Vlasic's presence allowing Burns to succeed

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Vlasic's presence allowing Burns to succeed

NEW YORK, NY Sure, you were happy when the Sharks acquired Brent Burns this offseason. After all, Burns is one of the most well-rounded defensemen in the game, and filled a need that the Sharks were desperately missing last season.

You probably werent as happy as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, though, who must have figured right after the deal that he had a new partner on the blue line.

Vlasic and Burns are getting more and more comfortable with each passing game. While Burns was the one in the spotlight on Saturday night after scoring the game-winning overtime goal, though, Vlasic was busy making sure that game got to overtime at all.

We touched on this a little bit in the game recap of the 3-2 win over the Islanders, but its worth looking into a little more.

Vlasic made three key plays in the third period while many of his teammates appeared a little fatigued from the near end of a long road trip and second game in as many nights.

Early in the third, Islanders speedster John Tavares was a half step away from going in on a breakaway, but Vlasic was there to wrap him up as soon as the puck arrived on Tavares stick. A few minutes later in the third, Vlasic had the presence of mind to retreat from the offensive zone when he saw that she Sharks were about to lose possession. Doing so allowed him to keep an eye on Michael Grabner, who may be the Islanders most dangerous scorer after Tavares, and snuff out a scoring chance when Grabner was flying up the wing with the puck.

His biggest play, though, came on a shorthanded three-on-two rush with 3:27 remaining. Vlasic anticipated a pass to Grabner, kept his stick low to the ice, and knocked away a cross-ice pass that could have spelled trouble for the Sharks.

The stats are a reflection of Vlasics game. Hes tied for the team lead with a 6, is fourth in time-on-ice at 21:52, and has just one minor penalty all season.

Its tough not to watch Brent Burns as he flies around the ice, but Vlasics positioning and ability to defend allows Burns to do that in the first place. Never was that more evident than the third period and overtime on Saturday night.

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.