Sharks-Rangers: What to watch for

568278.jpg

Sharks-Rangers: What to watch for

NEW YORK, NY The Sharks set out on their second-longest road trip of the season nearly two weeks ago (yes, there is actually a longer trip in February), with a 1-3 mark and looking for answers. Winning five of the six upcoming games away from home would have sounded pretty sweet at the time.

Not now.

San Jose will try to go a perfect 6-0 when the New York Rangers play host at Madison Square Garden tonight.

Our overall record is not staggering, by any means, for our team, said Douglas Murray after Mondays morning skate. Were more back where we should be, and 6-4 is not good enough for us 7-3 is a lot better.

Day of rest: Most of the Sharks top minute guys stayed away from the rink on Sunday, as McLellan held a limited practice. Despite pulling out a 3-2 overtime win on Saturday against the Islanders, the Sharks didnt appear to have the energy or skating legs as they did, say, the night before in Detroit.

The match against the Islanders was the typical trap game a lesser opponent, towards the end of a long trip on a back-to-back, after beating a top rival the previous night. To their credit, the Sharks managed to pull out the victory anyway.

Tonight, expect a more revived bunch.

We have no excuses headed into tonights game, said Todd McLellan. We should be rested, and have a little more juice than we did on the Island.

It might have been more mental, if anything, said Ryane Clowe of Saturdays game. "For the most part, myself and the guys I talked to, felt pretty good. I thought we skated all right, it was just a little mental after the big win against Detroit and going on back-to-back nights. Mentally, those are the games you have to be ready for, and we were probably not our sharpest, but found a way.

Rangers hungry: The first phase of the Madison Square Garden renovation is complete, but that hasnt helped its tenant. The Rangers dropped their first two at home, and have just three wins in their first nine games.

The Sharks will see a familiar face in a blue sweater as Brad Richards signed with New York after more than three seasons in Dallas. He has three goals and five assists, tying him with Marian Gaborik for the team lead in points.

Hes a great passer and always finds a way to get it to the net, said Jason Demers about Richards. Thats something were going to have to watch. He makes their team go and is the offensive catalyst out there, so we just have to make sure we keep in him check and make sure he doesnt get those other guys going.

The Rangers are more than just two players, of course, cautions McLellan.

They are a character team, I think, he said. As soon as you start focusing on one or two of the individuals, the rest of the crew seems to sting you.

It will be a complete Ranger focus. Each team has their go-to guys and Brad and Gabby would be those two here, but they have a number of other players that Im sure are going to compete extremely hard and can make you pay if youre not aware of them.

Martin Biron is expected to start in net for the Rangers and face Antti Niemi, according to several reports and tweets this morning from New York reporters. Regular starter Henrik Lundqvist was in net for New Yorks last game on Saturday, in which they blew a three-goal third period lead to Ottawa and lost in a shootout, 5-4.

Top heavy: A quick glance at the stat sheet during this road trip tells the obvious: The Sharks offense is being led by its big guns.

Joe Pavelski (9 points) is at the top, but Joe Thornton (7 pts.), Patrick Marleau (6 pts.), Logan Couture (5 pts.), Clowe (5 pts.) and Martin Havlat (5 assists) are all enjoying personal hot streaks.

McLellan was asked if hed like to see his other lines contribute a little more on the scoreboard, and although he would, he still says theyve contributed in other ways.

Id like to see our third and fourth line produce a little bit, but for the most part, they havent been scored on. Theyve been playing their games even, he said. They play hard, have contributed on the checking side and penalty kill side, so I cant complain about their contribution to the team.

Torrey Mitchell, who spends most of his time on the third line, would like to see them put the puck in the net.

Our top two lines have obviously been carrying us for our road trip, he said. Were going to need to step up. Even the fourth line, too.

Odds and ends: Judging by the morning skate, the Sharks will ice the same lineup they used on Saturday, with the only change being Niemi in for Thomas Greiss. This is the only meeting of the season between these two teams.

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

SAN JOSE – Joel Ward has been in the league long enough to know that the Sharks got outworked and outhustled in their decisive loss to the Blues on Saturday.

That could be why he put his body on the line in the second period against the Jets on Monday afternoon at SAP Center. Ward hustled to a loose puck along the wall with the Sharks holding a slim 1-0 lead and slipped it ahead to Chris Tierney, before getting absolutely plastered by Mark Stuart on a hit as big as you’ll see in today’s NHL.

While Ward was sluggish to get up as a result of his head bouncing off the ice surface, Tierney gave it to Timo Meier, who finished off a breakaway goal early in the second period.

While he was seeing stars from what he called a “clean hit,” Ward also heard the goal horn.

“I tried to get the puck out, obviously, and next thing I knew I was on my back and heard the horn go off,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure what happened after that.”

What happened was a 5-2 Sharks win, two days after one of their worst performances of the season, a 4-0 home defeat to St. Louis. San Jose withstood an early push by the visiting Jets but took over the game in the second period, particularly after Ward’s sacrifice.

"That's the commitment we talk about,” Pete DeBoer said. “Taking that hit, making that play, [Meier] scores the goal. We need that. Joel's a guy that brings that to the rink almost every night. That's what it's going to take at this time of year in order to have success."

In a rare afternoon start, the Sharks looked sleepy in the beginning. The Jets were the better team for the first few minutes, but Martin Jones made sure they didn’t get on the board. He made a key stop on a Shawn Matthias one-timer just 1:29 into the first period, and then bailed out David Schlemko on a defensive zone turnover a few minutes later, again denying Matthias.

