hes considered moving him up to one of the top two lines. Its unlikely that McLellan will break up the Clowe-Couture-Havlat combination, though, especially after the success they had on Thursday night.

Theres been a temptation on our behalf to bump him up lines, but I think he fits very well where he is right now, said McLellan. Lets not mess him up. Hell have his share of numbers at the end of the year if he maintains that menu that we gave him.

Sharks blowout loss to Stars includes 'a month's worth of mistakes'

Sharks blowout loss to Stars includes 'a month's worth of mistakes'

DALLAS – In just two-and-a-half weeks, the Sharks will have the opportunity to defend their Western Conference title when the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway.

(Take a deep breath. They won’t fall out of playoff position.)

Still, it’s a terrible time for them to be playing their worst hockey of the season, and going through the foulest stretch of coach Pete DeBoer’s two-year tenure.

The Sharks were flat-out embarrassed by the Stars on Friday night in their fifth straight regulation defeat, 6-1 in Dallas, showing no signs of life for the duration. Not even a verbal tongue-lashing from their normally reserved head coach in full view of the cameras in the second period got their motors going.

How do you explain this one, Joe Pavelski?

“I don’t know, good question,” said the captain. “There’s a commitment that needs to be there to win in this league right now consistently. Right now, we’re searching for that.”

DeBoer, too, was puzzled.

“You have a handful of those a year where nothing goes right and nobody’s got any kind of legs or energy,” he said. “It was one of those nights. I don’t have an explanation for it. I felt we prepared the right way the last couple days. I thought we felt pretty good about ourselves. Then, the puck dropped and everything went bad.”

It was evident early that the Sharks were off, as they couldn’t figure out a way to get the puck through the neutral zone for the first several shifts and didn’t register a shot on goal until 7:17 into the first period. The first of three Adam Cracknell goals – yes, Adam Cracknell – had them trailing 1-0 after the opening frame.

Traditionally, the Sharks would have found a way to jolt themselves to life at the intermission, as it was so plainly obvious that they didn’t seem focused or driven over the first 20 minutes.

This was a game, too, in which they were healthier, getting Jannik Hansen back in the lineup, and more rested than the Stars, who were playing their second game in as many nights while San Jose was coming off a rare two-day break. Furthermore, the Sharks have seen a nine-point lead in the Pacific Division evaporate to just two points headed into Friday’s action. Motivation should have been easy against a team that shut them out on Monday, to boot.

But the mental mistakes to start the second were even worse. Brett Ritchie was left alone by Brenden Dillon for a goal just 1:58 into the middle frame, and at 5:19, Brent Burns was caught staring at the puck off of a faceoff as Jamie Benn got free in front of the net to push the Dallas lead to 3-0. DeBoer's timeout and screaming session after that third goal did nothing, as Dallas got two more goals off of the rush and another on a breakaway by Cracknell after a gift turnover by goalie Aaron Dell before the night was through.

“That’s a month worth of mistakes in one night, so hopefully we get it out of the system,” DeBoer said.

The defensive miscues should be easily correctable, according to Dillon.

“If you look at a good chunk of those goals, we kind of know whether it was d-zone coverage, or off the rush, or just communicating with one another,” he said. “Stuff that’s not like us. I think if we watched the other 70 games this year, those kind of things don’t happen.”

Of course, the defensive errors become all the more glaring when a team isn’t scoring, either. The Sharks managed just one Joe Thornton power play goal, and have just five total goals in their last five games.

That part of their game wasn’t any better against Dallas than their defense, as Kari Lehtonen had a relatively tranquil evening.

“We have a lot of guys that are going through some tough times right now and struggling to get on the scoresheet,” Logan Couture said. “We're going to need all of those guys to bring more. That's from our top guys, including myself and on down. We need to do more offensively. Score goals, and do more defensively, as well.”

They have just eight more games to figure it all out.

“It’s not ideal, by any means,” Dillon said. “I think it’s maybe a bit of a wakeup call for us. … You can’t take a night off and you have to be emotionally invested. You’ve got to take every shift as hard as you possibly can.”

