Nolan weighs in on lockout

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Nolan weighs in on lockout

SAN JOSE Owen Nolan is fortunate that there isnt a strict dress code for the informal team lockout skates at Sharks Ice.

Nolan, the former Sharks captain, has joined the few remaining Sharks players in the area for their practices. On Monday, he was spotted wearing the blue pants of the Toronto Maple Leafs, green-and-red gloves of the Minnesota Wild, a helmet with a bright red C of the Calgary Flames, and a black-on-white NHLPA jersey.

Im just trying to survive, said Nolan, 40, after skating for about an hour with Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart, Marty Havlat and several extras. The body doesnt want to keep up as much as it used to, but Im having fun out here.

The skates are probably more fun for the retired Nolan than the players who should be earning their NHL paychecks at the moment.

One of the most popular Sharks to ever don a black and teal sweater, Nolan spent 18 years in the National Hockey League, from his rookie year of 1990-91 with the Quebec Nordiques through his final year with Minnesota in 2009-10. During that time, which includes eight seasons with the Sharks, he experienced a hat trick of work stoppages the players strike of 1992 which postponed 30 games; the 1994-95 lockout that resulted in a shortened season, and the lost year of 2004-05.

Now that his long and storied career is over, Nolan considers himself a fan, and is disappointed the NHL and players association hasnt yet reached a deal as the lockout approaches three months in length.

I havent been watching it too closely enough to stay informed, but its never good for anybody, Nolan said. It doesnt matter which side it is. Its just a matter of, how quick can you get it done? As an ex-player and more of a fan now, you want to see it back. It affects everybody the little guy, the parking guys, the communities. Its not just players and owners that get affected, its the fans and the people that rely on the hockey to make a living.

Nolan seems to suggest that both sides are a little too set in their ways at present, as negotiations are set to resume on Tuesday with a select group of players and owners but without head honchos Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr.

I think theres got to be a give-and-take on both sides. In the long run it doesnt benefit anybody. Players are going to lose out on money and theyre never going to make back. These owners have other businesses other than hockey, so theyre still going to make their income. Theres got to be give-and-take. Both sides are never going to get what they want, so youve got to find that common ground thats going to make it work.

A number of players that have since hung up their skates are on record as saying that the cancelled season of 2004-05 wasnt worth it in the end. Jeremy Roenick, Mike Modano and Mark Recchi have all stated in some way or another that the players should find a way to get a deal done as soon as possible so as to avoid missing out on money theyll never see again. Current players have missed four of 13 paychecks this season, and games are cancelled through Dec. 14.

Nolan understands that side of it, but doesnt completely concur. Instead, he points out that the reason NHL salaries are as high they are today is due to the work that the players fought for when he was still a member of the association. NHL players averaged 2.4 million last season, up from 1.4 million eight years ago.

Its not only for yourself, its for future generations that youre fighting for, he said. Do you want to be a part of it? No, you dont want to be a part of it, but youve got to fight for what you believe in and make sure that when youre long retired, the guys that are still playing understand what happened years before. I think thats the same situation thats going on now.

Ive been through a couple of them, and I dont think if we went on those battles early on in my career, that guys would be making the same salaries theyre making now.

At the same time, he points out that not everyone in the players association is on equal footing, and a cancelled season would affect some players much more than others.

The guys that are making 5 million-plus on long-term deals are not going to be as affected as the guy thats maybe in the league for three years, making less than 1 million. Theres a lot of those guys in there that will have to find jobs after hockey.

I understand why theyre fighting tooth and nail to get everything they can, but at the same time, if the season goes by and youre not getting paid, thats another year off your contract and career. Theres a lot of different angles youve got to look at.

Three takeaways: Tierney takes over; Sharks finally score first

Three takeaways: Tierney takes over; Sharks finally score first

SAN JOSE – In desperate need of a win and without arguably their best forward over the past two months, the Sharks found a way to get past the New York Rangers, 5-4, in what was – from a purely entertainment standpoint – one of the best games of the season. Let’s dig a little deeper on what is a much happier morning in Sharks-land with our three takeaways…

1 – Tierney takes over

While several of the Sharks depth players contributed, no one was better than fourth line center Chris Tierney, who had a pair of goals, a plus-three rating, and five shots (tied with David Schlemko for the team lead).

His game-tying goal late in the third period was huge, and he credited Jannik Hansen getting him the puck, as Hansen made a slick play on the Mikkel Boedker rebound. Interestingly, Pete DeBoer put those three players out as a line for the first time that night, with less than three minutes to go in regulation.

"I think it was Jannik who made the play. It was a great play,” Tierney said. “I was kind of just wide open. That's a pretty easy goal for me when he makes that play."

Tierney continues to be somewhat enigmatic. Every once in awhile he’ll have a dominant performance like this one (such as Feb. 2 in Vancouver), but then he’s invisible offensively for weeks at a time. To be fair, Tierney doesn’t always have the most highly skilled linemates while centering the fourth line, but when he puts up the kind of game like he did on Tuesday night it does make you wonder why it doesn’t happen more often.

