Missed opportunities doom Sharks in loss

694132.jpg

Missed opportunities doom Sharks in loss

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE When a team is mired in a lengthy stretch of losing hockey, as the San Jose Sharks are following a 3-2 shootout loss to Edmonton, there is often a laundry list of reasons for failure.

On its terrible nine-game road trip last month, the Sharks couldnt keep the puck out of their own net. On the first three games of the return homestand, San Jose couldnt score.

On Tuesday night at home against Edmonton, it was all about missed opportunities as San Jose dropped its ninth game in the last 11 (2-7-2) and is now tied for eighth place in the Western Conference with 74 points (33-24-8).
RELATED: NHL standings

Patrick Marleau, in particular, may not sleep too well on Tuesday night after failing to convert on a number of chances. Marleau misplayed a two-on-one rush with Joe Thornton in the first period with the game tied 1-1; made a poor decision on a five-on-three advantage midway through the third when his point shot was blocked, and was stoned by Devan Dubnyk with less than four minutes to go in regulation on a three-on-two rush.

We generated enough to win but didnt finish on some of them. Glorious opportunities, Todd McLellan said. Pattys entry late in the third on a pass from Jumbo, those have to be goals. And they will be goals, eventually.

It was good. It could always be better. I still think the urgency could be a little bit better, but we definitely had a lot of opportunities, Dan Boyle said, when asked his general thoughts on the Sharks game and effort.

The disappointing end came via the shootout. Sam Gagner was the only player to convert on Edmontons second opportunity, while Dubnyk stopped Joe Pavelski, Michal Handzus and Brent Burns to give the lowly Oilers the extra point in the standings.

The Sharks finished their four-game homestand with a 1-2-1 record, coming on top of a 2-6-1 road trip, as they continue to scuffle. The team begins a pivotal four-game road trip in Dallas on Thursday, with stops in Phoenix, Edmonton and Calgary before returning home on March 15 to play the Predators.

The game was tied at 2-2 after the second period, and both clubs had excellent chances to take a third period lead before overtime.

First, it was Edmonton. Antti Niemi sprawled out and made a nice kick save on Shawn Horcoff early in the third. The Oilers went on the power play right after that, on a Justin Braun delay of game penalty at 6:05 the first infraction of the night.

There was a mad scramble for a loose puck at one point on the ensuing man advantage, but neither Horcoff nor Jordan Eberle could poke it in, and it slid harmlessly through the crease behind Niemi.

A phantom tripping call on Horcoff nullified the rest of the power play, and the Sharks got 42 seconds of two-man advantage time when Ryan Jones was called for high-sticking. San Jose couldnt generate much during the advantage, though, as Marleaus slap shot from the point was blocked.

Weve got to make the smart play there and get a shot at the net and not get it blocked, or whatever it might be, Boyle said. I think we could have been much smarter on the five-on-three. I didnt particularly like what we accomplished out there.

San Jose continued to apply pressure throughout the rest of the third. Dubnyk made a key save with 3:40 to go on a three-on-two rush, denying Marleau on the doorstep after a feed from Thornton.

Edmonton took the lead on the quickest goal allowed to start a game in Sharks franchise history. Sam Gagner deflected a puck into the San Jose zone, and Boyle couldnt control it. Eberle got a stick on it, and then batted it out of mid air just 10 seconds after the opening faceoff.

Im exactly where I need to be, and its a bad bounce, Boyle said. Thats all there is to it. He made a great play. He picks it up out of the air and bats it out of the air. Its just a bad bounce.

The Sharks responded. Boyle picked off a weak clearing attempt by Gagner, and fed Jim Vandermeer for a slap shot that should have been stopped by Dubnyk at 3:17.

The Sharks had some prime chances to take the lead before the end of the first. Marleau misplayed a two-on-one with Thornton, though, and Dubnyk corralled Brent Burns shot from the top of the circle after an extended shift in the Edmonton zone.

It just blew up on his stick, I guess, Thornton said of Marleaus play on the odd-man rush.

San Jose took its first lead of the game late in the second. Dubnyk misplayed the puck behind the net, and Logan Couture managed to tip it in front, where Ryane Clowe flicked it in at 15:19.

