Sharks

Sharks taking it to the wire

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Sharks taking it to the wire

The Sharks have won three consecutive games. They are back in third place, looking to host an opening round series against Chicago rather than hosting celebrity golf tournaments and duck blind bacchanals. Everything for them is swell.

And Todd McLellans eyes still look like Ryane Clowes forehead.

There is something invigorating about a playoff chase. The senses are heightened, every minute is exhausted on the task at hand, scoreboard-watching takes on an inordinate importance. And thats just for fans, whose usual exertions top out at dodging the check.

But McLellan can enjoy none of this because he has no expectations about Anaheim on Wednesday. He is safe tonight because none of the other members of the Gang of Six play, but tomorrow its back to the horrifying grind of coaching a team that scares the hell out of him.
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San Joses inconsistency has been a thing of exquisite beauty. They have turned the notion of playing to form into a minute-by-minute experience, and momentum into a hilarious joke. They are anything but trustworthy.

We know this because the Sharks got a long and sustained standing ovation for beating the bejeezus out of Colorado Monday night, a bar so low by recent historical standards that it should never have come to that at all. Grubbing for points is not something the Sharks are used to. Moreover, having to exert dominance on a team that is still in the race in name only because they have so few games left to get the lover they have always taken for granted is quite the eye-opener.

San Jose won Monday the way it won Saturday against Phoenix . . . by grinding every shift and letting the skill emerge out of the run of play rather than singular feats of brilliance. They are at their best when the glamorous stuff comes naturally and by the hard work of winning the defensive and neutral zones first, and they are their worst when trying to do it front to back.

But we knew that in February, when they couldnt do it hardly at all, and we knew it in December, and we knew it last summer when they traded Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi for Brent Burns and Marty Havlat. They were trading style for substance, only they spent much of this season disavowing substance because they were still addicted to style.

And McLellan turned several shades of blue trying to convince them otherwise, to the point where he is now essentially out of words. All he can do is change lines, run what few practices there are, and show them the standings. He said as much Saturday when he said they all scoreboard-watch now, an admission most coaches would never allow outside the dressing room.

RELATED: NHL standings

He said it for a purpose, to get them to understand the inspiration of humiliation on their own, because saying, Youd rather be 10th than 3rd? Then keep doing what youre doing, every day gets monotonous, and players hate monotony.

So three wins in a row and third place overall has cured them? Hah! You havent been paying attention. They play Anaheim Wednesday, a team that is their doppelganger in so many ways, separated only by the Ducks miserable start. Then in Phoenix Thursday, and then nine days after that they are done. The Gang of Six is now closer to four, as Colorado has run out of games, and Calgary still has three teams to pass.

The assumption was that 96 points would be needed for a playoff spot, but that has been lowered to 94, a number that would have eliminated a team in four of the last six seasons. San Jose needs to split its final 12 available points to manage that, and even then the Sharks would be cutting the pastrami a bit fine.

But projecting what they will do even now is a fools game. There are no more projections, or even educated guesses. It is a night-to-night proposition, with no guarantee or signpost that a night will be good or bad until it is over. Monday night was one of their best performances in weeks, and yet they lost Logan Couture for the final 12 minutes to scare people halfway to hells waiting room.

So no wonder McLellan looks awful, and no wonder Clowes forehead knows it isnt the most gnarled object in the room.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

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AP

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

SAN JOSE — There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise's career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

"I've spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange," said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. "It's his birthday today too. It's a little weird, but he's going to do great up in Toronto."

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau's 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven't played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

"Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He'll be missed. ... Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That's what we'll need."

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau's 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

"When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think if we can stay healthy I think we've got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them."

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals — his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 — and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose's top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

"They feel real strong," he said of his legs. "I feel a lot of pop out there. They're probably as strong as they've ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much."

Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

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Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

The boys were back together in San Jose on Thursday for Sharks Media Day, with plenty of smiles and moments of levity. Check out the highlights...

Hey Jumbo, you dropped something. 👖🤷‍♂️

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Martin Jones is pretty good at photobombs 📸💣

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🤳 Media Day #SJSharks

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New season. New commercials. 🕉🚌📺 #ComingSoon #SharksForLife

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