The Sharks went to the penalty kill after Schlemko’s cross-checking minor at 11:39, but Ward scored 15 seconds after that, picking the corner over Michael Hutchinson for a pretty shorthanded marker. He correctly read a Justin Braun clearing attempt, when Braun rimmed it past Dustin Byfuglien, who couldn’t keep it in at the blue line. 

After that, “just kind of saw glove side and fired it there as quick as I could,” Ward said.

That led to a dominant second period for San Jose. Along with Meier’s goal, Brent Burns scored on a power play and the slumping Jets were noticeably deflated from there.

Jones said the Jets “came out real hard,” but, “that’s pretty much all [my teammates] needed from me today. You can’t really ask for much more than that from the guys. They put up five, and slowed down a pretty fast team.”

Tierney said: “Joner did a great job of keeping us in it and not giving up a goal there and putting us behind. After that, we kind of got it going a bit and started playing our game.”

There was even some late comedy. Trailing 4-1 at the time, Jets coach Paul Maurice decided to take Hutchinson out for an extra attacker. Jones noticed the empty net and was lining up a shot after he retrieved a dump-in. It didn’t go more than a foot in front of him, though, as Mark Scheifele blocked it and slipped it into an empty net.

Jones could be seen grinning through his mask, while Tierney said he was “laughing on the bench.”

“That’s the first time I’ve tried [shooting at an empty net], and probably the last, too,” Jones said.

In total, Monday's result offered quite the change in mood from Saturday’s whipping.

DeBoer said: “I don't think anyone in our room was happy with how last game went. It was a good bounce-back game."

“It was definitely good today to rebound, and get back to winning,” Ward said.

Instant Replay: Sharks offense comes to life, ground Jets 5-2

Instant Replay: Sharks offense comes to life, ground Jets 5-2

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Joel Ward had a goal and an assist, and survived a thundering hit in the second period, in helping the Sharks to a 5-2 win over Winnipeg on Monday afternoon at SAP Center.

Ward’s linemates Chris Tierney and Timo Meier also had a goal and assist each, as the Sharks snapped their modest two-game losing streak. Martin Jones made 26 saves in net.

Winnipeg lost its fourth in a row (0-3-1), getting swept on a three-game trip through California.

Leading 1-0 on Ward’s first period shorthanded score, San Jose took control in the middle frame.

Meier’s breakaway goal at 2:45 upped the lead to 2-0. Prior to the conversion, Ward was plowed by Winnipeg’s Mark Stuart at the defensive blue line, but managed to push the puck to Tierney in the neutral zone. Tierney’s lead pass found Meier streaking in, and the rookie deposited his first goal in 13 games and first since his NHL debut on Dec. 16 in Montreal.

Ward went to the dressing room, likely to be checked for a concussion after his head hit the ice, but returned later in the period.

Brent Burns’ power play goal gave the Sharks a three-goal cushion, when his shot went wide but rebounded off of the end boards and off of the back of goalie Michael Hutchinson’s skate at 7:08.

San Jose continued to press for the much of the remaining 13 minutes of the second period, outshooting the Jets 15-4.

Tierney added insurance with a wrist shot from the circle at 11:41 of the third, finding the puck after a Meier shot was blocked. It was his first in 14 games, and gave the Sharks a 4-0 lead.

Josh Morrissey’s goal at 17:24 ruined the shutout for Jones. Mark Scheifele scored with 15 seconds left to make it 4-2, after Jones blocked what looked like an attempt to shoot the puck into an empty net. An empty net goal by Joe Thornton capped the scoring.

After Winnipeg looked more assertive than San Jose in the opening minutes, Ward staked the Sharks the first period lead when his wrist shot found the top far corner at 11:54 of the first period. It was his fourth of the season, two of which have come shorthanded.

The Sharks have claimed both of their afternoon games this season, including a 3-2 win over the Islanders on Nov. 25.

San Jose visits Winnipeg on Jan. 24 and March 6, both of which will the second of a back-to-back for the visitors.

Special teams

The Sharks finished 1-for-4 on the power play, just their second such goal in the past seven games (2-for-17). The penalty kill was a perfect 2-for-2, coming on consecutive penalties to David Schlemko and Tierney just one minute and 45 seconds apart.

Ward’s shorthanded goal was the Sharks’ third of the season, two of which have come from the veteran forward.

Tierney’s high-sticking minor in the first period was his first penalty of the season in 44 games.

In goal

Jones made his biggest stop just a minute and a half into the game, swallowing a Shawn Matthias one-timer from the slot on a setup by Dustin Byfuglien. He denied Matthias a second time with 11:18 to go, just before Ward’s shorty.

Hutchinson took the loss with four goals allowed on 31 shots.

Lineup

The Sharks missed Joonas Donskoi for the second straight game with an upper body injury, although it doesn’t appear to be serious.

Winnipeg remains without rookie Patrick Laine, who began the day tied for the NHL rookie lead in goals (21) and points (37), due to a concussion suffered on Jan. 7.

San Jose reassigned defenseman Tim Heed and forward Ryan Carpenter to the Barracuda, presumably to play in their game later Monday night.

Up next

The Sharks close out their season series with the Kings on Wednesday night at Staples Center. San Jose won the first two, but Los Angeles swept a home-and-home on Dec. 31 and Jan. 3, the latter of which came in overtime in Southern California.