Still, his game against the Rangers provides hope that he’ll be able to fill a void while Logan Couture is out, and we’ve already seen that Tierney can be a very effective player in the postseason, too.

2 – Getting one early

It’s hard to believe that the Sharks didn’t have a lead in a game before Tuesday since March 14 in Buffalo. After that game, which they came back to win fairly easily, they allowed the first goal in all six games of their losing streak and never recovered.

It was evident early that the Sharks were poised to end both their first-goal streak and their losing streak, as the first three shifts were all played in New York’s end. Hansen capped it off by swatting in a loose puck that Boedker had put on net.

“It was critical. I don’t think it was an accident our record over the last six or seven without scoring first,” DeBoer said. “Traditionally we’ve been pretty good in that area. But it’s slipped here in the last six or seven. We found a way tonight. I thought we played a great game.”

Joe Pavelski said: "It was nice coming out in the first and scoring first. It’s been awhile since we had a lead. So, that was good to see. I think everyone was encouraged by that start."

The Sharks improved to 32-9-1 when scoring first. They are 11-17-6 when allowing the opening score.

3 – Melk man delivers one

Is there a more overlooked player on the Sharks roster than Melker Karlsson? He’s not a flashy guy, of course, but Karlsson plays that north-south game that coaches love, and he’s a tenacious penalty killer, too. He now has 10 goals on the season, good for fifth on the team.

His shorthanded goal, on a two-on-one with Tierney, gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead just before the first intermission.

“They took away the pass to Tierns there,” Karlsson said. “I looked up a little bit, and it went in. Low blocker is usually a good shot.”

Karlsson was playing in his first game since missing the previous eight with a lower body injury. As one of those depth guys, is there more responsibility for him and others to help fill the void left by Couture?

“Yeah. We’ve always got to be there, but especially when Logan is out. He’s a big player for us,” Karlsson said.

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

SAN JOSE – For at least one night, the Sharks’ depth players – most of which have been missing in action for weeks – found the scoresheet against the Rangers in a 5-4 overtime win on Tuesday.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The Sharks were playing their first of what will surely be at least a few games without center Logan Couture, and are still in the hunt for a Pacific Division title with four of their six remaining games against Edmonton and Calgary – teams they are trying to fend off to earn home ice in the first round. And, of course, they ended a wretched six-game losing streak in which they never had a lead in any of the defeats.

Coach Pete DeBoer mentioned earlier in the week that the coaching staff had challenged the depth players to do more, especially now that their second line center is out indefinitely. The response on Tuesday included two goals from Chris Tierney (including a late game-tying score), one goal and one assist from Jannik Hansen, a shorthanded goal by Melker Karlsson, two assists from Mikkel Boedker, and an assist from Tomas Hertl.

Consider the challenge met.

“We want to score. All the depth guys know, and talked about stepping up,” Tierney said. “It's good that we broke through tonight, especially with Logan out of the lineup. We're going to have to keep doing it throughout the playoffs."

DeBoer said the internal challenge “didn’t involve much more than just ‘Hey, we need some contributions from you.’ We can’t always look to the big guys to get the job done. We got that tonight. Those guys got on the board. It’s never a lack of effort with that group, but we’re the sum of our parts. We need those guys to get on the board for us on a regular basis and they did that tonight.”

It was also surely welcomed that one of their big guys – perhaps their biggest – got the overtime winner. Brent Burns had been mired in a 16-game drought without a goal, but his slap shot got through Henrik Lundqvist half-a-minute into an overtime power play.

While the depth guys will need to continue to produce, the Sharks are going to need more from Burns, too, as the postseason approaches. The defenseman had been kept off of the scoresheet in nine of 10 games from March 5 – 21, but now has one point in each of his last three games. That’s a good sign.

Getting a goal was particularly nice, as was ending the losing skid.

“Yeah on both accounts,” Burns said. “That was a big win, especially coming back, staying resilient, getting that big goal there at the end.”

Still, with all that went right, the game was far from perfect. The Sharks allowed a 3-1 second period lead to turn into a 4-3 deficit in just a span of five minutes and seven seconds, indicating they’re still a bit fragile. Derek Stepan made it 3-2 late in the second with a power play goal, Jesper Fast scored on a deflection early in the third, and J.T. Miller gave New York its first lead of the night less than five minutes into the final frame.

“There’s still room for improvement, definitely,” Joe Pavelski said.

Still, the Sharks fought back for Tierney’s late game-tying goal with less than two minutes in regulation, setting up Burns’ overtime heroics. 

The captain sensed some displeasure from the home fans due to the blown lead, something he surely understood, but indicated that the energy level on the Sharks’ bench was still high.

“Whether you think, like, ‘Here we go again’ or not – I’m sure someone in this building thought that tonight,” Pavelski said. “Guys just kind of stuck with it, and we believed we would tie it up tonight.”

Getting that extra point in overtime brought a sense of relief.

“When you lose six straight, it's obviously a relief when you win one,” Martin Jones said. “But win or lose, we played a lot better tonight.”