Wingels, linemates embrace their role

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Wingels, linemates embrace their role

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Saturday on Comcast SportsNet California, it's Sharks Pregame Live at 4:00, Sharks vs. Blues Game 2 at 4:30, and Sharks Postgame Live following the final buzzer.

ST. LOUIS On a roster with so many established, proven, and household NHL names, Tommy Wingels is just fine being the guy no ones heard of.

In fact, it could help his cause, as the rookie progresses through his first postseason in the pros.

I dont mind having that role at all, Wingels said. When teams and players dont have as good a scouting report on you, maybe theyre not ready for what you bring. I think you can use that to your advantage, definitely.

If Wingels, along with linemates Andrew Desjardins and Daniel Winnik keep scoring timely and vital goals like they did in Game 1, it wont be long before opposing teams have a better understanding of what they bring to the table. They were on the ice for the third period equalizer with just over five minutes left, when Desjardins scored at 14:44 to make it a 2-2 game.

Wingels made it happen, when he drove around defenseman Roman Polak before feeding Desjardins in the slot. If that play doesnt transpire, theres a very strong likelihood the Sharks find themselves down a game in their series with the Blues rather than ahead one game to none with Game 2 set for Saturday night.

The Evanston, Illinois native sounded pretty content getting his name on the scoresheet in his first-ever playoff game. Todd McLellan sensed Wingels line was skating well late in the game, and by the time it ended in the fifth period, the trio that started as the fourth line was getting as much ice time as anyone.

It was cool. You want to help any way you can, and when you help contribute a goal, it feels great, Wingels said.

As a group we felt comfortable out there, and the coaching staff feels the same way. Whether its overtime, we want to be out there. Every player wants to be out there, and be the line that can score that goal. We were happy that we were given a chance.

It wasnt much of a surprise that McLellan started rolling the Wingels-Desjardins-Winnik line more than the Dominic Moore-Torrey Mitchell-TJ Galiardi trio late in the game. The head coach has commented in recent weeks, since he essentially decided which 12 forwards are going to play, that whoever he believes is skating better at the time is who hes going to put on the ice.

That rivalry among teammates is advantageous, according to Desjardins, who played in just his fourth career playoff game himself but who now has two career goals.

Its always huge to have a little bit of internal competition within a team, he said. You just go with it. If things are going your way and youre playing well, you just go with the flow and keep doing the things that are making you successful. Thats pretty much the bottom line.

Having a reliable four lines is a luxury McLellan will need to persist. After all, the Blues were doing the same thing.

The depth and the minutes that are spread out allow some bigger players to rest and give you more later in the game, he said. Thats one of the things we feel fortunate about. The last two to three weeks weve been able to do that. We trust that third and fourth group, and theyve done a good job at creating that trust.

Although Wingels and Desjardins are still playoff newcomers, theres plenty of experience in the Sharks dressing room to help them along should there be any bumps in the road.

Thats a luxury that the younger and more inexperienced Blues cant match.

I cant put into the words the leadership here, Wingels said. As a young guy you just need to pretty much put your head down and follow. We have guys who have won Cups before and been in these situations, and as a young guy just sort of do what I can to follow their lead.

He could end up doing much more than that.

Odds and ends: Most of the Sharks opted not to bus to a suburban rink to practice, instead opting for a team meeting at the Scottrade Center. A concert made ice at the arena unavailable. According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Blues will stick with Jaroslav Halak in net but could make some other lineup changes. Right wing Ryan Reaves played just 8:01 on Thursday, a game-low.

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

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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.”