Clowe, Handzus have been key in shootouts


Clowe, Handzus have been key in shootouts

SAN JOSE Like them or not, shootouts are going to play a large role in determining which Western Conference teams end up in the playoffs and which end up on the golf course.

Thats probably why the Sharks ended their practice on Thursday with a shootout drill. Counting the 4-3 win against Phoenix on Saturday, six of the last 11 Sharks games have gone past regulation, and four of them have been decided via the skills competition. San Jose is now 2-2 in the last four, and 8-5 on the season.

After some recent odd choices for the shootout in previous games, coach Todd McLellan decided to go with his bread and butter on Saturday.

Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe have been the Sharks most reliable shooters, both improving to 5-for-10 this year after finding daylight on Mike Smith in what was the most important extra point of the year. After Handzus was able to beat Smith to the stick side, Clowe was asked if he was trying to find that same spot on purpose before he fired in a goal where Handzus had just converted earlier.

I noticed on Handzus goal that Smith was back in his net a bit. Ive went to that move a few times this year, and Im starting to feel confident with it, said Clowe, who has had success going to his backhand in shootouts in prior seasons. If I have to go to the backhand, hopefully I can still use that, as well. I had it in my mind I was going to go there.

Clowe was pleased with the way the team was able to handle adversity for the second straight game, particularly when it surrendered a goal late in the first and then early in the second to fall behind, 3-2.

The last two games, I like how were just going, he said. If something happens, we just forget about it. Go after them. We did that.

Marleau gets one: Offense has been a struggle for the Sharks in recent weeks (months?), as the team has now gone 20 straight games without scoring more than three goals in regulation.

One big reason for that is Patrick Marleaus failure to light the lamp. The winger and sometimes center had just one goal in his last 14 games before scoring the tying goal in the first period against the Coyotes.

I finally found the back of the net, so thats good, Marleau said after the game. Ill look forward to getting some more chances and some more goals.

Is there a personal sense of relief?

Probably a little bit, but you try and play the same way whether or not youve scored, he said.

Coyotes displeased with start: Phoenix may have scored the first goal of the game, when Daymond Langkow took advantage of a Sharks turnover behind their own net, but coach Dave Tippett didnt like the way his team started the game. The Sharks seemed to have the early energy.

I thought in the first period, we didnt have everybody in, Tippett said.

Still, the Coyotes were able to make a game of it and record a point while missing captain Shane Doan (suspension), leading goal-scorer Radim Vrbata (lower body injury), and big-minute defenseman Adrian Aucoin (lower body injury).

I thought we made a couple of little mental mistakes early. Everybody does that, and it happened, but the good thing is were mature enough to believe we can come back and stay in games and brush those little mistakes off and tighten up, defenseman Derek Morris said.

We got out there and we competed hard and found a way to keep ourselves in the game, Tippett said. Unfortunately we couldnt get the two points. But, we came into a hard building here and with some injury situations like this, I thought our guys competed hard and we found a way to get a valuable point.

The Coyotes host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night, and are off until hosting the Sharks on Thursday, March 29.

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines


Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

The San Jose Sharks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday night, but it sure didn't feel like it.

You’d be forgiven, albeit mistaken, if you didn't think the loss was their first goose egg of the season. San Jose’s been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, and has scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their six games in November.

The Sharks controlled play, but their raw possession numbers were misleading: Through the first two periods, San Jose was outshot 23-18, and poured it on in the third looking for the game-tying goal.

In order to break out of his team’s extended slump, head coach Peter DeBoer appeared to throw his lines in the proverbial blender. The changes weren't very significant, though, as DeBoer worked mostly around the edges.

Joe Thornton remained with Joe Pavelski, while Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier rotated in on their wing. Joonas Donskoi swapped in with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and on and on.

The core pair of each line remained intact, while DeBoer swapped complimentary wingers. Subtle changes, unsurprisingly, didn't lead to drastically different results.

He’s been amenable to bigger changes at times, briefly breaking up longtime linemates Thornton and Pavelski last Sunday against Los Angeles. The bottom six, especially the fourth line, has mostly been a revolving door.

That's a start, but far from enough. 

As long as the Sharks struggle to score, similarly significant changes are in order.

DeBoer shouldn't want to sacrifice the team’s defensive dominance, or its strong possession game. But, the Sharks haven't scored enough through 17 games to justify using the same forward combinations. 

In Thornton and Pavelski’s case, those struggles date back to last season. For just about everyone else, the sample size is getting increasingly more significant as the season approaches the quarter pole.

The Sharks bench boss expressed a willingness to mix up his power play units earlier this week, and needs to do the same at even strength. It's time to try Pavelski on Couture's wing, Meier on Thornton's, or any number of permutations.

Tweaking around the edges hasn't made much of a difference, so far more comprehensive adjustments are not only welcome, but necessary. Of course, DeBoer may not find the perfect lineup solutions.

At this point, though, it's worth a shot. It's hard to imagine the Sharks scoring any less than they have so far this season, and the Sharks need to explore if any line changes can provide a remedy.

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks


Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks


SAN JOSE — Roberto Luongo made 35 saves for his 74th career shutout and the Florida Panthers blanked the San Jose Sharks 2-0 Thursday night on goals by Colton Sceviour and Nick Bjugstad.

Florida coach Bob Boughner won in his return to San Jose. He served as an assistant coach for the Sharks the last two years.

Luongo earned his first shutout of the season and first in 32 games against San Jose.

Martin Jones was nearly as good for the Sharks. He stopped 26 shots, but that wasn't enough to keep the Panthers from winning for the seventh time in their last eight trips to San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Tim Heed had a goal disallowed on a coach's challenge a little less than five minutes into the second period. Replays showed he came into contact with the puck just behind the blue line, making the play offside.

San Jose had another goal overturned after a replay review. Brent Burns took a hard shot that Luongo nearly caught but couldn't handle and it bounced along his pads. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was one of three Sharks trying to poke at the puck and he used his stick to push both the puck and Luongo's pad into the net.

Sceviour scored a minute into the second after digging out the puck along the boards behind the net. He skated around the cage and poked a shot that hit Jones' pads. He took a second shot that got over the goalie's pads and went in.

Sceviour has four points in six games since returning from injury. He had two points in his first six games this season.

The Panthers, who have won three of four, added an insurance goal with less than eight minutes remaining. Radim Vrbata intercepted a pass in the Sharks zone and played it to Jamie McGinn, who got Jones to commit before dishing to Bjugstad for the score.

NOTES: Panthers C Michael Haley received a warm ovation from Sharks fans. He played in San Jose the last couple of years. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed his 15th game with a lower-body injury, though he has been skating pain-free for the past two weeks. ... Florida center Vincent Trocheck has 12 points in his last 10 games. ... The Sharks have not scored on their past 15 power plays.


Panthers: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Sharks: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.