Sharks hope no Heatley is no problem vs. Wild


Sharks hope no Heatley is no problem vs. Wild

March 17, 2011

MINNESOTA (35-28-7) vs.
SHARKS (40-23-8)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

SAN JOSE (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks' Pacific Division lead could have been trimmed to one point with a fourth straight defeat. Instead, the Sharks feel momentum on their side following a comeback victory.

That could be hard for San Jose to maintain minus one of its best players.

Playing the first of two games without the suspended Dany Heatley, San Jose looks to continue its run toward the postseason Thursday night when it tries to extend its recent home success versus the Minnesota Wild, who are hoping the return of captain Mikko Koivu can spark a late-season charge.
RELATED: Heatley suspended for elbow to Ott's head

Coming off Monday's 6-3 loss at Chicago - its third consecutive defeat - San Jose (40-23-8) rallied from a 2-0 second-period deficit Tuesday to beat Dallas 6-3. Heatley and captain Joe Thornton had two goals apiece as the Sharks remained three points ahead of Los Angeles and Phoenix in the division standings.

REWIND: Sharks rally to beat Stars in Dallas

"Yeah, these were the results we were looking for," coach Todd McLellan said. "We challenged them after the effort that we had (Monday). We haven't had to do that much lately."

However, Heatley will be out for this contest and Saturday against St. Louis for elbowing Dallas' Steve Ott in the head. Heatley has 24 goals and is second on the team with 58 points while playing in all 71 games this season.

San Jose, 19-4-3 since Jan. 15, is third in the Western Conference standings and on the heels of second-place Detroit.

"We just have a lot of confidence now and momentum's a little bit more on our side," center Joe Pavelski said after recording a career-best four assists Tuesday.

Even without Heatley, San Jose should have plenty of confidence as it begins a three-game homestand. The Sharks are 7-0-1 against the Wild at home since a 4-1 loss Oct. 21, 2006.

In the teams' only meeting at HP Pavilion this season, San Jose won 4-3 on Jan. 22 behind two second-period goals from Devin Setoguchi.

Minnesota (35-28-7) had won the previous two matchups with San Jose - 1-0 on Nov. 2 and 5-3 on Dec. 29.

Looking to win the season series versus the Sharks for the first time since 2005-06, the Wild also hope to snap a three-game skid and improve their 11th-place standing in the West. Minnesota is just four points out of a playoff spot, but the club has scored only twice during its slide.

Koivu had a hand in both of those scores, finding the back of the net and assisting on Andrew Brunette's goal in Monday's 4-2 loss at Vancouver. Koivu, second on the team with 51 points, had missed the previous 11 games with a broken finger.

"You can't look behind. You've got to look forward. We're still right there," said Koivu, who leads Minnesota with three goals against the Sharks this season.

Niklas Backstrom has been in net for all three games against San Jose, but he may back up Jose Theodore in this matchup after going 1-5-0 with a 3.59 goals-against average in last six starts.

Theodore has won his last two starts in San Jose, with the last coming in 2008 while with Colorado.

If Antti Niemi makes his 27th consecutive start in front of Antero Niittymaki, it will be the second time he faces Minnesota this season. He turned away 23 shots on Jan. 22 to improve to 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA against the Wild.

The Sharks have killed just 19 of 28 opponent power plays in eight games this month, but Minnesota is 0 for 10 on the power play during its skid.

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’


How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'


Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive. 

“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”

While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged. 

“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”

Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game. 

The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.