Sharks hope to add to Wings' road woes

704826.jpg

Sharks hope to add to Wings' road woes

SAN JOSE Add Detroit to the list of Western Conference clubs that has struggled with a long road trip.

The Red Wings, who have seen their season end the last two years at the hands of the Sharks, will visit HP Pavilion on Saturday night looking to end a three-game losing streak, all in regulation and all away from the Motor City. Overall, the Winged Wheel has lost five of its last six (1-5-0), and has scored just seven goals in the five losses.

The Red Wings (44-24-3, 91 points) were shut out in Anaheim on Wednesday night, 4-0, and practiced in San Jose on Friday after a day off in the Bay Area yesterday. As reported earlier, Detroit will get a key piece back when Pavel Datsyuk returns to a club thats desperately seeking more offense.

NEWS: Wings' Datsyuk set to return vs. Sharks

It will be much-needed. Just another offensive weapon that we need, Todd Bertuzzi said.

The burly winger also talked about his teams rivalry with San Jose (35-25-10, 80 points). The Red Wings lost the first two games of the season series before claiming a 3-2 win at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 19, when the Sharks were in the midst of a wretched trip themselves in which they finished with just two wins in nine games.

The games against them are always important and always big games, and all that. To be honest though, at the point we are right now, it doesnt matter who we face. We need these two points and weve got to get ourselves back to playing the way we know how, Bertuzzi said.

For the Sharks, theyre not focused on the Red Wings losing streak. Theyre just trying to secure back-to-back wins for the first time since Feb. 2, and hopefully get back into the top eight in the process.

We didnt play in them. It may motivate them more, they may be hungrier, I dont know. I just know that we need to get ourselves on a streak and they stand in the way of that, Todd McLellan said. Weve got to come out and be ready to play our best.

Dominic Moore said: Theyve been an elite team in the league for a long time. Its a good test for us to work on our game, and work on those details.

The Sharks are still in ninth place heading into Friday nights action, but the club has secured five of a six possible points in its last three games, and has at least one point in five of six overall. Things seem to be trending upward despite the fact San Jose has scored just 13 goals in the last nine games.

That 2-1-3 mark comes on the heels of a stretch in which San Jose went just 4-10-1 in a stunning decline for the team that has been in the Western Conference finals for the last two years.

Whats improved?

I think were a little bit more together in terms of our support around the ice. Id say thats true in all zones, but for the most part on the breakouts and in the defensive zone, said Moore, who was acquired by the team in late February in the middle of its slide. Having five guys in the picture and supporting each other, thats a huge thing.

Antti Niemi, who will make his 10th straight start on Saturday, said: I think we give less and create more. Thats huge. We gave up one in the first yesterday and we cant open up our game, we still have to defend. Were shooting a lot, so were going to score.

Kronwall expects nothing less than a hard-fought battle between two teams in desperate need of a win.

I think we match up very well against each other. Its always high intensity, playoff-type games. It should be a good matchup, and both teams are looking to get back on track here, he said.

Like the Sharks, the Red Wings remain focused on their own game.

Im just worried about our team. Im not concerned about what theyre doing. Weve got our own issues, Bertuzzi said.

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.

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.

* * *

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.