Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

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Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

Programming note: Blues-Sharks Game 3 coverage begins with Sharks Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. followed by Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda calling Sharks hockey at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California!
SAN JOSE The emotional and frustrating defeat in Game 2 aside, the Sharks have to be somewhat content they are tied with the Blues at a game apiece as their first round playoff series shifts to the Bay Area.

Sure, road teams are 11-8 in the Stanley Cup playoffs so far, but Sharks will take their chances playing in front of what should be a raucous crowd, eager to see its first playoff game of 2012 after the postseason was anything but a certainly in late March.

Its a great place to play. Its fun. Its playoff hockey, and its tough to beat at The Tank, Joe Pavelski said. Hopefully it brings a little speed to our team and we can play that faster game.

Does the home ice really make a difference when the puck is dropped? Pavelski believes it does.

Its definitely extra energy thats brought to you and your team, and were happy to be here right now, he said.

Said Patrick Marleau: It definitely gives you a lot of energy. Our fans are great, and its always so much louder here in the playoffs. Theyre going to be ready, and we have to be the same.

Emotions boiling over: There was a total of 132 penalty minutes doled out in San Joses 3-0 loss in St. Louis in Game 2 on Saturday. Emotions ran high thanks to several hits on both sides that several of the Blues and Sharks labeled as dirty.

The Sharks would like to keep that emotional level at a peak for Game 3, so long as it doesnt mean taking avoidable penalties.

You have to push to that line and find that line and not go over it, Pavelski said. You definitely want to be on the power play more than youre killing.

Ryane Clowe said: You cant go out there and take penalties or do something thats stupid. The ultimate goal is to win four games and win a series. You dont want to put yourself in a hole. Emotions are high and will be tonight, too. Thats just the way it goes.

Dan Boyle has seen it all when it comes to playoff hockey. According to the defenseman, the extracurricular activity diminishes as the games become more and more important.

But, not always.

At the start of playoffs everybody is so energized and I think as the series and stuff goes on, the physical play plays a role, he said. Things tend to taper off a little bit usually. That doesnt happen always, but both teams pride themselves on being physical. Theyre probably saying the same thing, but weve got to keep that going.

Top line scoreless: The Sharks top line of Joe Thornton, Pavelski and Marleau has yet to register a point in the series, primarily matched up against the David Backes-David Perron-T.J. Oshie trio of the Blues.

That didnt matter in Game 1, when St. Louis top line also didnt score and Andrew Desjardins goal in the third period forced overtime, where the Sharks won on Marty Havlats marker. In Game 2, Oshies slick set up of David Backes gave the Blues an important insurance goal, while the Sharks failed to get on the board.

McLellan wasnt giving any hints as to what matchup hell seek now that he gets the last change at home. But, he did talk about how important it will be to get his top guys on the scoresheet.

You can be OK with that when your third and fourth lines find ways to contribute, McLellan said, citing the goal from this fourth line in Game 1. If theyre not contributing offensively, somebody else has to find a way to get it done. Then, playing even isnt satisfactory.

Clowe seemed to suggest that line matchups are a little overrated.

Its not so much who youre playing against, its how you line up against them, and if youre ready to out-compete them, he said. Weve got to do a better job there.

Elliott in goal: The Blues will go with Brian Ellliott, who came in to relieve an injured Jaroslav Halak on Saturday, for Game 3. Elliott was the NHLs leader in goals-against average and save percentage during the regular season, and made 17 saves to preserve the 3-0 win on Saturday. Jake Allen will back him up.

The Sharks saw Elliott and Halak twice each in the regular season, going a combined 0-4. Not surprisingly, they didnt seem too concerned with who is manning the St. Louis crease.

I dont put too much stock in any goalie, really, Boyle said. Goalies are at this level for a reason. Theyre all very good. Its the same answer every time. Get more shots, traffic, rebounds. It doesnt matter.

Clowe would like to see the Sharks test Elliott early. When he entered in the second period of Game 2, San Jose went more than six minutes without a single shot on net.

I thought he came in last game and we gave him a chance to feel comfortable, and we didnt get much action on him early, he said. Tonight, we have to try to sustain pressure and get some second chances, more than anything.

Lineup changes? McLellan predictably wouldnt comment on any potential lineup changes for Game 3. Defenseman Colin White and forward Brad Winchester both came off of the ice earlier than usual, so theres a chance that either or both of them could see their first action of the series.

TJ Galiardi and Dominic Moore did not take part in San Joses optional morning skate on Monday.

The Blues will re-insert Chris Stewart, who was a scratch for Game 2, back into the lineup for Matt DAgostini based on line rushes on Monday morning.

Tommy Wingels saw a lot of the Blues bottom two lines in Games 1 and 2.

I think the players may have changed, but I dont think what they were trying to do changed at all, he said. As the third and fourth lines, your job is to get momentum and wear down the other team. They won the game last game, so it might have been more effective in that sense, but I think well try to play the same way regardless of who were matched up against.

Odds and ends: McLellan would like to see his club improve on faceoffs. The Sharks lost the battle in the circle in each of the first two games. The Blues are 2-for-9 on the power play in the series, while San Jose is 1-for-7. Havlat, Boyle and Clowe each have two points in the series, leading the Sharks. Patrik Berglund, Oshie and Andy McDonald lead the Blues with two points each.

