Shark-Infested Blogger

March 25, 2010 5:03 AM

Sharks Look to Bounce Back at Home

For the first time since early February, the San Jose Sharks out-performed their opponents. Perhaps best of all, they played not with the desperation that has been a theme of so many post-game press conferences, but with urgency--showing they needed the win but confident they would.

The Sharks got the lead early on a tremendous wrist-shot from Joe Pavelski that fooled Nicklas Backstrom--he reacted with the glove while the shot sailed in high to the stick side. It was only the second time in 14 games San Jose scored first.

Dany Heatley added a goal in the second, but a Minnesota power play made the game tight soon after. Evgeni Nabokov was flopping around like a Shark out of water in an effort to keep the puck out of the net, but his defence could not clear the puck or give him time to set himself, and eventually Guillaume Latendresse found the back of the net.

However, the Sharks took control of the game back when Torrey Mitchell sent a rocket past Backstrom for his second goal of the year just 17 seconds into the third period. From there, the Sharks were able to smother the Wild, allowing only five more shots and just 20 shots all game; they took just 18 themselves, including Joe Thornton's empty net goal with 42 seconds left.

A major change was made to the forward lines: Coach Todd McLellan has broken up the Big Three (or "Burger Line") before, but never without at least two of the three remaining on the same line. In this contest, the three were seen all anchoring a different line, and all three lines scored.2470974606_4ec543a561.jpg

That may be a good strategy moving forward for a team that has relied far too heavily on those three to score. In the playoffs, a good defence will shut down any line, no matter how potent; Dany Heatley can speak to that from personal experience in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Sharks have also gotten healthier in the past two games. Energy line RW Jed Ortmeyer returned from a three-game absence for the final game of the road trip, one game after Marc Edouard Vlasic returned from a 13-game hiatus.

Vlasic's absence was noticeable--he may not be having an exceptional year on the stat sheet, but the play of the blueline has been abysmal in his absence. Perhaps it is no surprise that fellow defence mate Rob Blake spent the last seven of the games Pickles missed scoreless, since Vlasic's skating ability had allowed the team captain to pinch up into the play more than he could paired with Nick Wallin.

Now the Sharks get a chance at revenge against the team that gave them the worst beating of the season, the Dallas Stars, at 7:30pm PDT at the HP Pavilion. San Jose can knock the Stars out of the playoffs with two games against them in seven days: Dallas is nine points out with nine games to go, and a failure to get two points in either game would all but sound their playoff death knell and mark the first time they missed the playoffs on back-to-back seasons since moving to Dallas.

Neither team is playing well now, with only four wins in their last ten games. Dallas is 3-1 in the season series so far, benefiting from two shootout wins in San Jose (leaving the Sharks 1-1-2 in the series); San Jose would need to win both remaining games (one in regulation) to win the season series.

Sharks forwards Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer are still day-to-day battling injuries, and Shark-killer Mike Modano will still be out, recovering from an appendectomy. In his absence, centre Brad Richards has picked up the slack, with ten points during his six-game scoring streak.

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