Welker poses immense challenge for Rogers

welker_wes_patriots.jpg

Welker poses immense challenge for Rogers

SANTA CLARA – Carlos Rogers has nothing but dreadful memories of the last time he lined up on the other side of Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and the rest of the potent New England Patriots’ offense.

More than five years ago, on Oct. 28, 2007 while still a member of the Washington Redskins, Rogers saw his club drop a 52-7 decision to the eventual Super Bowl losers. Adding insult to injury – or, in this case, injury to insult – Rogers sustained a disastrous, season-ending torn ACL and MCL in the first quarter.

“Seeing the results of that game – they blew us out, so it wasn’t good,” Rogers said on Wednesday.

Welker, whom Rogers plans on seeing plenty of on Sunday night when the 49ers visit Gillette Stadium, recorded nine catches for 89 yards and a touchdown in that game against the ‘Skins. Although Rogers was knocked from action early, he knows Welker hasn’t become any easier to defend.

The 5-9, 185-pound receiver is third in the NFL in receptions (95) and ninth in yards (1,116). His list of accomplishments hardly ends there, though. The 31-year-old Texas Tech grad has the most receptions in the NFL since 2007 (649); became New England’s all-time reception leader earlier this year; is tied with Jerry Rice with 17, 10-plus reception games in his career; and has 107 straight games with at least one catch.

If he manages to grab hold of five balls against the vaunted San Francisco defense on Sunday, Welker will become the first NFL player all-time with five 100-catch seasons.

What makes him such a threat?

“Number one, his quarterback. Tom makes this offense go,” Rogers said, referring, of course, to Brady.

But there's more.

“Those quick guys like that, when you’re facing those guys, especially with a good quarterback, it’s going to take a lot. Not just me sticking him, it’s going to take [safety] Dashon [Goldson] coming down inside, or some of the d-ends hitting those guys. Giving them different looks. A guy like that, he has experience, too.”

Head coach Jim Harbaugh is confident that Rogers is prepared, but also stressed that stopping Welker won’t fall solely on his Pro Bowl cornerback’s shoulder pads.

“Tremendous receiver. But, Carlos is up for it. He’s equipped for it,” Harbaugh said. “Again, it’s more of a team defense and how they play together than just one guy vs. one guy.”

That includes putting heat on Brady.

“It’s going to take a lot of pressure, Aldon [Smith] and those guys getting to Brady,” Rogers said. “Mix up their looks and get him off his spot, so he’s not just sitting back there baking a cake and picking us apart.”

In a conference call on Wednesday, Welker said of the Niners' D: “They’ve got a lot of good players, a lot of good playmakers, and obviously a really good rush. Their safeties aren’t afraid of contract or anything else, and all-around they’re a great defense. I think it shows.”

The 49ers allow the second-fewest passing yards in the league with 184.7, and since the start of the 2011 season, allow the fewest points-per-game in the NFL (16.3). But, that doesn’t mean they’ve shut down everyone.

In fact, slot receivers like Victor Cruz and Danny Amendola have had success this season against San Francisco. Cruz had six receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown in the Giants’ convincing 26-3 win over the Niners on Oct. 14, while the Rams’ Amendola reeled in 11 catches for 102 yards in a 24-24 tie on Nov. 11.

Rogers said: “We know that we’re going to have to step up and play, and play to the end. Brady’s going to make his plays, the offense is going to make their plays, and we’re going make our plays. We just want to make more than them at the end of the game. That’s what it’s going to take.”

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Bruins in final game before week of rest

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Bruins in final game before week of rest

Programming note – Sharks-Bruins coverage starts today at 5:30 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 35-18-6, 76 points, 1st Pacific Division
Bruins: 29-23-6, 64 points, 4th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks will be playing their second of a back-to-back, and final game before the bye week, in a rare matinee start time at SAP Center against Boston. Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona was just San Jose’s second in its last seven games, although they have points in six of those (2-1-4). San Jose is 4-2-4 since reeling off six straight wins from Jan. 16 – 24, and has a four-point lead on Edmonton for first place in the Pacific Division.