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

DALLAS – Injured Sharks forwards Jannik Hansen and Melker Karlsson both returned to the ice for Thursday’s practice in Dallas, in what Pete DeBoer called “a good first step” in their recoveries.

The coach left open the possibility that one or both could play against the Stars on Friday night, even though neither was skating on a set line for practice.

“We’ll have to wait and see how they feel [Friday] morning and what the recovery is,” DeBoer said. “I’m not prepared to say they’re in tomorrow, but it’s a good sign they’re on the ice and participated.”

Hansen has been out for the past two games since getting a stick in the head from defenseman Brandon Montour on Saturday against Anaheim. 

“Took a couple days [off] to make sure everything was aright,” Hansen said. “Getting better, back on the ice today.”

Officially, it’s an upper body injury. When pressed if it was a concussion issue, Hansen said: “I don’t know. It’s tough to say to begin with, but obviously you do all the precautionary things that [are] involved now.”

Although he has just one assist in his first six games with the Sharks, Hansen seemed to spark the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, as the line generated one even strength goal in each of the first four games Hansen played.

Karlsson has missed the last six games with a lower body injury. He has 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games with a plus-nine rating.

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The lines remained the same for Thursday’s practice. Patrick Marleau was with Thornton and Pavelski; Logan Couture centered Joel Ward and Mikkel Boedker; Tomas Hertl was between Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, while the fourth line sweaters were worn by Chris Tierney, Micheal Haley, Timo Meier and Danny O’Regan.

San Jose stayed over in St. Paul on Tuesday night and flew to Dallas on Wednesday morning on their day off.

The Wild game, a 3-2 loss, was the Sharks’ fourth straight. They’ve generated just four goals over that span.

That game also capped off a stretch of seven games in 11 days for the Sharks, who now have just a two-point lead on Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division – a lead that was nine points before the losing streak began.

Was the day off good?

“Yeah. We’ve been kind of struggling scoring goals, so just to kind of relax yesterday and then kind of get back and refocus today,” Thornton said. “But sometimes you just need a little time away from the rink. I think yesterday was needed.”

DeBoer said: “I think our group is pretty mature. I don’t think we’re overeating to the situation. No one’s happy we’ve lost a few, but we also know that we’ve done enough good things that we could have won two or three of those games. We’ve just got to stick with it, clean up a couple things, and score some goals.”

* * *

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic skated after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. Tierney missed Monday’s game in Dallas, also due to illness.

Is that all gone now?

“Knock on wood. Nothing today. Hope so,” DeBoer said.

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

ST. PAUL – On paper, Timo Meier’s production after he was reassigned to the AHL Barracuda on Feb. 16 was down. The former first-round pick had just six points (3g, 3a) in 14 games, and was scoreless in his last five, a far cry from what he was doing there earlier in the season and way off his numbers in juniors.

But at just 20 years old, Meier is still in the learning phase of his professional career. And as impressive as the Barracuda have been this season, they’re still playing in a developmental league, first and foremost. Meier got a chance to work on some of the aspects of his game he needed to work on.

“It was obviously hard going back,” said Meier, who has three goals and two assists in 28 games, before Tuesday’s game in Minnesota. “Sometimes you go back there and you try too much, but they told me to work on some things in my game, and I tried to do that.

“For me, going down there it was all about learning stuff on the ice, off the ice. … It’s my first year [in pro hockey], so as a young guy you want to learn and listen to the coaches, too. Just get better.”

Coach Pete DeBoer went into pretty good detail on what the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft needed to do with the Barracuda, and what he needs to show now that he’s back in the NHL.

“I think with a lot of big, talented young guys, they have to realize when they can make an extra play with the puck and when they have to chip it in,” DeBoer said. “They’re so used to dominating at the levels they’ve been at for so long, that [it’s] easier said than done. It’s habits you have to learn, and you don’t learn unless you’re doing them on a consistent basis.”

Meier’s shot selection, too, is something that needed some improvement, according to the coach. While the power winger might be generating plenty of shot attempts, no doubt pleasing the advanced stats crowd, there’s more to being an effective forward than running up numbers on the Excel spreadsheets.

“You don’t want to shoot [just] to shoot up here, or to just get shots on net. You’re not scoring on NHL goalies like you are on junior goalies from 30 or 40 feet out,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to pick your spots. Sometimes you have to look for a better play than a shot.”

Meier said: “It’s a really tough league. As a young guy coming in, sometimes you’ve got to stay patient, too, try not [to do] too much. … Sometimes I tried [to do] a little too much.”

Meier has been in the Sharks’ lineup for each of the last two games. He started on the fourth line before getting bumped up to Tomas Hertl’s third line on Monday in Dallas, and returned to the fourth line with Chris Tierney and Micheal Haley for Tuesday’s tilt in Minnesota. He is scoreless with two shots on goal over those two games.

He could be a temporary fill in for Jannik Hansen, who remains out with an upper body injury but could potentially return before the end of the road trip this weekend. Or, perhaps Meier does enough to stick around for the stretch run and the playoffs. There would seem to be an opportunity to push someone else out of the lineup, as the Sharks’ depth scoring has been a season-long problem.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, getting that chance again later on in the season,” Meier said. “I want to put it all on the ice, leave it all out there and just make the best out of every shift I get. Play my game, play within my strengths, [do] the things that got me here, and I’m sure I’ll be successful like that.”