Sharks-Colorado: What to watch for

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Sharks-Colorado: What to watch for

DENVER Everyone needs a day off sometimes, and the Sharks are no different. After arriving in Denver late Sunday night following the 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago, the Sharks regulars had a complete day off on Monday to regroup, refocus and re-energize before tonights game against Colorado.

Everyone who was asked about the down time on Tuesday morning after the teams skate agreed it was much needed.

It was nice to just stay in the hotel and walk around the mall, and just get away from the rink and the grind. Hopefully, it will do us some good tonight, said Joe Thornton.

We had three games in four nights, and its tough on your body, especially back-to-backs against teams like St. Louis and Chicago, both hard forechecking teams, said Logan Couture. It was a tough way to end in Chicago, but I thought we played well for two periods. We have to rebound tonight. We need two points.

Coach Todd McLellan pointed out that it had been weeks since the Sharks had a complete day off from anything having to do with hockey. The team was supposed to be off last Sunday, but a bad 5-3 loss to Florida the night before resulted in an intense 50-minute skate instead.

In hindsight, McLellan seemed to second-guess that decision.

Sometimes, you lose sight of where your team might be. When youre not winning you want to bring them to the rink and work them more, and practice more, he said. Sometimes youre grumpy and you skate them maybe a little extra, and dont realize where they are physically.

I ran into a couple of them walking around in the street yesterday, and it was about 11:00 or 11:30 in the morning and a lot of them were just crawling out of bed. Maybe that day will be good for us, both mentally and physically.

Jamie McGinn, who has four goals in the last six games, said: Guys got a lot of rest, and were ready to go today.

Sticking with Niemi: McLellan wouldnt have shocked anyone if he decided to start Thomas Greiss tonight rather than Antti Niemi. After all, Greiss hasnt played since last Saturdays 5-3 loss to Florida, and won here at the Pepsi Center on Nov. 20 with 37 saves.

That wont be the case, though, as Niemi (11-6-2, 2.30 GAA, .920 SP) will make his fifth start in eight days.

Nemo had a good day of rest yesterday. We expect him to play, and play well, said McLellan.

The Sharks also expect the same lineup forward and defense-wise as played in Chicago, meaning Matt Irwin will have to wait at least one more game to make his NHL debut. Douglas Murray (right hand) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) remain out, as well.

Semyon Varlamov (9-12-1, 3.07 GAA, .898 SP) will start for Colorado.

More O, same D: Its the ultimate challenge in the NHL how do you generate offense while maintaining responsibility in the defensive zone?

The Sharks have been outstanding in their own zone since that loss against Florida, in which some brutal turnovers led to Panthers goals. Taking a look at the stretch since then, San Jose gave up just 21 shots to Minnesota, 20 to Dallas and 19 to St. Louis.

Before the late charge by the Blackhawks resulted in 34 shots against on Saturday, aided by some exhausted Sharks players, San Jose held a loaded Chicago offense to just 13 shots through two periods.

How do you keep that defensive play strong, while trying to get more goals?

Its a fine line, said Thornton. We feel comfortable in the one-goal games, but wed like to try to get a little bit more offense without giving too much on the back side. Its a fine line, but hopefully we can start scoring some more goals here.

Thats just it, you have to play well in your own end to create offense in this league, said Couture. If you break out clean and you dont spend any time in your own end, youre going to get chances in the other end.

Of course, it doesnt help that some of the Sharks' big offensive weapons have collectively gone cold. Over the last nine games, Joe Pavelski has just two points (1g, 1a); Marty Havlat just three assists; Partick Marleau one goal; and Thornton three assists.

You always have players that struggle, but to have a number of them all at the same time, its not a healthy thing for our team, said McLellan.

Still, he doesnt want it to come at the expense of solid team defense.

You need those top guys to score, but you dont want them to do it at the risk of cheating or anything defensively, said the coach. Our defensive game hasnt been bad. We want to keep that and find a way to get some offensive rewards, eventually.

Power play improvement: The Sharks had just two power plays against Chicago, and although they didnt score on either one, looked better and more organized.

The reason?

Our intent up top was to shoot first and dish later, which was a huge difference, said McLellan. We got into the zone a lot easier and we got pucks back. We looked dangerous, and we reviewed it this morning in our power play meeting, we looked how were supposed to look.

Still, the Sharks are just 1-for-25 in their past eight games. Colorado isnt much better, bringing a 1-for-23 cold streak in their last seven games into tonight.

Both clubs are also near the bottom of the penalty killing rankings. Colorado is 25th in the NHL (79.3 percent) while the Sharks are 28th (75.3 percent).
Odds and ends: The Sharks won 4-1 at the Pepsi Center on Nov. 20, behind a Patrick Marleau hat trick. Tonights game is on Versus at 6 p.m. PST.