The Sharks fell asleep for the rest of the period, though. After a long shift by the Oilers, Jeff Petrys slap shot went in off of Ryan Smyth less than a minute after Clowes goal. Niemi was visibly upset afterward.

Edmonton swarmed the Sharks on the next few shifts after the goal, and had a couple of good chances, including a one-timer from Gagner that didnt miss by much.

Of course it takes a little bit of momentum away from what you just built, but it shouldnt be deflating for probably as long as we let it go, Clowe said of the team's reaction to the tying goal.

We had a bit of a sag for a four or five minute period. They gained some momentum off of that, but regrouped going into the third and played from there, McLellan said.

Pavelski was struck in the jaw with a puck on his first shift, and fell awkwardly into the boards behind the Edmonton net. He missed the rest of the period, but returned for the start of the second after getting stitched up.

He nearly gave the Sharks the lead in the third period, when his deflection from the slot hit the post.

Pavelski said: I thought I got enough of it, and I was just waiting for the crowd to go."

In the end, it was just another missed opportunity.

Odds and ends: Todd McLellan returned from a three-game absence due to a concussion suffered last Sunday in Minnesota. ... Brad Winchester, Benn Ferriero, Jason Demers and Andrew Desjardins were the Sharks scratches. Patrick Marleau played in his 1,100th NHL game, all with San Jose. ... The Sharks are 6-4 in shootouts.

NHL Gameday: Stumbling Sharks likely getting Hansen back for Stars

NHL Gameday: Stumbling Sharks likely getting Hansen back for Stars

Programming note: Sharks-Stars coverage starts today at 5:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-24-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Stars: 29-33-11, 69 points, 6th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Indications are that Jannik Hansen will return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a head injury, as the Sharks try to end their season-long four-game losing streak in regulation. The forward took part in the team’s optional skate on Friday morning at American Airlines Center, his second straight day on the ice after he was hurt last Saturday against Anaheim.

“You’ve got to go through a couple stages, make sure there are no setbacks, no nothing,” said Hansen, who was whacked in the head by defenseman Brandon Montour.

Coach Pete DeBoer spoke before Hansen, and would only call him a game-time decision. Regardless, the trade deadline acquisition will be welcomed back into the lineup after he seemed to give a boost to the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line.

“He’s missed quite a bit of hockey personally this year, which should make him fresh for the playoffs, but we also want to make sure we get him in enough games that he’s comfortable in our system and gets some chemistry going with the guys around him,” DeBoer said. “I think it’s important we get him back. He’s a key piece for us.”

Timo Meier appears to be the forward that will come out for Hansen. Melker Karlsson (lower body) doesn't seem to be ready just yet, but skated again Friday morning.

***Along with getting a key piece back in their lineup, the Sharks will be the more rested team, having not played since Tuesday’s 3-2 loss in Minnesota. Dallas dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in Chicago last night.

DeBoer was quick to point out, though, that the first two of the Sharks’ four straight losses came to St. Louis and Anaheim, both of which was playing in the second of a back-to-back.

“I don’t think that’s a factor at all,” DeBoer said. “We played [the Stars] a couple games ago. We know what they do. We know what we have to do better here tonight in order to find a way to score some goals. We’ve just got to execute.”

Dallas is 2-4-1 in its last seven games, but beat the Sharks on Monday, 1-0, behind 30 saves from Kari Lehtonen. Aaron Dell will start in net for San Jose, while the Stars’ starter is not yet known.

***The Sharks begin the night with just a two-point lead on Anaheim in the Pacific Division. The Ducks are hosting the Jets on Friday.

Have the Sharks discussed the tightening standings?

“No, all we think about it get back to the winning road,” Joonas Donskoi said. “I think we’ve been playing pretty well last games, just haven’t found a way to put the puck in the net. That’s all we concentrate on.”

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Jannik Hansen. Hansen wouldn’t say if he was going to be back up on the top line, but in his first four games there after he was inserted into San Jose’s lineup, they generated one even strength goal in each. The 31-year-old is still looking for his first goal with the Sharks, posting one assist in six games with a minus-one rating.

