Sharks shuffle lines, seeking offense


Sharks shuffle lines, seeking offense

SAN JOSE There is only so much the coaching staff can do to try and reverse a scoring drought.

The Sharks have just three goals over their last three games, which includes two straight losses after a 1-0 win against Chicago last week. A 3-2 defeat to Vancouver on Saturday was followed by one of their poorer efforts of the season on Monday, when Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings shut them out, 2-0.

Cue the line changes.

Logan Couture was back with Ryane Clowe and Marty Havlat at practice on Wednesday, while Patrick Marleau skated on the wing with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Thats the look that Sharks are likely to go with for Thursdays home game against Montreal.

Couture and Clowe have had success in the past, of course, including most of last season. The hope from Todd McLellan is that the reunion benefits everyone involved, as Couture, Clowe and Havlat have combined for just a single goal over the last eight games.

Were trying to jumpstart a few players, said McLellan. Our offensive production hasnt been enough for us to win games. When you look at the game as a whole in L.A., we didnt play very well and I wasnt very happy with our overall game, but we still only gave up two. We should be able to win games when we only give up two.

Were trying to jumpstart the offense and trying to create more around the blue paint, and the familiarity that Logan has with Clowie is probably the most important thing right now.

Couture gave the standard it doesnt matter who Im playing with response when asked about the changes, but acknowledged that he enjoys playing with the rugged Clowe.

I think we know how to read off of each other, said Couture. Hes strong on pucks, and I try to get in on the forecheck as hard as I can, and he can lay pucks in to me. Hes big around the net, takes pucks to the net, and last year I was there to bang in some rebounds. Thats something I need to get back to, scoring some dirty goals.

Havlat, who missed the first four games of the regular season while recovering from shoulder surgery, started his season with Couture and Clowe back on Oct. 21 in New Jersey. He recorded a goal and seven assists in his first eight games, playing primarily on that line.

Since then, Havlat has just one assist in his last nine games.

Everyone goes through slumps, thats just the way this game is. Hopefully he can play in the other teams end, said Couture of Havlat. Today, we talked about getting around the blue paint and scoring some ugly goals. Hopefully, thats something that we can do.

The biggest risk with these changes, though, is tinkering with Marleaus game. Since moving back to center the second line, Marleau has been the Sharks steadiest point producer with 11 points in the last nine games (7g, 4a).

Need more proof of how important Marleaus game is to the Sharks? Of his 20 points on the season, only one of those, a goal against Vancouver late last Saturday, has come in a Sharks loss.

Theres always a risk of trying to help one or two others, that you stunt someone else a little bit, said McLellan. Im confident in that Patty feels good enough about his game. Hes still playing with two good players, that he can go back to the wing awhile and produce.

Its whatever is best for the team and whatever the coach thinks, said Marleau of the change. You just have to continue playing the same way.

Marleau was unaware that all but one of his points has come in games that the Sharks have emerged victorious.

It gives you that much more incentive to get on the board and help the team win, he said.

Handzus still recovering

Sharks center Michal Handzus was back at the practice facility on Wednesday after missing Saturdays game in Los Angeles with an illness. Handzus rode the bike and worked out, and is probable to play against the Canadians. Colin White was still missing on Wednesday due to a family funeral. Antti Niemi will start against Montreal.

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of emotion in the game, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?


Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

NASHVILLE – Apparently, one wake up call wasn’t good enough for the plummeting San Jose Sharks.
Just one day after suffering what was arguably their worst game under coach Pete DeBoer, Nashville put up a touchdown on the Sharks in a 7-2 win, giving San Jose its sixth straight defeat – all in regulation.
After getting outscored 13-3 the last two nights, including Friday’s 6-1 loss in Dallas, where do they go from here?
“In two years, last year and this year so far, we haven’t had one night like this almost. Now we have back-to-back nights,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think it’s just a reality check. A gut-check time.
“It’s on us as players. Bottom line is we haven’t put the effort in that we need to have right now, and it snowballed on us a little bit at times. I think we’ve got to take a deep breath and really take a look in the mirror, refocus a little bit and understand there’s hockey out there, but it’s not going to fix itself.”
What has to be fixed immediately is the defensive structure that has been so vital to the Sharks’ success in the Pete DeBoer era. Even when the club was going through stretches of struggling to score, as it was earlier in the season, it was still collecting points in the standings with its ability to limit the opposition’s scoring chances.
While the game against the Predators was actually a little better in that regard, believe it or not, it was still nowhere near the level it needs to be for the postseason. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s absence was partly to blame for that, but the Brent Burns-Paul Martin pair has been a disaster lately. Both have a minus-nine rating during the six-game losing streak, and that number is indicative of how they’ve looked, too.
“We’re giving up some goals. It’s a combination of things,” DeBoer said. “Obviously it’s not good enough to win games, so we’ve got to figure it out. I don’t have an answer standing here for you, but I know our group. Every team I’ve ever coached has a tough part of the season. This is obviously ours. We’ll regroup, and figure it out.”
Burns, who admitted to a “bad read” on Nashville’s second goal when Roman Josi sped around him, said: “It’s a tough league when you’re not executing little things.”
The Sharks actually looked strong early, poised to put the Dallas disaster behind them. The first few shifts, they had the puck in the Nashville end.
But Tomas Hertl was outmuscled behind the net by Colin Wilson on Colton Sissons’ goal at 4:14, Burns got beat on the second, and the Sharks never recovered. Patrick Marleau’s second period power play goal offered life, but that was extinguished 24 seconds later when James Neal answered with a power play goal of his own. The Sharks never got closer than two goals after that.
“When things are going bad, those are the things that are happening,” Burns said of Neal’s response to Marleau’s marker. “So, you’ve just got work through it."
Will they be able to work through it with just seven games left in the regular season, though? That this cold spell is happening in late March doesn’t speak well to the Sharks’ chances in the postseason, which begins in just two-and-a-half weeks.
Burns said: “Right now we should be just tightening up everything. … We've got figure it out pretty soon.”