Sharks look to button up defense going forward

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Sharks look to button up defense going forward
October 19, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Logan Couture and the Sharks admitted they didn't play good defense against Dallas, giving up three close-range goals. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN JOSE – According to Logan Couture, there were some bad habits creeping into San Jose’s game late in Tuesday’s 6-2 win in St. Louis. Against Dallas, they were even more prevalent, as the Sharks lost their first game of the season, 4-3 in a shootout.

Yes, the Sharks still sit atop the NHL standings with a 6-0-1 mark, but there are some things to correct beginning Saturday night at home against Calgary.

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“We kind of played lazy against Dallas, and that’s something we hadn’t done this year,” Couture said. “We need to work harder, and fix that.”

Todd McLellan was more specific, as all three of Dallas’ regulation goals came from close range, on loose pucks or rebounds.

“I just thought we were overall sloppy when you compare it to the first six,” he said. “Our puck support wasn’t good, our sort-outs coming back into our own zone, they weren’t where they were supposed to be, and our net play wasn’t very good. As a result, we gave up too many goals. … Talked about it yesterday, addressed it, and expect us to be better tonight.”

The Sharks are making a brief stop home to host Calgary before going right back out on the road. A five-game trip begins on Monday in Detroit, with stops in Boston, Montreal, Ottawa and Los Angeles. The Sharks will return to the Bay Area briefly before the Kings game on Oct. 30.

The Flames should be well rested, having not played since Wednesday’s 3-2 loss in Anaheim, their first regulation defeat of the season (3-1-2). Some key pieces have departed since last year and Calgary is in the middle of a self-described rebuild, but they aren’t to be taken lightly.

“They’re an energized group. I think they are just that, a group playing well as a team,” McLellan said. “They seem to have banded together and it’s us against the world type thing. It’s worked well for them. They get good mileage out of a lot of guys.”

Couture said: “They’re young, fast, excited to play hockey, and sometimes those are the dangerous teams. You look at their record so far, and a lot of people said they weren’t going to be very good, and they have surprised a lot of teams. They’re going to come in and going to work, so we have to be prepared for them.”

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They also, like the Sharks, are integrating an exciting young rookie into the lineup. Sean Monahan was drafted sixth overall in the 2013 draft and has four goals and two assists in six games. He centers the second line.

Couture said: “Monahan has done a good job for them. Obviously being [19] years old, I think he’s had the same impact that Tomas [Hertl] and Matt [Nieto] have had to our team, where they come in and are excited to be around and be in the NHL, and it gets the older guys going a little bit.”

Still, on paper, the Flames don’t match up with the deep and powerful Sharks. If San Jose buttons up its defensive game, it should be able to improve to 5-0-0 on home ice before hitting the road.

“We have to get back to our game, playing strong and playing fast and being sound defensively,” Patrick Marleau said. “We kind of got away from it last game, and it burned us.”