Sharks top players competing for power play time

McLellan: Comeback win alleviates down feeling

Sharks top players competing for power play time
December 26, 2013, 2:00 pm
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I got tired of watching them not get anything done, to tell you the truth.
Todd McLellan on his top power play unit

SAN JOSE – Any NHL coach will tell you that internal competition among teammates is welcomed. Todd McLellan mentioned it several times during training camp just before final roster cuts were made.

At that time in late September, McLellan was referring mostly to his fourth liners, as several fringe players still in camp were trying to make the opening night roster.

Now, the Sharks’ head coach is using it as a motivating factor for his best players — the guys on the power play, who have struggled over the past two months to have a consistent impact.

It’s been just one game, but it’s working so far. McLellan got a goal from each of his two retooled power play units in a 5-4 shootout win over the Avalanche on Monday, in a game that San Jose frittered away a late one-goal lead and needed a last-second goal to force overtime.

[KURZ: Sharks claim imperfect win over Avs]

McLellan had been hesitant to break up his top unit of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle. After a 7-for-62 stretch (11.3 percent), though, he reached a breaking point.

“I got tired of watching them not get anything done, to tell you the truth. We did as a group,” McLellan said. “I haven’t felt that we’ve had a competitive set of power plays. What I mean by that is two groups that can fight for the ice time. It was just every time a power play came, a group of players (the top unit) would stand up and go out. Whether they got it done or not, the next group would go out, and we just got in a rut.”

On Monday, Jason Demers tied the game at 1-1 in the first period, skating on a power play unit with Thornton, Pavelski, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Matt Irwin scored in the second period, and his unit consisted of Marleau, Couture, Boyle and Tommy Wingels.

Power play time was spread evenly in the game, for the most part, as eight players had between two and three minutes of ice time (give or take a few seconds).

“Now they all want that time,” McLellan said. “If one group is more productive than the other, they’ll get it. It’s a little bit more competitive amongst each other.”

The Sharks finished 2-for-4 on the power play on Monday, but failed on an overtime advantage in which they recorded three shots.

“We're pretty confident in our group,” Burns said after the game. “I think we have a lot of that elite skill. Sometimes just switching it up, sometimes the lines, you can get that chemistry. It seemed to work for both units tonight."

Thornton said: “Our PP hasn’t been very good. We’ve been able to win a couple games without it, but [Monday] it was something we needed.”

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Previously, Tomas Hertl and Marty Havlat were regulars on the second power play unit, but Hertl is now injured and Havlat was an apparent healthy scratch against Colorado.