McLellan, Sharks deny they have 'demons'


McLellan, Sharks deny they have 'demons'

Tim Panaccio

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Five times in the past seven seasons, the San Jose Sharks have lost to the eventual Western Conference champion.When this series began between the Sharks and Canucks, hockey historians labeled it as one where both franchises were seeking to exorcise demons from their past.Vancouver has not been to a Stanley Cup Final since losing to the Rangers in 1994.The Sharks? Theyve never been there and had a chance last year and still have one this spring, as well, under coach Todd McLellan, albeit, a slim chance at this point, trailing 3-1.

Vancouver needs just one win to heap another years disappointment on the Sharks. Ryane Clowe has been a Shark six seasons, so he knows a thing or two about carrying franchise burdens around every spring.
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Theres a lot of pressure on us already because were going to be question marks after the season, Clowe said on Monday night.The last couple of years, its felt different. We lost to Anaheim in Todds first year. That was a tough one. Todd has a different mentality that hes brought in here. We dont feel that way.I know its always a talk with the Sharks -- the need to take that next step. But sometimes, you get so close. Obviously, the last couple of years we were right there. Youre obviously doing something right. You can look at it that way. A lot of teams would love to have an opportunity to get this far. But we cant look at that way.We got to make that next step and get to the Cup Final. Then go from there. I dont know anything about demons. Weve got a lot of the same core here. Theres different guys coming in every year,changing it up, but I think for the most part, the core guys have played pretty good hockey.Hes talking team captain Joe Thornton (17 points), who will play in Game 5 despite a shoulder injury;Patrick Marleau (12 points), Douglas Murray, Dan Boyle, whos won a Cup, and even himself.McLellan objected to the characterization of demons when asked at his morning press conference in San Jose, before the team arrived in Vancouver.
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You guys think we have demons, McLellan responded. They don't exist in our world. We've had a lot of success as an organization and as a franchise. We can keep referring back to the Conference Finals in 2004, say that we had an eight-game losing streak. I think some of you wrote that. I don't know what the hell 2004 has to do with 2011.I don't think we have demons. We have a team that's worked extremely hard to get to the Conference Finals. We've had a team that's faced a lot of adversity, external adversity.The only people we answer to are ourselves in that locker room. We don't answer to the media. We answer to our fans somewhat here at home. We owe them an effort. We owe them a commitment level second to none. But that's it.Trite as it sounds, theres a saying: closing out a series is always the hardest game. The Sharks know firsthand how Detroit came back at them the last series to force a Game 7. Now San Jose has to do the same with Vancouver.You cant win three times in one game.
Often, the pressure to win a fourth game is greater than the pressure the other club feels in an elimination game.You would assume theres more pressure on them; theyre up 3-1, Murray said. Its tough to answer.Clowe said the Sharks could relax a bit and play better because all the expectations are on the Canucks ending the series here.That could be true, but if the Vancouver guys want to take less pressure, I can take three wins, Murray said smiling.The Sharks have been in this situation before, so its nothing new to them, Clowe said.We played Detroit that last series, looked like we had it wrapped up and then we lost and had to go backto Detroit for Game 6 and all of a sudden, it gets your thinking a little bit, he said.Right now, we feel confident if we can win tomorrow, we can go back home and win Game 6 ... For the first time in the playoffs, maybe we just gotta play. Play loose and no pressure on us and just go get them.Were down 3-1, but I think you see us go a little more. A little looser, create a little more offensively. As much as we can try to put pressure on them, why not?

Perhaps if Game 5 is played 5-on-5 instead of special teams, maybe the Sharks can make a go of it.

No disrespect to Vancouver, but weve been beating ourselves, Murray said. We have not been very good on execution in most games. The goals weve been giving up, its not our systems, its execution.Ask either of the coaches or even the players, you dont want to get into a special teams battle. You want to keep penalties down and draw more penalties than you take We want to take as few penalties as possible, but that has not been the case in this series.It would help immensely if Dany Heatley stepped up in this one, as well.Heatley has been a no-show with one assist. He has just five goals in 31 career playoff games as a Shark.Even more stunning, as the San Jose Mercury News reported, Heatley has just one power play goal as a Shark over the teams last 140 chances, going back to last postseason.We often say as a coaching staff about individual players: What more can we do with them? McLellan said. That's a cop-out as a coaching staff. We have to find ways to make them better, help them. There's a real good lesson I learned in Minnesota's organization. Doug Risebrough said, You always have to try to find a way.
"It's up to us to sit with Dany, work with him a little bit, try to find a way to put him in successful situations. Then again, ultimately he has to find a way to do that and produce. We will help him any way we possibly can.Heatley isnt the only Shark who needs to show up. Hes just the most obvious player.At this time of the year, you have some guys that rise to the occasion and give you extra, give you a little more and others struggle, for whatever reason, McLellan said, not singling out any particular Shark.And it can change from night-to-night or series-to-series. You look at Vancouver. Coming into this series, there was an awful lot of talk about the Sedin twins Daniel and Henrik not producing.Obviously, theyve answered that question quite well. And theres always lightning rods on our team, Marleau and Thornton, and they just happen to not only be leading our team but the league in scoring. Were pleased with their play. Theres others that have to give us more, not doubt about it. If we plan on extending the series, those others will have to rise to the occasion.Like Heatley. Dany and others and you can put Dany in that mix and he knows it, McLellan said. Hes admitted it and talked about it. Thats the first sign of turning things around. Hellman up and we expect him to play well tomorrow.Tim Panaccio covers thePhiladelphia Flyers for and let him know what you think! Follow Tim @tpanotch.