Stars: Ales Hemsky. Limited to just 11 games this season, and coming off of hip surgery, the 33-year-old veteran forward potted two goals in Chicago on Thursday night. The Czech native has points in four of his last seven games (3g, 2a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Joonas Donskoi – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Marcus Sorensen

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Aaron Dell (starter)
Martin Jones

Stars
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Remi Elie – Tyler Seguin – Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie – Adam Cracknell – Jiri Hudler

Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Greg Pateryn
Patrik Nemeth – Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

INJURIES

Sharks: Melker Karlsson (lower body) is doubtful.

Stars: Jason Spezza (back spasms) is day-to-day. Mattias Janmark (knee) and Antoine Roussel (hand) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“Obviously we know where our position is in the standings. We know how tight it is right now. We know how important these last two games on the road trip [are]. But there’s no panic here. We’ve just got to go out and play some good hockey.” – Joe Thornton

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

DALLAS – Brent Burns hasn’t altered his routine, despite his name not showing up on the scoresheet for a little while.

“It’s not like I stopped eating the same meal or I’m not sleeping anymore,” Burns said on Thursday, after a rare Sharks road practice. “It’s the same. I do the same thing every game.”

What he hasn’t been doing every game, like he seemed to be for the first three-quarters of the season, is racking up points. The Norris Trophy frontrunner hasn’t potted a goal in his last 14 games, and is scoreless in his last seven. He still leads the Sharks with 70 points, and has four more points than Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the most among NHL defensemen, but there’s no denying he’s hit a cold streak. Previously, he hadn't gone more than three games without a point.

He’s not the only one, of course, as the Sharks have managed just four goals in their last four games, all regulation losses. But when a team is struggling to put the puck in the net, it’s often the top guys that have to lead the resurgence. And no one has been better or more important to the Sharks this season than the 32-year-old blueliner.

Could it be that as Burns goes, so do the Sharks? The team is 33-9-3 when Burns finds the scoresheet, and just 9-15-4 when he doesn't.

Coach Pete DeBoer doesn’t think so, though, pointing to the Sharks putting up plenty of offense at the start of Burns’ dry spell, including nine combined goals in wins over Dallas and Buffalo last week.

“I don’t think we only score when Brent Burns is on. I think we’re deeper than that. I think we’ve shown that,” DeBoer said. “He hasn’t scored in awhile, and up until a few games ago we were putting up some significant goals and numbers and offense. 

“I think even the nights he’s not scoring, we’ve generated lots of chances. Other than the St. Louis game (a 4-1 loss on March 16), the last three games we’ve lost, we’ve generated enough chances that on a lot of nights that’s three or four goals. But, that’s not just [on] Burnzie…It’s some other guys bearing down and sticking it in the net. It will come.”

Joe Thornton believes that the forwards can also do more to help Burns, who has become the team’s most valuable offensive weapon with his ability to get shots or passes through from a distance with velocity and precision like few players in the NHL can.

“He’s obviously a dominant player, and I think we just need to help him out,” Thornton said. “It shouldn’t always be on one guy, I think we’ve got to give him better opportunities to put him in better spots. It shouldn’t all lay on his shoulders. We’re not doing a good enough job to kind of work away from him, and getting him opportunities.”

Burns, of course, is a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. During practice, his hooting and hollering can typically be heard echoing throughout the rink. Simply put, no one has more fun than this guy.

So, is the cold streak weighing on him? Maybe a little bit.

“I think it weighs on him, for sure,” DeBoer said. “We have good dialogue, there’s a lot of communication, especially with him and [assistant coach Bob Boughner]. And also, him and his teammates. The guys know how much responsibility he takes on himself – sometimes too much. Guys are good with that, they recognize that.”

Thornton said: “When you’re a d-man and you get so many goals and so many assists, you kind of expect it’s going to happen every night, but that’s just not the reality of it. He’s doing something that hardly [any] d-men do in the history of the game. … He’s capable of just getting out of that quick, and pouring it on like he has in the first 65 games of the year.”

For now, Burns is taking every new day and new game as it comes, and said: “It’s no different if you’ve won four in a row and you’ve got 10 points.”

And if he did have 10 points in his last four games?

“You want 12. If you’ve got zero, you want one. Then 12,” he said.