SAN JOSE When a team is mired in a scoring slump, as the Sharks are with just three goals in their last three games, an ugly goal can be just what the doctor ordered to break out of it.
The best way to do that is get in front of the goaltender and look for a rebound, or even a puck to deflect in off of a skate of a shin pad. Battling their way to the blue paint is something the Sharks will make a conscious effort to do when they host the Montreal Canadiens at HP Pavilion tonight.
It seems to always be the way to get out of it. When youre not scoring, it always seems to be the goal that you get is a second rebound chance, or third chance, or one that just squeaks in somehow, said Joe Pavelski. If you want to score consistently, you have to find a way to get those.
Sometimes youre around the net and youre not really assertive or hungry for second chances, so I think youll see us more assertive around the net, said Ryane Clowe, who hasnt scored since Nov. 3 vs. Pittsburgh.
Clowe went on to say that just because youre around the net, doesnt mean youre doing whats necessary to create the so called dirty or greasy goals.
Sometimes you think youre there, but are you getting pushed out easily? Are you getting boxed out? Just because you go there for a second chance doesnt mean they are going to give it to you, he said. You have to make sure youre committed to working for rebounds. A lot of times if you can get in the goalies face a little bit, you get pucks that go off your shin pad or get tips-ins.
Clowe will be back on a line with Logan Couture and Marty Havlat, a trio that had early success together when Havlat made his season debut in the fifth game of the season in New Jersey on Oct. 21. Patrick Marleau is back with Pavelski and Joe Thornton on the top line.
Havlat is another player mired in a scoring slump, with just one goal this season and only one assist in his last nine games. From the sound of it, Havlat is one guy in particular that McLellan would like to see get his nose a little dirtier in trying to create scoring chances.
Eventually, hes got to find a way to get himself into scoring situations, said McLellan. Hes got to put himself in spots where he can get second opportunities. Maybe this shuffle will help.
Find the shooting lanes: The Sharks are second in the NHL with 34.2 shots per game, but may find it difficult to generate that many against Montreal. The Canadiens are third in the NHL in shots-against per game with 27.7, and lead the NHL with 231 blocked shots.
In fact, the Canadiens have two of the top six players in the NHL when it comes to blocked shots. Josh Gorges leads the league with 68, while Hal Gill is sixth with 61.
Combine that with Carey Prices steady goaltending, and breaking out of their scoring slump won't be easy.
Theyve got big guys who like to block shots. Obviously, Hal Gill is a huge guy and sometimes hell just lay out there and act like a goalie, almost, said Clowe. But, sometimes it can work to your detriment, if you can lay them out and find someone off the side of the net.
Price, who had the night off in the Canadiens 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Wednesday in favor of Peter Budaj, is considered one of the top goalies in the NHL according to McLellan. Price is 9-8-4 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
Hes a hell of a goaltender and has got to be one of the top three or four in the league, and is having a very good year and is very confident, said the Sharks coach. Their team does very well blocking shots in front of him, and eliminating second chances. That part of their game is going to be a real good challenge for us.
Handzus returns: The Sharks will get Michal Handzus back in the lineup tonight, after he has recovered from what he described as a high fever.
Handzus played just 12:34 minutes last Saturday against Vancouver, and missed Mondays game in Los Angeles.
With a high fever, I had headaches and the respiratory system came into play a little bit, so it was longer than I thought, he said.
Monday would have been his first game in Los Angeles since he signed with the Sharks this summer as a free agent. He spent the previous four seasons as a member of the Kings.
It doesnt really matter if its L.A. or somewhere else, he said. I want to play every game.
Odds and ends: This is the first and only meeting between the Canadiens and Sharks this season. They last met on Dec. 3 at Bell Centre, a 3-1 Sharks win. Joe Thornton has six assists in the last five games. Antti Niemi will start in net for the Sharks. Injured Canadiens include Andrei Markov (knee), Jaroslav Spacek (upper body), Scott Gomez (lower body) and Chris Campoli (leg). Max Pacioretty is serving the second of a three-game suspension. San Jose has won its last five games against Montreal at home. The Canadiens last won here on Nov. 13, 1999.