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots


Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders cornerback David Amerson didn’t practice all week, but ran just well enough to be considered “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against New England.

Translation: Outlook for Sunday is not good, but Jack Del Rio’s fingers remained crossed real, real tight. The Raiders hope there’s a way he can be active against Tom Brady’s buzz saw attack, because their cover men are beat up.

Amerson has missed two straight with a foot injury, and has dealt with injury all year. Gareon Conley’s season officially ended Monday, when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Antonio Hamilton and Demetrius McCray were already there.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t reached out for reinforcements. That leaves TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith to play cornerback. Carrie’s been the rock, a sure tackler who hasn’t made spectacular plays but doesn’t give them up. McDonald has been forced into action, with holes let in his game.

Smith should be the No. 1 guy in this group, the steadying presence on the outside. That hasn’t been the case this year, where he lost a starting job in training camp and sub-package snaps during the season, only to have injuries to Conley and Amerson bring him in the fray.

He’s also been dealing with felony assault and battery charges in Los Angeles stemming from a July 4 incident in Pasadena.

Smith has been a lightning rod for fan criticism, a byproduct of his $9.5 million salary this year and explosive plays allowed early in the year.

If there’s an anvil weighing on his mind, teammates insist you’d never know.

“We’re human at the end of the day,” Amerson said. “You feel it, but you have to find a way to remain even keel and professional and do your job well.”

Smith will be counted on heavily Sunday against New England, especially if Amerson can’t play as expected. He has proven vulnerable to speed without help and proper disruption at the line of scrimmage, though that hasn’t been an issue lately because the Utah alum has recovered well after a rough start.

He got pulled after struggling against Vernon Davis in Washington. He didn’t play against the Chargers after giving up two huge plays to Baltimore the week before.

Amerson originally sprained his foot in Week 7 against Kansas City – he hasn’t played since – and Smith was called upon to respond. He wasn’t targeted in that game, and has been strong in coverage ever since.

Smith has allowed three catches for 12 yards in four targets over the last two games. The ninth-year veteran insists he wasn’t doing anything markedly different, and had zero interest in patting himself on the back for recent jobs well done.

“I’m not,” Smith said. “I’m out there doing my job, man, the best way I can.”

Smith says the off-field distractions during a roller-coaster season, one of his career’s most trying yet, haven’t impacted him much

“Nope. Not at all,” Smith said. “As long as I wake up a Raider, I’m all right. I’ll deal with whatever happens. I’ll always be there for my guys, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help our team win.”

Raiders defensive backs laud Smith’s locker room presence, saying he’s an excellent teammate. Cornerbacks in general must have a short memory when things go bad, to refocus and prevent that from happening again. Smith apparently has that in spades.

“I know how things go, especially when you have a target on your back,” Amerson said. “Sometimes you get hit with the perfect pass and you give up some plays. You can’t do anything about that but take advantage of the next opportunity. Sean’s a good player, and he definitely has that mindset.”

Smith will lend experience to this big game, something the Raiders need after suffering so many injuries.

"It sucks that so many of us have gone down,” Smith said. "You want to have all your guys out there, but that’s the NFL. Injuries happen. As long as everybody comes to work and acts like a pro, we’ll be all right. We all have a job to do. We all would like to start, but you have to be ready when your number’s called.”

Kevin Durant takes shot at Zaza Pachulia while center's kid play one-on-one


Kevin Durant takes shot at Zaza Pachulia while center's kid play one-on-one

Kevin Durant doesn't take it easy on anyone. Not even the children of teammate Zaza Pachulia.

After practice on Saturday in Philadelphia, Pachulia's two sons, Davit and Saba, were playing one-on-one at the facility the Warriors were using. Kevin Durant filmed one sequence and posted it to his Instagram Story.

One of Pachulia's sons grabbed the ball and drives around the other without dribbling. As he makes the shot, Durant offers his commentary and took a shot at the Warriors starting center.

"That's a travel. Such a travel. Same thing your pops do," Durant said, taking a shot at Pachulia.

Durant also had another message for Pachulia written on the video.

"Yo, @zazapachulia at some you have to teach the boys how to play off the bounce," Durant wrote.