Sharks taking it to the wire


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.

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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

DeBoer laughs heartily at photo: Thornton 'doesn't like his shirt on'

DeBoer laughs heartily at photo: Thornton 'doesn't like his shirt on'

PITTSBURGH – Joe Thornton and Brent Burns are already two of the more recognizable players in the NHL, standing at six-foot-four and six-foot-five respectively, and beards that are only slightly shorter than that.

Strolling about the Steel City on Wednesday, they caught the attention of one hockey fan who snapped a photo of Burns and a shirtless Thornton, and sent it to Pittsburgh radio host Colin Dunlap, who subsequently tweeted the image. As of Thursday morning, it had nearly 5,000 retweets and more than 8,000 likes.

After the Sharks’ morning skate on Thursday, Thornton simply said he was “just seeing the sights,” before quickly running off to the showers.

Head coach Pete DeBoer laughed heartily when asked if he had seen the picture.

“I did. [Thornton] doesn’t like his shirt on, we know that,” DeBoer said. “That’s the uniqueness and the beauty of our group.”

The Sharks play the Penguins on Thursday night in the first meeting between the teams since the Stanley Cup Final.

NHL Gameday: Pens hurting in Final rematch with Sharks

NHL Gameday: Pens hurting in Final rematch with Sharks

Programming note: Sharks-Penguins coverage starts today at 3:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 3-1-0, 6 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Penguins: 2-1-1, 5 points, 2nd Metropolitan Division


***The Sharks and Penguins will meet for the first time since Pittsburgh’s win in the Stanley Cup Final last June. The Penguins are, however, missing some key pieces to that series victory as Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Matt Murray and Conor Sheary are all out due to injury.

The Sharks are 2-1 on their current five-game road trip, which concludes on Saturday in Detroit.

“A lot of reminders for sure being back here not long ago,” Joel Ward said. “Definitely excited, a good challenge with us being on the road early again. We’ll try to notch another road win.”

***Pete DeBoer said after the Islanders game that he wasn’t sure what his emotions would be like when he walked into the rink, which is now called PPG Paints Arena. Now that he’s here, how does he feel?

“An overwhelming sense I think of pride for our group and the journey we went on,” he said. “I know we came up short, but the memories I have coming back in here are just of how our guys really emptied the tank. … They were the better team, but I was very proud of our effort. That’s the overwhelming feeling right now.”

As for Joe Thornton, he recalled that the last time the Sharks were here they won Game 5, prolonging the series.

“The last time we were here was a pretty good feeling,” Thornton said. “That’s all I remember, really.”

***Matt Nieto will return to the lineup for Micheal Haley, who played against the Islanders and helped to generate the first goal in the 3-2 win.

DeBoer stressed that Nieto wasn’t removed from the lineup due to his play, but that the Sharks are “going to rotate guys in and out” due to their improved depth.

“[Nieto] brings some more speed for us. I thought he did a good job the game before we took him out,” DeBoer said. “Hales gave us a real good game against a physical team against the Islanders, and Neets will go back in to tonight. He’s just got to do his thing.”

Nieto said: “Something they try to do is play fast, and they’ve got a lot of speedy guys in their lineup. I think if I’m moving my legs it could be effective.”


Sharks: Joe Thornton. The Sharks’ top line center broke through on Tuesday in Brooklyn, setting up the game-tying goal and game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Islanders. Thornton didn’t have a very good Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins with just three assists in six games, so perhaps he has some retribution on his mind, even if he doesn't want to admit it.

Penguins: Matt Cullen. The veteran center is doing his best to help minimize the loss of Crosby, and is tied for the team lead with three points (1g, 2a). Dating back to last season, Cullen, who turns 40 on Nov. 2, has 11 goals in his past 31 games.


Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Mikkel Boedker – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Matt Nieto – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (confirmed starter)
Aaron Dell

Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust
Carl Hagelin – Nick Bonino – Phil Kessel
Scott Wilson – Matt Cullen – Patric Honqvist
Tom Sestito – Eric Fehr – Tom Kuhnhackl

Olli Maatta – Trevor Daley
Ian Cole – Justin Schultz
Derrick Pouliot – Brian Dumoulin

Marc-Andre Fleury
Mike Condon


Sharks: None.

Penguins: Kris Letang (upper body) and Conor Sheary (eye), Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Matt Murray (hand) are out.