SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ 82nd and final game of the regular season probably ranked 82nd in terms of importance. There was little doubt that San Jose would begin next week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road as the third seed in the Pacific Division, and that became official when the Oilers beat the awful Canucks.
Still, there were some positive takeaways from their 3-1 win over Calgary in which they were still without the injured Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, as well as the apparently banged up Joe Pavelski, Joel Ward, Tomas Hertl and Justin Braun.
Perhaps the biggest plus is they’ll get to enter Game 1 of the first round either in Edmonton or Anaheim next week with some good vibes. Those have been sorely lacking since the beginning of March, as the Sharks had dropped nine of 12 games in regulation before Saturday’s finale. They also snapped a nine-game losing streak against Western Conference playoff teams.
"Nice to finish with a win,” Pete DeBoer said. “I thought the guys played hard. I thought we played the right way.”
Chris Tierney, who paced the offense with one goal and one assist, said: “Guys were positive. Guys were working hard. A lot of guys came in and stepped up and played a good game.”
Among the players Tierney is referring to is Danny O’Regan, who scored his first career NHL goal in the third period on the power play, giving San Jose some insurance. Probably the best player on the AHL Barracuda this season, O’Regan played nearly 14 minutes and was 6-for-13 in the faceoff circle while centering a line with Kevin Labanc and Melker Karlsson.
Although his first NHL score probably wasn’t how he dreamed it up – he admitted afterwards he wasn’t even sure he touched the puck – getting on the scoresheet was a special moment.
“Definitely. Really exciting,” he said.
Considering Thornton and Couture are questionable for Game 1 of the playoffs, and DeBoer admitted earlier in the week that Pavelski and Patrick Marleau were playing out of position as centermen, perhaps O’Regan’s number will get called again at some point.
Would he be ready?
“Yeah, that would be cool,” O’Regan said. “I think I still have a lot of things I need to sharpen up that I think I’ll get more comfortable with as I play more games. I just have to be ready for that opportunity if it comes, and just keep working on my game.”
The Sharks also got a strong performance from goalie Aaron Dell, who made 20 saves in recording his 11th win of the season. While San Jose’s roster features a plethora of question marks headed into next week both injury-wise and performance-wise, the backup goalie position isn’t something that will cause anyone to lose sleep.
“Deller gave us another good game, which is comforting going into the playoffs,” DeBoer said.
The game tape won’t likely be analyzed too much by the coaching staff as the Flames were sitting some regulars, as well, including top defenseman Mark Giordano. Attention will quickly turn into preparing for either the Ducks or Oilers, instead.
For at least one night, though, the Sharks’ miserable past few weeks wasn't hanging over their heads.
“We were missing a lot of important pieces tonight, but anytime you finish the regular season you want to have a little momentum,” Brenden Dillon said. “We had a tough March and a first bit of April, but we're going to build on this."
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DeBoer has been especially quiet on the injury front recently, but said that the four late scratches on Saturday – Pavelski, Ward, Hertl and Braun – will likely return for the playoff opener.
"I would assume so,” said the coach, “but everybody's dealing with something day-to-day."
Thornton was spotted leaving the arena Saturday with a slight limp, carrying a brace in his hand. On Wednesday, Thornton said there was “no doubt” he would be fine for Game 1, but he also said he was possible for Thursday’s loss against the Oilers, which DeBoer later scoffed at.