Sharks

Thornton: Monday an 'important' day

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Thornton: Monday an 'important' day

SAN JOSE Time is getting short for the San Jose Sharks.

The team has just 18 games left in the regular season, and is precariously close to dropping out of the top eight in the Western Conference. Rest will be at a premium, too, with 15 games over the next 26 days to close out the month of March.

Thats what makes days like Monday so invaluable to the club, as it desperately tries to end its funk of eight losses in the last 10 games (2-6-1), and 10 losses out of 15 (5-9-1). The Sharks conclude a four-game home-stand on Tuesday against Edmonton.

This is the first practice weve had in a long time, said Todd McLellan, who plans to return to the bench on Tuesday from his concussion, provided he was feeling better later Monday evening.

Today, we spent an hour and 20 minutes on the ice we havent done that in a long time reviewing a lot of different areas. Resetting things for the guys that have been here in the past, and trying to clarify for the new players.

It was nice, just to review a bunch of things, Joe Thornton said. Weve got some new guys in the lineup, just to review stuff for them. Its good for us guys that have been here for a little bit to go over things, too. An important day today.

McLellan mentioned the length of the session at Sharks Ice, but it wasnt 80 minutes of skating and battling. Quite the contrary, as the head coach slowly walked through his systems and pointed out where every player needs to be on the ice in every situation.

That includes the penalty kill. Newcomers Dominic Moore and Daniel Winnik were brought in specifically to help in that aspect, therefore lessening the burden for players like Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau, who could instead use that time on the bench resting up for an even-strength shift rather than expunging valuable energy trying to kill off a penalty.

For Moore, acquired on Feb. 16 from Tampa Bay, it was his first practice at Sharks Ice. Ditto for Winnik and TJ Galiardi, brought in via trade a week ago.

Every teams got their own systems. A lot of things are similar and theres obviously some differences. Going through the paces like that helps, Moore said. Especially like something like the penalty kill. Everyone has to read and react together. Everyone has to be on that same page.

Winnik, who skated about three minutes a game shorthanded with the Avalanche, was asked how difficult it is trying to learn another teams strategy so late in the season. At some point, hell be relied upon to improve the leagues 28th ranked PK unit.

Here we play a completely different style than how Colorado does. Colorado is pressure, pressure, pressure, where here its kind of sit back and make your reads and see what plays they make as opposed to dictating the plays they make, Winnik said. Its something Ill have to adjust to. Im used to just diving into guys, and here its not like that. It might just take a bit.

Of course, ending a losing streak is going to take more than buttoning up the systematic play and practicing. The Sharks have had trouble putting 60-minute efforts together all season long, but especially for the last six weeks.

Its the biggest reason the team finds itself on the precipice of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

Maybe guys are squeezing their sticks a little bit tighter, and the execution just might not be there, Thornton said. Youve got to rest your mind and rest your body and just try to grab confidence from experiences youve had in the past and just go out and do it.

Logan Couture said: Theres a lot of improvement from the way weve played the last month or so. We know everyone in the room can play better than the way theyve played.

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders is one with which Sharks fans have become all too familiar.

The Sharks held a decided 41-23 edge on the shot count, but trailed 3-1 on the scoreboard. Since 2005, no team in the league has lost more games (59) in which they shot 35 or more times, and held their opponent to 25 or fewer shots.

No, your instincts haven’t deceived you over the Joe Thornton era: San Jose has lost a lot of games where they’ve otherwise outplayed their opponent. Of course, they’ve won plenty of those games too. More often than not, in fact, winning 72 of 131 times under those circumstances.

Frustration under those circumstances became readily apparent in the second period on Saturday, when Joe Pavelski broke his stick over Thomas Greiss’ net. The captain had plenty of reason to be unhappy, as his goalless drought to start the season has mirrored his team’s inability to finish at even strength.

So far this season, only Dallas and Montreal have scored on a lower percentage of their shots at even strength than San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both the Stars and Canadiens, unsurprisingly, are seventh in their respective divisions. The Sharks are sixth in the Pacific, thanks only to the still-winless Coyotes.

This early in the season, bad results can mask a strong process. They can’t finish, but the Sharks have been, statistically, one of the league’s best puck possession teams at even strength. That can happen over such a short stretch, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the team’s sitting in the division’s basement.

Right now, the Sharks just aren’t scoring enough at even strength, even as they’re playing well elsewhere. The power play’s begun to find an identity, particularly on the Kevin Labanc-led second unit. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal since allowing three in the season opener, and have climbed all the way to 13th in the league.

If the Sharks continue to play this way, the goals, and wins, should come. They may not, of course, especially if Peter DeBoer struggles to find combinations that click for more than a game at a time. But eventually, the results should align with the process.

Saturday night was “one of those games” that have been surprisingly common in recent Sharks history, but it shouldn’t be chalked up as anything more than an amusing anomaly. Sometimes, one team is better, and still finds a way to lose.  

Sometimes, it truly is that simple.

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

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USATSI

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Thomas Greiss guided the New York Islanders on a night when they played it a little bit too safe.

Greiss stopped 40 shots, Brock Nelson scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the New York Islanders rallied to beat the slumping San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday.

The Islanders improved to 1-1 on their three-game, five-day West Coast trip. The Sharks are 1-3 on their season-opening five-game homestand.

Nelson made it 2-1 at 13:33 of the second period, capitalizing on an open look in front of the goal after Joshua Ho-Sang's pass from behind the net.

"After we got the lead we just kind of held on, we bent but we didn't break and we needed some big saves from Thomas," Islanders coach Doug Weight said.

"These teams, when they're down, they're gonna push. ... You don't want to sit back but I think it's human nature. We have to get it out of our heads. We want to play aggressive and we want to put the puck in good spots. We started making some shoddy decisions, our feet stopped moving for a while, but give (the Sharks) credit, they made a good push. Tommy was great."

The Sharks led after Kevin Labanc's power-play goal at 4:16 of the first. Labanc was in the left circle when he rebounded a deflection and fired a wrist shot that slipped through Greiss' pads.

The Islanders tied it when Anders Lee tipped one in at 17:02 of the first.

Cal Clutterbuck scored an empty-net goal at with 1:10 left in the game.

"It's nice, first road win of the year, a good bounce back," Nelson said, referencing a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

"I thought we did some good things in Anaheim and weren't rewarded. It's nice to come out on top here."

The Islanders failed to score on three power plays. The Sharks penalty killing unit hasn't allowed a power-play goal in 12 chances over its last three games.

The Sharks had a short-handed scoring chance after Joakim Ryan was called for holding at 14:33 in the third period, when Greiss turned away Chris Tierney's shot in front of the goal.

Greiss survived relentless pressure in a third period in which the Sharks had 15 shots on goal.

"It felt like it was going to break, it just never did," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "A little bit of credit to Greisser over there, but with us, we've got to keep pushing and find a way.

"I thought we were going to tie it, but encouraging to see the way guys played for a second straight game here. Wanted a better result, for sure, but guys played hard."

NOTES: Islanders C Alan Quine (wrist) is with the team on its West Coast trip and has been practicing. He'll likely go to Bridgeport of the AHL on a conditioning assignment if he's ready when the team returns home on Monday. ... RW Clutterbuck (hip) was in Saturday's lineup after missing the last three games and C Jordan Eberle was on the ice a day after missing Friday's practice with an injury he suffered in practice the previous day. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. Coach Pete DeBoer said the injury is day-to-day.

UP NEXT

Islanders: At the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night.

Sharks: Host the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday night.