* * *

DeBoer had no update on Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who didn't play in the third period. The defenseman was seen leaving the dressing room under his own power, but looked to be walking a bit gingerly.

Instant Replay: Sharks allow six to Stars, losing streak now at five

Instant Replay: Sharks allow six to Stars, losing streak now at five

BOX SCORE

DALLAS – Entering the game with their longest regulation losing streak of the season, and playing against what should have been a tired opponent that is already out of playoff contention, the Sharks were obliterated by the Stars on Friday at American Airlines Center, 6-1.
 
From the drop of the puck, the Sharks looked like they had no interest in competing against a Dallas team that had played in Chicago on Thursday night, and had already beaten San Jose earlier in the week.

The loss stretched the Sharks’ losing streak to five, and it is the longest in more than six years when they dropped six in a row in regulation from Jan. 3-13, 2011. After enjoying a nine-point lead on the rest of the Pacific Division on March 14, the Ducks tied San Jose in points with 91 by beating the Jets at home on Friday night.
 
Adam Cracknell, who paced the Dallas offense with a hat trick, opened the scoring with his first of three goals. He drove the puck to the net while fighting off Brenden Dillon, and Micheal Haley inadvertently kicked the loose puck through Aaron Dell at 8:30 of the first period.
 
Prior to that score, it took the Sharks more than seven minutes to register their first shot.
 
San Jose escaped down just 1-0 at the first intermission, but it quickly got worse. Brett Ritchie was left open by Dillon and whipped in a pass from Tyler Seguin at 1:58, and then Dallas’ third goal really set off coach Pete DeBoer.
 
Joe Pavelski lost a defensive zone draw, and Brent Burns inexplicably vacated the front of the net, where Jamie Benn was wide open. Benn had all kinds of time to freeze Aaron Dell and slip through his 25th goal at 5:19.
 
DeBoer called timeout at that point, and was as visibly upset at his bench as he has been in his two seasons as head coach, barking away at the stunned Sharks skaters.
 
It didn’t help. Cracknell made it 4-0 off of a rush less than two minutes after the timeout, and although Joe Thornton got one back on the power play, the Stars scored two more times in the third period. 
 
Dell misplayed a puck on a Sharks power play, sliding it right to Cracknell for a breakaway in which he finished off a hat trick at 4:59. Just 21 seconds later, John Klingberg converted a two-on-one with Jason Spezza – who had three assists on the night – to make it a 6-1 Dallas lead.
 
The five-game winless streak is their worst since they went 0-6-1 from Dec. 1-12 last season.
 
San Jose has just five goals in its last five games.
 
The Sharks had Jannik Hansen back for the game, after the recent addition had missed the last two games with a head injury. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, though, was not able to finish the game, for reasons that were not immediately clear.
 
Special teams 
 
Thornton’s goal was his first on the power play all season, as the Sharks went 1-for-2. Dallas was 0-for-2.
 
Cracknell’s shorthanded goal was the fourth the Sharks have allowed this season.
 
In goal
 
Dell suffered his worst game of the season, and his NHL career, allowing six goals on 29 shots. He played all three games against Dallas, stopping 48 of 50 shots in the first two.
 
Kari Lehtonen, who shut out the Sharks with 30 saves on Monday in a 1-0 win, made 20 saves on Friday. He has played in 10 straight games.
 
Lineup
 
Timo Meier came out of the lineup for Hansen, while Danny O’Regan was reassigned to the Barracuda earlier in the day.
 
Burns snapped out of his seven-game scoreless streak with an assist on Thornton’s goal, but still has no goals in his last 15 games.
 
Dallas’ Tyler Seguin was skating in his 500th career NHL game.
 
Up next
 
The Sharks conclude their road trip Saturday in Nashville, their only appearance there in the regular season. In the first two games of the season series in San Jose, the Sharks won on Oct. 29, 4-1, but dropped a 3-1 decision on March 11.