***Boston will be playing for the first time since its bye week, which may not have come at a good time. The Bruins reeled off three straight wins after changing coaches from Claude Julien to interim Bruce Cassidy, the first of which came against the Sharks at TD Garden on Feb. 9. The Bruins haven’t played since last Sunday, a 4-0 home win over Montreal.

***Joe Thornton brings a five-game point streak into tonight’s game (2g, 4a). He sits two assists shy of becoming the 13th player in NHL history to reach 1000 assists.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Melker Karlsson. The fourth line winger was the star of last night’s game in Arizona, posting one goal and two assists, and getting credit for the game-winning goal. Karlsson, second on the Sharks in shorthanded time on ice per game, has two goals and three points in three career games against the Bruins.

Bruins: Patrice Bergeron. The three-time Selke Trophy winner posted four points (1g, 3a) against the Sharks in Boston 10 days ago, and is third on the team in scoring with 33 points (14g, 19a). The 31-year-old is just one assist shy of 400 for his career, and is eighth on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Kevin Labanc – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Nikolay Goldobin – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Melker Karlsson

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

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell

Bruins
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes
Peter Cehlarik – David Krejci – David Pasternak
Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes
Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask
Anton Khudobin

INJURIES

Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body) and Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) are out.

Bruins: Austin Czarnik (lower body) is out.

QUOTEABLE

“He’s having an MVP season. He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.” – Pete DeBoer on Brent Burns after Saturday’s Sharks win in Arizona, in which Burns had two goals

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

For the first time in five tries this season the Sharks managed to secure a regulation win over the last place Coyotes, 4-1 at Gila River Arena on Saturday. They keep their four-point lead over Edmonton, and are assured of going into the bye week in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Here are our three takeaways from the win…

1 – Burns turns the tide…again

For the second time in a week, Brent Burns changed the momentum of a game with his deadly wrist shot. The Sharks were on their heels early – Arizona had a 16-9 shot advantage in the first period, perhaps jolted be a pregame ceremony – but Burns’ shot through traffic staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead and they were on their way.

“We kind of weathered their storm early,” Joe Pavelski told reporters. “There was a lot of energy in the building.”

It was similar to a game in New Jersey last Sunday, when Burns had a pair of second period goals, erasing a 1-0 deficit and putting his team on the track to victory.

According to Elias, Burns – who added a third period power play goal, too – is the first defenseman to score 18 goals on the road since Paul Coffey’s 22 in 1983-84. His 26 goals equal his total from last season, tying his franchise record.

“He’s having an MVP season,” Pete DeBoer told reporters. “He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.”

Burns remains in third in the league in scoring with 63 points, four points behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.

2 – Dell gets the job done…again

Getting his second start in a week, Aaron Dell made a new season high (and, thus, career high) with 36 saves. His best stop was early in the second period on Radim Vrbata, when he managed to snag a pin-balling puck from crossing the line, keeping the Sharks ahead 2-0. Had that one trickled over, the Coyotes might have been able to seize the momentum.

“I think I had it the whole time,” Dell told reporters. “I kind of saw it for a second and then when I turned back I was able to find it and scoop it underneath me.”

DeBoer said: “He’s been good every time we’ve put him in there.”

Dell, whose goals-against average is down to 1.95, outplayed Sharks nemesis Mike Smith, who had stopped 121 of 127 San Jose shots in three games this season.

“We got to Smitty in the first period, which was great,” Pavelski said. “We kind of know what he’s done to us the past few games, stopping a lot of pucks. … That was a big key for us.”

3 – Fourth line magic

Through two periods, the Sharks’ top two lines had generated a total of three shots on goal – one each from Joe Thornton, Kevin Labanc and Patrick Marleau.

Fortunately for the big guys, the fourth line was there to pick up the slack. Melker Karlsson posted three points (1g, 2a), Micheal Haley had one goal and one assist, and the fourth line generated all three of San Jose’s goals through 40 minutes.

One goal from the fourth line is a bonus. Three is virtually unheard of. 

“They showed up and played the right way,” DeBoer said. “Right from the drop of the puck they put pucks behind the other teams defense, they had good support, they created a lot of chances, and got rewarded for it. I think Dell and them were the difference in the game early through the first half, until we got going a little bit.”