EL SEGUNDO More than any other NHL team since the leagues work stoppage, the San Jose Sharks know the feeling of starting the playoffs after a dominant regular season.
Thats not going to happen this year, should the Sharks qualify, which could happen as soon as tonight in Los Angeles. Its been a struggle for just about the entire run, beginning with three losses in the first four games. The Sharks look like they can beat the best in the league on one night, and then fall flat on their faces against a bottom-feeder the next.
With so much on the line in the last month, and especially the last week, can the Sharks take any positives from having to fight tooth and nail just to get in to the postseason?
Logan Couture thinks so.
Weve battled through a lot of adversity, and that makes teams stronger and brings it closer together. I think that definitely helps, he said.
It hasnt been a dream season, but sometimes those seasons, if you get in, you can make them work in your favor, Todd McLellan said. We know what it feels like to cruise through a season and be number one, and then all of a sudden the pressure comes. In this situation, weve been playing with pressure for a month now. I dont know how much can change if were lucky enough to get in. Well just keep on playing and do our thing.
Step 1 is securing a playoff spot, something the Sharks can do with a win against the Kings tonight.
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I dont want to speculate because weve still got to win some games to get into the postseason, but its been a struggle and hopefully it will smooth out during the playoffs, Joe Thornton said.
Ryane Clowe credits the Sharks coaching staff for keeping things positive around the team, even while it was in the midst of a miserable road trip at the end of February and continued with poor results for a couple weeks in early March, too.
I think if youre on the outside looking in at a team, kind of the way its been going with us with high expectations, you probably say wow, it must be miserable in that dressing room. But, every day coming to the rink has been real positive, trying to keep things as light as possible. Guys are upbeat, and still have a lot of confidence. Thats the biggest thing Ive noticed.
I think the coaches are doing a great job. Todds been great as far as being positive, and every day has been a move-forward kind of approach.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Sharks in recent years, of course, is that the team may be a little too loose or too relaxed, but Clowe doesnt see it that way.
I dont think its been a negative loose. If anything, its shown at times, especially in the last couple games weve played free, as far as being able to score goals, make plays, and not take any dumb penalties.
When you get to this situation you dont want to be constantly grinding it out and pushing. I think thats what wears on you. Were fresh mentally, and were good to go.
Kings talk Sharks
The Los Angeles Kings bring a 2-1-1 advantage into the final two games of the season with the Sharks, including a 5-2 win at Staples Center on March 20.
I think theyve played us hard. We always expect a hard game against them, Drew Doughty said. I think we kind of built a rivalry against them, especially with losing to them in playoffs last year. As a team, we match up well against them. Theyve got those two really big lines that put up a lot of points.
Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick said: Theyre a great team. They know what they have on the line, as much as we know what we have on the line. We know what to expect.