Sharks

Sharks weigh in on NHL visor debate

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Sharks weigh in on NHL visor debate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Granted, hes not the most well liked player in San Jose. Seeing former Ducks defenseman and current Philadelphia Flyer Chris Pronger skate off the ice after a stick to the eye earlier this week, though, was one of those plays that no one ever wants to witness.

The Flyers say Pronger will miss two-to-three weeks, which, with an eye injury, is lucky. It brings up an often-debated question in professional hockey should visors be mandatory?

Some Sharks weighed in on the issue after practice on Wednesday afternoon in Nashville.

PROHOCKEYTALK: Doc tells Pronger "No visor, no play"

I think players have the right to choose, saidDan Boyle. Its a chance youre taking when you dont wear one. I definitely encourage guys to wear them, young guys especially. Theres nothing wrong with wearing them.

When Boyle broke into the league with the Florida Panthers in 1998, he didnt wear one at first. A couple of incidents just a few games apart, however, promptly changed his mind.

I actually got cross-checked in the face, and then three games later I got a slap shot, he said, although he couldnt recall who hit him or which team is was against. I had a temporary visor, and got a slap shot in the visor. Had I not had thatI dont know.

Once I got that shot in the temporary visor, thats when I went to it full time.

Defenseman Colin White has a personal experience when it comes to eye injuries. When he was still with the Devils, White took a puck to the face in practice causing him to miss two months, and still has slight vision impairment.

He now wears a visor for medical reasons, but even after the frightening injury, would rather be without.

If I had my choice Id still have none, he said. Its a comfort thing for the guys who wear them. Thats their choice. Its tough to see out of them, and sweat is always getting on them. I think it still should be a choice of the players.

Ryane Clowe, who doesnt wear one, saw the Pronger incident and was asked if that gave him pause to reconsider.

You know, you flinch and stuff when it happens. Especially a guy in my situation, obviously I fight a little bit and play a rugged game. I dont think a visor is part of my game, said Clowe.

As he mentioned, Clowe plays a more physical game than the average player. When he fights, its not usually predetermined. Rather, he drops the gloves to immediately stick up for teammates. His fights are spur of the moment.

Im not a guy thats going to pick my fights and take off my helmet, he said. If someone runs a guy, Im jumping in. Thats why I dont wear one.

While player safety is obviously the biggest benefit when it comes to visors, there is also the business aspect to consider. After all, when an organization is paying players millions of dollars to compete, the last thing that organization wants is for one of its key investments to have to miss some time or worse.

The Sharks put a guideline in place this year in training camp with their minor league players, according to Todd McLellan.

We had a policy in training camp that the American League players that came into our training camp were going to keep them on until we got to an NHL game, he explained. I would fully recommend that everybody puts them on, but some of the older players have a personal preference. You look at a former teammate like Manny Malhotra such an innocent play can turn into a disaster pretty quick.

Malhotra, of course, was injured last season while playing with the Vancouver Canucks when he was struck in the left eye by an errant puck. There was talk immediately following the injury that Malhotras career could be over, but he returned at the tail end of Vancouvers long Stanley Cup playoff run.

The NHL, to its credit, wants to mandate that every player wear a protective shield. The players association, though, hasnt agreed to it.

NHL spokeman Gary Meagher told Kevin Allen of the USA Today: "The league is in support of making visors mandatory and we have proposed a mandatory rule with grandfathering if players prefer," he said. "But it's not something the players have agreed to do and we aren't willing to move unilaterally in this area without the Players Association agreeing."

Clowe is open to the idea of a gradual implementation.

Im not against maybe grandfathering it in, as people come in. If youve been in the league awhile, you dont have to, he said.

I wouldnt want it to be mandated, but on the other end, its tough to see guys get hit in the eyes.

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

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USATSI

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

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AP

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.

UP NEXT:

Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.