Sharks balance rest, practice time

Highlights: Sharks return home, cruise past Tampa Bay

Sharks balance rest, practice time
November 22, 2013, 1:00 pm
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The Sharks are in the middle of a stretch of just three games in 11 days. (USATSI)

SAN JOSE -- On Thursday morning, Sharks coach Todd McLellan was concerned that his club might not be sharp enough against the Tampa Bay Lightning, after he kept his team off of the ice for two straight days earlier in the week.

A 5-1 win over the Lightning proved that it was the right decision to opt for rest instead of work, following a tough five-game road trip in which the Sharks changed time zones with every flight.

[RECAP: Sharks 5, Lightning 1]

“The first step was resting the group. We got through that,” McLellan said. “I thought most of them took advantage of that.”

Logan Couture certainly did, as he centered the Sharks’ most effective line against Tampa Bay, along with Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels. Couture finished with a career-high three assists, and altogether that trio had eight points, including Wingels' two goals and three points from Marleau.

“It’s good to have some rest,” Couture said. “We’re coming off of that road trip, and it was a tough road trip. We’re flying all over the place from time zone to time zone, so to get back home to have a couple days where we can basically do nothing, is nice.”

The Sharks kicked off a five-game homestand with Thursday’s convincing win, and won’t have to get on a plane for the rest of the month of November. They are in the middle of a stretch of just three games in 11 days, a rarity in a season in which the schedule is more compact thanks to February’s Olympic break.

The club had an hour-long practice on Friday, play the Devils on Saturday, and will enjoy another day off on Sunday. Practices on Monday and Tuesday are on the schedule for next week. That’s beneficial.

“When you have practices, you can prepare for certain teams that play certain ways, so today we worked on something that New Jersey does, so hopefully that will help us,” Couture said.

"We need to get some good practices in. Today was a good one," McLellan said. "We’ll work on some of the details of our game that you normally don’t get to when  you’re forced to play three games in four nights or you’re on the road. We’ll take advantage of that."

Balancing rest with practice time is one of the more difficult decisions a coaching staff must weigh. McLellan and his fellow coaches don’t make it all themselves, though. Input from the training staff and the leadership group is important.

McLellan said: “The tough thing is, you’re trying to do what’s right for the group, yet there’s individuals that need to skate and some that don’t. You don’t really want to divide the team. They’ve all earned the right to a rest day or two.

“We have to look at the big picture. It’s a marathon, and if we can get them some rest, which we did, we’ll take full advantage of that.”

It helps that McLellan and so many of the Sharks have been together for several years, according to the captain.

“The communication lines are so easy,” Joe Thornton said. “If the guys need a day off they need a day off, and there won’t be any bitching and complaining from him. He trusts us and we trust him, and it’s been working.”

Couture said: “He likes to talk to certain players. I know [Thursday] night after the game he talked to [Dan Boyle] about the plan for today. He’s pretty smart when it comes to monitoring each guy. We needed the rest, and we responded in a good way.”