Tierney rose to the challenge after comments in Sharks-Blues series

Tierney rose to the challenge after comments in Sharks-Blues series

Prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Final last May, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was asked to respond to Sharks coach Pete DeBoer’s decision to keep Patrick Marleau on the second line wing, rather than skate him as the third line center.

“We don't like that match. [Marleau] should stay on the second line,” Hitchcock said on May 17, eliciting laughter from the media. “I'm not telling Pete how to coach. … Just telling him we don't like that match.”

Whether Hitchcock was being truthful or not is up for interpretation, but the comment could have been viewed as an insult to Chris Tierney, who was in just his second NHL season. Tierney, mind you, was the guy that was centering the third line rather than Marleau, and in a series in which the pundits said the Blues were the deeper team up front, there was a lot riding on Tierney’s ability to handle the role.

On the latest Sharks Insider Podcast, Tierney recalled those public comments from the Blues’ legendary coach.

“You see it on Twitter, [in] media clippings, and whatnot. I think when something like that is said…the way I see it is, you want to prove them wrong. Not stick it to them, but show that, ‘OK, I’m going to show you’ kind of thing. 

“I think it just fuels the opposing players when something like that gets said, so I just take it as I just want to prove I can play. I knew I could play against those guys, and I think Pete trusted me enough that I could play against those guys.”

Over the final five games of the series, Tierney posted two goals, one assist and a plus-three rating, while a few of St. Louis’ most dangerous scorers went cold. As it turned out, the Sharks were the deeper – and better – team.

The playoff run gave Tierney, who had 5 goals and 4 assists in 24 games, a big boost in confidence.

“I thought I was going to be a little more nervous going into the playoffs than I was, but once you get playing it kind of feels like you’re just playing another game. … I think I just got more confident every series that I could go up against [Anze] Kopitar, or [Ryan] Johansen, or [Alex] Steen, [Jori] Lehtera or [Vladimir] Tarasenko.”

Tierney gets into several other topics in the podcast, including that he didn't think there was any way he would end up in San Jose after his draft interview.

“I had a meeting with the Sharks. ... I didn’t think it went very well," he said. "They were pretty hard on a lot of guys, though. I don’t know if that’s the way they interviewed back then, but I didn’t think it was going very well. I kind of crossed them off the list.”

Notes: Sharks resume practice after rare weekend off

Notes: Sharks resume practice after rare weekend off

SAN JOSE – It was a spirited, if fairly unstructured practice for the Sharks on Monday as they got back to work following a full weekend off.

Assistant coaches Steve Spott and Johan Hedberg appeared to keep the mood light, as head coach Pete DeBoer was not yet back in the area. The Sharks took Saturday and Sunday off after Friday’s win over Montreal, and host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

“The pace was high, guys were excited to be back on the ice, and we’ll have a more structured practice tomorrow – some system play, and we’ll get ready for Ottawa,” Spott said.

The Sharks coaching staff opted for a two-day break from the rink after San Jose completed a stretch of 10 games in 18 days. The busy schedule resumes with three games in four days starting with Ottawa, and a four-game road trip follows next week, beginning in Toronto on Dec. 13.

The players took advantage of the down time, with several of them catching the Raiders-Bills game in Oakland on Sunday. More importantly, though, they presumably refilled their energy tanks after playing so much hockey and taking so many flights through the first seven-and-a-half weeks of the season.

Spott said: “We thought about a few different scenarios, but we thought having them shut down for two full days and then coming in to have two days of practice would be best for us. I think the players appreciated that.

"One thing we’ve all learned here as a staff, being relatively new to the Western Conference, is the importance of rest and player maintenance. We can’t underestimate how important that is for our hockey club, to make sure they get the maintenance and the rest that they need.”

Sharks forward Logan Couture and defenseman David Schlemko took maintenance days. Schlemko missed a portion of Friday’s game with what looked to be a leg or ankle injury, but he returned in the third period.

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The Sharks reassigned forwards Kevin Labanc and Ryan Carpenter to the Barracuda over the weekend.

Sending Labanc down was a bit of a surprise in that the 20-year-old has averaged 11:58 of ice time in 12 games, with two goals and two assists. In two games with the Barracuda over the weekend in San Antonio, he posted three assists.

Spott was asked what the message was to the Staten Island, NY native.

“Do the same things there that you’ve done here, and that’s compete at both ends of the rink,” Spott said. 

“He’s going to get more offensive opportunities, being on the power play with the Barracuda, but [he has to not lose sight] of how good he has to be defensively, as well. That was our message.”

* * *

Sharks goalie Martin Jones was named as the NHL’s Third Star of the Week, going 3-0 with a 1.01 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.

It’s the second time in two weeks that the Sharks have had a player earn third star, as Brent Burns was honored last week.