Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion

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Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion

SAN JOSE – The sights, the sounds, and the smells were all very familiar to Ryane Clowe. The view, though, was just a little bit different.

Clowe, the locked-out Sharks forward who is currently acting as an assistant coach for the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls, saw his new team drop a 6-4 decision to the Stockton Thunder in front of nearly 13,000 fans at HP Pavilion on Monday night. Despite the loss, it was a pleasant experience for the guy who would have been in a Vancouver hotel getting ready for a game against the rival Canucks rather than standing behind the bench, had the NHL season started as scheduled.

“It was pretty weird, actually. I think more than anything, I just miss being out there,” Clowe said.

But, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have fun. The 30-year-old veteran of seven NHL seasons has enjoyed his time mentoring the young minor-leaguers, a small percentage of whom will graduate to the American Hockey League or higher, but many of whom will have to find work outside of hockey when their brief careers are over.

The Bulls’ experience of suiting up in the Sharks’ locker room, taking the ice in an NHL arena, and hearing so many thousands of fans cheering them on is something that most ECHL’ers never get to do. In fact, it had been more than 10 years since an ECHL team played a game in a pro arena, and that arena (Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh) isn’t even standing anymore.

For Clowe, he could see the enthusiasm on his players’ faces.

“That was the best part for me, just watching those guys and how excited they were. Especially that we got to use [the Sharks’] dressing room, they were pretty stoked about that,” he said.

“It was awesome. It’s probably one of the biggest stages that a lot of guys have played on, and they treated us really well here,” Bulls winger Kris Belan said. “We walked in and got the whole show, so it was pretty cool.”

Clowe even had a special message for defenseman Mikael Tam, who had just arrived on a flight from Worcester after playing for San Jose’s AHL affiliate over the weekend. Tam got changed in Clowe’s regular space.

“He was sitting in my stall and I said, ‘you’ve got to score tonight.’”

Tam opened the scoring at 9:21 of the first period.

Clowe wasn’t surprised by the large turnout, some of which were wearing Bulls orange but the majority of which had on their black and teal. The official announced crowd was 12,881 (all free), and by all appearances, that number was not at all inflated.

“They were obviously craving hockey, and I obviously feel bad for them that they’re not getting it right now,” Clowe said. “It sucks, but they were great tonight. I told the guys to be ready, because these fans get loud.”

Clowe signed with the Bulls on Nov. 7 and continues to practice with them, but he still has no plans to play for the team while the NHL lockout enters its fourth month. Despite the lockout moving from the meeting room to the courtroom with the latest legal filings by the NHL and players’ association, Clowe is hopeful that he’ll get to return to his regular job of bruising NHL agitator very shortly.

“Being back here, I think it’s really made me, more than anything, miss it.”

Apparently, he’s not the only one.

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

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USATSI

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

SAN JOSE – Struggling to score goals lately with two or fewer in eight of their last 11 games, the Sharks may soon turn to their biggest prospect to try and give the offense a boost.

Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick from the 2015 draft, is tearing up the American Hockey League lately with the Barracuda. He scored four goals (and registered 15 shots) in two games in San Antonio over the weekend, has eight points (5g, 3a) in his last four games, and leads the Barracuda with eight goals.

On Thursday, Pete DeBoer was asked what he’s heard about Meier lately and how close he may be.

“Good things, and real close,” DeBoer said. “I think he would have been even a consideration [Wednesday], but he came down I think with the flu. 

“You feel for him because we’re looking to bring some guys in, and he obviously had a great weekend. He’s one of quite a few guys down there that we feel real comfortable can come in here and are going to help us before the year ends, for sure.”

It’s the second time an illness has affected Meier’s status, as he came down with mononucleosis early in training camp and missed a month of action. He did, however, return to Barracuda practice this week.

One month ago, Barracuda coach Roy Sommer told CSN that Meier had to make some adjustments coming out of juniors. 

“He’s just has to simplify his game,” Sommer said on Nov. 9. “I think he’s just trying to do too much. He’s got to be north-south, and [forget] this circling and trying to put pucks through people. … It’s not going to work.”

Apparently, Meier has figured it out. On Tuesday, Sommer told The Gackle Report: “He’s getting better every game. At the start, I was going, oh man, he’s all over the map, circling and not using his teammates. But shoot, now he just keeps producing.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time with him on video and he picks stuff up.”

The 2015 draft has already produced several players that are regular contributors for their respective clubs, led by Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Jack Eichel (Buffalo), Mitch Marner (Toronto) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). 

Meier is the only player among the top 11 picks that year that has yet to play an NHL game, while 17 of 30 of the players overall chosen in the first round have played at least one NHL game.

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

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USATSI

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

SAN JOSE – There are games where the Sharks’ lack of offensive firepower isn’t an issue. Recent 2-1 wins over two of the best teams in the league, Chicago and Montreal, were impressive in that San Jose kept a pair of the league’s better offenses from getting more than a single score.

In other instances, though, that necessary goal from the team’s depth just hasn’t come. Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa was one example. The Sharks got goals from Logan Couture and Brent Burns – no surprise there – while Joe Pavelski was all around the net, generating more scoring chances than any single player on the ice.

Again, though, the depth forwards and defensemen other than Burns never found the scoresheet. 

And it’s becoming a real issue.

In fact, in the Sharks’ last 11 games in which they’ve gotten 25 goals total, 60 percent of them have come from just those three aforementioned players – Couture (7g), Burns (5g) and Pavelski (3g).

Also over that span, in which San Jose has gone 6-4-1, they’ve gotten no goals from Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Mikkel Boedker, Micheal Haley or Melker Karlsson; one goal apiece from Joel Ward and Tommy Wingels; and just one goal by a defenseman other than Burns (Dylan DeMelo). Of the 12 forwards that dressed against the Senators, eight of them had two or fewer goals.

The Sharks sit at 23rd in the NHL at 2.38 goals-per game. Sure, it’s just fine winning games by 2-1 final scores. But at some point, other guys are going to have to start putting the puck in the net if this team is truly going to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Couture – who himself got off to a slow start offensively – believes it’s going to come soon.

“Everyone wants to score,” Couture said after the Senators game. “It’s not about trying, it’s just the way that things are going right now. Pucks just aren’t going in for some guys, and, hey, I went through the same thing for awhile there where I wasn’t finding the back of the net. 

“That’s the way that goal-scoring works in the NHL, is you go through streaks where you’re hot and when you’re cold. Some guys are going to get hot soon. It’s going to happen.”

For his part, coach Pete DeBoer also believes the offense will pick up shortly. In the Senators game, the coaching staff internally tracked the scoring chances as 22 for the Sharks and just eight for Ottawa.

When that happens, “you should win, and you should score more than two goals,” DeBoer said.

Without getting into specifics, DeBoer pointed to the “analytics of where we are in the league” as a reason not to panic. Perhaps he’s aware that the Sharks are sixth in the league in shot-attempt percentage (52.25), and first in the NHL in shot-attempt percentage in close games (55.67).

Still, those numbers don’t mean anything when the puck isn’t going in. So what’s missing?

“I just think finish. I think we’re doing a lot of things right,” DeBoer said.

“Obviously I’d love to see us score some more goals five-on-five, but we’re getting some chances,” Ward said. “I would think if we weren’t or if we were getting shelled then it would definitely be something to be concerned about. … We’ve had some good looks and some really quality chances. Things just haven’t fallen in five-on-five, but I think that will come around.”