McLellan: Sharks take 'strides forward'

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McLellan: Sharks take 'strides forward'

DALLAS The Sharks probably deserved a better fate in Thursday nights loss to Dallas, and thats something that hasnt been true in some of the teams earlier and numerous defeats over the last five weeks.

Its probably why the head coach remained optimistic after the game, in which his team fell to four points back of the division lead after seemingly having it under control before a stretch of 13 losses in 17 games. (Although, some would say, McLellan doesn't have much choice this late in the season).

We took strides forward again, to where weve been and to where were going. Were climbing the hill, McLellan said. Were not there yet, but I thought we had a pretty good effort, and did a lot of things well for most of the game.

We had our opportunities in overtime with the power play. That was a little disappointing we only got two or three shots off. We could have had better looks there. When it gets to the shootout, its anyones game.

Hes right, in that the Sharks played their best game since, quite possibly, the 5-3 win over Chicago on Feb. 10 in what was their final game before the disastrous nine-game road trip sent the team on a downward spiral it has yet to fully recover from.

Other than the first five minutes, and last two minutes, the Sharks generally out-skated, out-chanced and outplayed the Stars. If not for Kari Lehtonens superb goaltending, San Jose could have had a comfortable lead at either of the first two intermissions.

Scoring chances were virtually non-existent in the first three games of a recent homestand, but the Sharks showed signs of generating more offensively against Edmonton in Tuesdays 3-2 shootout loss. That carried over into Thursdays game.

There was some good out there. There definitely was some good out there. Its tough to accept that when you dont get the two points and lose in a shootout both times, said Joe Pavelski, who scored late in the third period, but just missed on a glorious chance in front of the net in overtime.

There will be some nights coming up where those will go in, and well have plenty to win, McLellan said of the chances. Weve got to keep that part of it up, continue to work on our defensive game and go from there.

What also was encouraging to the coach is that some of his star players returned to the scoresheet. Pavelski and Marleau both ended five-game goalless droughts, while Joe Thornton had three assists after getting just one in the previous four games.

Were going to get it done with them. We wont without them, McLellan said of his big boys, before adding: We got some offense from some unusual suspects. Jim Vandermeer last game, Torrey Mitchell has been able to contribute. When you do it that way, you have a better chance of winning.

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

After requiring a visit to a local hospital in Nashville due to being struck in the face with a deflected puck on Saturday night against the Predators, Logan Couture was able to fly back with the team to San Jose on Sunday morning.

The severity of his injury is still unknown, although his father, Chet, said on Twitter that it was “an ugly injury sadly.”

Another source close to the situation told CSN the injury is “brutal.”

Couture, who lost several teeth, visited with Sharks medical personnel on Sunday and a further update is expected on Monday. 

Perhaps the best-case scenario is that the injury looks a lot worse than it actually is, such as when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sidelined for one week when he took a puck to the face from the stick Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere in late December.

Losing Couture for any period of time would be a difficult blow to the Sharks, who have lost their last six in regulation, including Saturday’s 7-2 defeat to the Predators. Couture is third on the team in scoring with 52 points, and has a team-leading 11 power play goals. He entered Saturday’s game with four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, and has arguably been the team’s best player since mid-January.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after the game Saturday. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”

Couture was set up just outside the crease in the third period when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. He quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.

The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season, hosting the Rangers on Tuesday and visiting Edmonton and Calgary later this week. They are tied in points (91) with Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division.

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of emotion in the game, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?