Sharks regain confidence, momentum

March 27, 2012, 9:53 pm
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SAN JOSE -- After enduring a stretch where San Jose won only four games in five weeks, the Sharks now have points in six of their last eight games. But do they consider themselves detached from that rough patch?

"Absolutely," said Marc-Edouard Vlasic following Tuesday practice. "A couple winning games in a row here, a three-game winning streak ... guys are having fun playing and whatever happened in the past is in the past for us."

Defenseman Douglas Murray was a bit more measured in his approach, on the eve of a wo-game trip to face Anaheim and Phoenix.

"We're still living with it, it's a tight race and we're not out of it yet," Murray said. "It might look good sitting in third this morning, but if you look down the standings it's not a comfortable lead.

After losing six of seven to open the month of March, San Jose now has won three straight and five of its last seven.

"I think we've been able to catch our breath now, we've been able to regroup and get rested," said coach Todd McLellan. "Focus on the way we want to play."

One of the messages Mclellan delivered to his team during the struggle was to loosen up, play more free and have some fun. In retrospect it made a huge difference.

"Yeah especially in practice and during the games," Vlasic said. "Lately we've been having fun playing, guys are smiling. Not that we weren't before but maybe we were a little more uptight when we were losing, and didn't want to make a mistake. Guys are going out there playing more free and things are working out.

Despite his message of having fun and playing their game, McLellan acknowledged tough challenges lie ahead.

"The tension factor is going to go up here, it's going to get tighter," he said. "As the timeframe gets crunched a little more, the tension factor goes up. If it worked earlier, that's great. Is it going to work from now on? I'd like to think so, but the players control that.

It's not as if the Sharks have any say in the schedulemaking, but it certainly benefits them in that five of the final six games are against opponents the Sharks needed to lose.