DENVER Everyone needs a day off sometimes, and the Sharks are no different. After arriving in Denver late Sunday night following the 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago, the Sharks regulars had a complete day off on Monday to regroup, refocus and re-energize before tonights game against Colorado.
Everyone who was asked about the down time on Tuesday morning after the teams skate agreed it was much needed.
It was nice to just stay in the hotel and walk around the mall, and just get away from the rink and the grind. Hopefully, it will do us some good tonight, said Joe Thornton.
We had three games in four nights, and its tough on your body, especially back-to-backs against teams like St. Louis and Chicago, both hard forechecking teams, said Logan Couture. It was a tough way to end in Chicago, but I thought we played well for two periods. We have to rebound tonight. We need two points.
Coach Todd McLellan pointed out that it had been weeks since the Sharks had a complete day off from anything having to do with hockey. The team was supposed to be off last Sunday, but a bad 5-3 loss to Florida the night before resulted in an intense 50-minute skate instead.
In hindsight, McLellan seemed to second-guess that decision.
Sometimes, you lose sight of where your team might be. When youre not winning you want to bring them to the rink and work them more, and practice more, he said. Sometimes youre grumpy and you skate them maybe a little extra, and dont realize where they are physically.
I ran into a couple of them walking around in the street yesterday, and it was about 11:00 or 11:30 in the morning and a lot of them were just crawling out of bed. Maybe that day will be good for us, both mentally and physically.
Jamie McGinn, who has four goals in the last six games, said: Guys got a lot of rest, and were ready to go today.
Sticking with Niemi: McLellan wouldnt have shocked anyone if he decided to start Thomas Greiss tonight rather than Antti Niemi. After all, Greiss hasnt played since last Saturdays 5-3 loss to Florida, and won here at the Pepsi Center on Nov. 20 with 37 saves.
That wont be the case, though, as Niemi (11-6-2, 2.30 GAA, .920 SP) will make his fifth start in eight days.
Nemo had a good day of rest yesterday. We expect him to play, and play well, said McLellan.
The Sharks also expect the same lineup forward and defense-wise as played in Chicago, meaning Matt Irwin will have to wait at least one more game to make his NHL debut. Douglas Murray (right hand) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) remain out, as well.
Semyon Varlamov (9-12-1, 3.07 GAA, .898 SP) will start for Colorado.
More O, same D: Its the ultimate challenge in the NHL how do you generate offense while maintaining responsibility in the defensive zone?
The Sharks have been outstanding in their own zone since that loss against Florida, in which some brutal turnovers led to Panthers goals. Taking a look at the stretch since then, San Jose gave up just 21 shots to Minnesota, 20 to Dallas and 19 to St. Louis.
Before the late charge by the Blackhawks resulted in 34 shots against on Saturday, aided by some exhausted Sharks players, San Jose held a loaded Chicago offense to just 13 shots through two periods.
How do you keep that defensive play strong, while trying to get more goals?
Its a fine line, said Thornton. We feel comfortable in the one-goal games, but wed like to try to get a little bit more offense without giving too much on the back side. Its a fine line, but hopefully we can start scoring some more goals here.
Thats just it, you have to play well in your own end to create offense in this league, said Couture. If you break out clean and you dont spend any time in your own end, youre going to get chances in the other end.
Of course, it doesnt help that some of the Sharks' big offensive weapons have collectively gone cold. Over the last nine games, Joe Pavelski has just two points (1g, 1a); Marty Havlat just three assists; Partick Marleau one goal; and Thornton three assists.
You always have players that struggle, but to have a number of them all at the same time, its not a healthy thing for our team, said McLellan.
Still, he doesnt want it to come at the expense of solid team defense.
You need those top guys to score, but you dont want them to do it at the risk of cheating or anything defensively, said the coach. Our defensive game hasnt been bad. We want to keep that and find a way to get some offensive rewards, eventually.
Power play improvement: The Sharks had just two power plays against Chicago, and although they didnt score on either one, looked better and more organized.
Our intent up top was to shoot first and dish later, which was a huge difference, said McLellan. We got into the zone a lot easier and we got pucks back. We looked dangerous, and we reviewed it this morning in our power play meeting, we looked how were supposed to look.
Still, the Sharks are just 1-for-25 in their past eight games. Colorado isnt much better, bringing a 1-for-23 cold streak in their last seven games into tonight.
Both clubs are also near the bottom of the penalty killing rankings. Colorado is 25th in the NHL (79.3 percent) while the Sharks are 28th (75.3 percent).
Odds and ends: The Sharks won 4-1 at the Pepsi Center on Nov. 20, behind a Patrick Marleau hat trick. Tonights game is on Versus at 6 p.m. PST.