McLellan repeats powerful message as Sharks host Oilers

McLellan: 'Ducks came out and decided they wanted to play hard'

McLellan repeats powerful message as Sharks host Oilers
January 2, 2014, 12:30 pm
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The season’s not running away on us, but I want us to be good every night.
Todd McLellan

SAN JOSE -- Sharks coach Todd McLellan was as angry as he’d been all season after his club dropped a convincing 6-3 decision in Anaheim on New Year’s Eve. In his postgame presser, McLellan relayed that he wanted each of his players to look themselves in the mirror and decide just what they bring to the team.

On Thursday morning, as the Sharks prepare to host Edmonton at SAP Center, McLellan was asked how he expects his team to respond. He essentially hammered home his point from two days ago.

“After a game like that, you’re frustrated. Sometimes it’s good for individuals and for the group to feel your frustration, too,” he said. “It’s good to vent, and for them to know what’s sometimes being said behind closed doors and in the coach’s office. If the words come out of our mouths, ‘what does he do, or what do you do?’ That’s alarming. So, what are you? Our group has to ask themselves that.

“We’re not getting drilled and the season’s not running away on us, but I want us to be good every night.”

McLellan then rattled through a list of various roles.

“If your checklist is small, it’s probably not a good thing. So, figure out what you are, and do it. It’s as simple as that. That’s all I was asking our guys to do.”

Against the Oilers, the Sharks will have to avoid the kinds of turnovers that plagued them against the Ducks on Tuesday. Although Edmonton is second from the bottom in the NHL standings, the team still has top end talent up front.

[RELATED: Miserable second period costs Sharks in Anaheim]

Edmonton will give up scoring chances aplenty, and is last in the league with a 3.36 goals-against average. As long as the Sharks avoid giving up rushes the other way, and are defensively responsible in their own zone, they should win handily.

“You can’t turn the puck over against these guys,” Joe Pavelski said. “They can transition really fast, and make you pay for it.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: “If you [make] any turnovers off the rush, they’re transitioning the other way. They’re a really fast, tenacious team.”

A metaphorical McLellan offered a hint into the pregame message he’ll give his club.

“One of the lines that our group is going to hear from me is, do we want to feed their transition game, their speed game, their skilled game, or would we like to feed our forecheck? The puck is the bait, what are you going to do with it? Somebody is going to eat, and it might as well be us on the forecheck and on the attack.”

Antti Niemi will return to the cage after getting pulled for the third time, allowing five goals in just over two periods of play on Tuesday. The netminder was hardly to blame for the loss, as he was hung out on several Ducks goals, but Niemi has struggled to find his consistency since the end of October.

In his last 24 starts since Oct. 30, Niemi is 12-7-5 with a 2.86 goals-against average and .904 save percentage -- average marks, at best. He’ll be looking for a fresh start to the New Year.

“It’s always important to start the game well, and keep going from there,” said Niemi, who is 2-1-0 with a 1.90 GAA in three games against Edmonton at SAP Center.

* * *

Tommy Wingels remains out with what could be a head injury, after his helmet violently hit the end boards on Dec. 29 against Anaheim. The Sharks are only terming Wingels’ ailment as “upper body.”

McLellan said Wingels “put the skates on today, and didn’t feel good.”

Thursday’s morning skate was optional, and the majority of veterans took that option and did not go on the ice.