ANAHEIM – If there’s a benefit to losing out on the Pacific Division, it’s that the Sharks have the option to rest and recover a bit in their final two regular season games, if they so choose. San Jose, which hosts Colorado on Friday and visits Phoenix on Saturday, is locked into the second seed in the Pacific and will face the Los Angeles Kings in the first round.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Todd McLellan will all of a sudden relegate his star players to the press box, though. Conference seeding could still play a role, albeit not until the third round. The Sharks (49-22-9, 107 points) are fifth in the West, but could still overtake Colorado (109 points) and Chicago (107 points).
“The two games don’t mean anything, per se, as far as the first round goes, but we’d like to think that we can come and play very well in the first round and maybe advance, and then there are implications potentially for home ice after that,” McLellan said. “We’ll sit down, we’ll look at the standings, we’ll look at our lineup.”
One problem McLellan may face is that there is just one extra forward on the roster. Against Anaheim it was Marty Havlat, who sat in favor of recent recall Bracken Kearns. Raffi Torres’ status for the final two games remains unclear, while Tomas Hertl and Adam Burish are out for at least the rest of the regular season. As of Friday morning, no extra players were on the way from Worcester.
The Sharks have one extra defenseman, and have lately been rotating Scott Hannan and Matt Irwin in as their sixth blueliner.
“There’s two sides to it,” Dan Boyle said. “You don’t want to risk injury, certainly. You don’t want to risk rust.
“That’s up to Todd. He can figure that out. I’m sure the players are good either way. I’m certainly good either way.”
One thing McLellan could do is play some key guys fewer minutes during games. He could also experiment with different line combinations, especially his bottom six group, which, as currently constructed, may not be able to match up with the more powerful teams in the Western Conference.
Early indications are he’ll keep most of his main guys in for games 81 and 82.
“I’m a little bit leery at times to say we’re resting guys or we’re going to keep them out, because that gives a false sense around the team,” McLellan said. “We want to be on our toes and ready to go, but that’s not to say that we won’t look at cutting back some minutes, or something like that.”
Logan Couture would like to see the Sharks tighten up their game headed into what will undoubtedly be a grueling first round conflict with their biggest rival.
“We’ve got two games left against two good teams to get ready for the playoffs,” Couture said. “That’s got to be our focus right now, is get our game to the level it needs to be.”