Sharks Gameday: Growing on Me
|9-5-2, 20 points||9-7-1, 19 points |
|6th in Western Conference ||8th in Western Conference |
| || |
Mile High Hockey
A quick one here as a profile on Jason Demers that I want to get as much attention as possible is scheduled to drop later today.
The Sharks are hitting the road following a five game homestand in which they acquired nine out of ten possible points despite struggling in some aspects of their game. That homestand was capped with a rousing victory over Los Angeles on Monday night however, a win that we felt was their best performance of the 2010-2011 season to date, and one that could be a rallying point for the team going forward.
Before the homestand the Sharks were shutout in consecutive road games against St. Louis and Minnesota. At practice yesterday, right before the Sharks headed to the San Jose airport for their flight to Colorado, Head Coach Todd McLellan predicted the way the media would present their stories.
In other words, how will the Sharks play on the road after their struggles to start November?
"I look back at those two games and I didn't mind the way we played. I thought we did a lot of good things in those two games," McLellan said. "What stands out in my mind was those undisciplined penalties that put us in a huge hole, and we've talked about that. Have we made strides in that area? For the most part we have, we haven't been in the penalty box as much. We've corrected that and smartened up in that area."
San Jose drew twenty six penalties and took twenty during their last five games, coming out on top of the penalty battle in every game except their 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames. It's a good sign for a team that struggled in this area at the early part of the year. Staying out of the box on the road is tougher of course-- on average, teams in the NHL go shorthanded at a greater rate in away games versus home games. During 2009-2010 officials put the road team in the box 4750 times versus 4386 at home, or an average of 3.86 road penalties a game versus 3.56 home penalties a game.
The Sharks followed those League trends last year-- 176 times shorthanded away from HP Pavilion and 151 times in The Tank. They sit at a 3.5 per game average at home (10 GP) versus a whopping 6.16 average on the road (6 GP) this season, with those away totals largely due to their lack of discipline against the Wild and Blues.
McLellan also talked about the health of his blueline. Douglas Murray has yet to skate (in practice or otherwise) after blocking a shot in third period against Calgary, but will be making the trip with the team. Niclas Wallin had a maintenance day but is expected to play. Both will be evaluated following the morning skate. Working The Corners will, as always, the place to go for any updates on their availability.
The Sharks rolled seven defenseman for parts of last season, which begged the question-- would McLellan consider going to that again with Murray dealing with a lower body injury?
"We would consider that, definitely," McLellan said. "If we felt there was a risk to him playing and not finishing the night we likely wouldn't put him in to begin with, but if we decided to [play him], we might go seven. It would give Derek Joslin an opportunity to stay in the lineup more and get his feet underneath him. He did a good job last night. That usually happens where you get a lot of adrenaline and you're excited about playing that first game. We'll keep an eye on him and we're sure that he'll keep his standards high and not let it slip."
Colorado will be a good test for the Sharks tonight, specifically in the neutral zone. Their quick transition game is one to be feared and requires that managing the puck in the back half of the ice is essential if San Jose is going to continue to build upon their performance Monday.
Prediction: Sharks win 4-2. Goals by McGinn, Pavelski, Demers, and Heatley. Adam Foote misses the first period after a Bingo game goes into overtime.