Sharks

Welker poses immense challenge for Rogers

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Welker poses immense challenge for Rogers

SANTA CLARA – Carlos Rogers has nothing but dreadful memories of the last time he lined up on the other side of Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and the rest of the potent New England Patriots’ offense.

More than five years ago, on Oct. 28, 2007 while still a member of the Washington Redskins, Rogers saw his club drop a 52-7 decision to the eventual Super Bowl losers. Adding insult to injury – or, in this case, injury to insult – Rogers sustained a disastrous, season-ending torn ACL and MCL in the first quarter.

“Seeing the results of that game – they blew us out, so it wasn’t good,” Rogers said on Wednesday.

Welker, whom Rogers plans on seeing plenty of on Sunday night when the 49ers visit Gillette Stadium, recorded nine catches for 89 yards and a touchdown in that game against the ‘Skins. Although Rogers was knocked from action early, he knows Welker hasn’t become any easier to defend.

The 5-9, 185-pound receiver is third in the NFL in receptions (95) and ninth in yards (1,116). His list of accomplishments hardly ends there, though. The 31-year-old Texas Tech grad has the most receptions in the NFL since 2007 (649); became New England’s all-time reception leader earlier this year; is tied with Jerry Rice with 17, 10-plus reception games in his career; and has 107 straight games with at least one catch.

If he manages to grab hold of five balls against the vaunted San Francisco defense on Sunday, Welker will become the first NFL player all-time with five 100-catch seasons.

What makes him such a threat?

“Number one, his quarterback. Tom makes this offense go,” Rogers said, referring, of course, to Brady.

But there's more.

“Those quick guys like that, when you’re facing those guys, especially with a good quarterback, it’s going to take a lot. Not just me sticking him, it’s going to take [safety] Dashon [Goldson] coming down inside, or some of the d-ends hitting those guys. Giving them different looks. A guy like that, he has experience, too.”

Head coach Jim Harbaugh is confident that Rogers is prepared, but also stressed that stopping Welker won’t fall solely on his Pro Bowl cornerback’s shoulder pads.

“Tremendous receiver. But, Carlos is up for it. He’s equipped for it,” Harbaugh said. “Again, it’s more of a team defense and how they play together than just one guy vs. one guy.”

That includes putting heat on Brady.

“It’s going to take a lot of pressure, Aldon [Smith] and those guys getting to Brady,” Rogers said. “Mix up their looks and get him off his spot, so he’s not just sitting back there baking a cake and picking us apart.”

In a conference call on Wednesday, Welker said of the Niners' D: “They’ve got a lot of good players, a lot of good playmakers, and obviously a really good rush. Their safeties aren’t afraid of contract or anything else, and all-around they’re a great defense. I think it shows.”

The 49ers allow the second-fewest passing yards in the league with 184.7, and since the start of the 2011 season, allow the fewest points-per-game in the NFL (16.3). But, that doesn’t mean they’ve shut down everyone.

In fact, slot receivers like Victor Cruz and Danny Amendola have had success this season against San Francisco. Cruz had six receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown in the Giants’ convincing 26-3 win over the Niners on Oct. 14, while the Rams’ Amendola reeled in 11 catches for 102 yards in a 24-24 tie on Nov. 11.

Rogers said: “We know that we’re going to have to step up and play, and play to the end. Brady’s going to make his plays, the offense is going to make their plays, and we’re going make our plays. We just want to make more than them at the end of the game. That’s what it’s going to take.”

Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

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Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

The San Jose Sharks woke up this Thanksgiving and found themselves in a playoff spot, albeit barely. 

They hold the second and final wild card spot by the thinnest of margins, edging out the Colorado Avalanche not on points, games played, regulation and overtime wins, but a single goal in the goal differential column. 

As early as it is, it’s a critical time to be in playoff position. Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams in 2000, 79 percent of teams holding playoff spots on Thanksgiving made the postseason. 

If the Sharks avoid becoming a member of the dreaded 21 percent, they’ll have two players to thank, more than anyone else, for their good fortune: Logan Couture and Martin Jones. 

Couture, along with Joonas Donskoi, seems to be the only Shark unaffected by a team-wide scoring bug. Even as he’s cooled off slightly, his 11 goals are still tied for 10th-most in the league. 

He’s held a positive share of puck possession on the ice, despite starting the fourth-lowest percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone among Sharks forwards that have played at least 50 minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey

Couture also leads the team in power play scoring with three goals, and is one of only three San Jose players that’s scored multiple times on the man advantage. It’s hard to imagine the league’s fourth-worst power play (15.1 percent) getting worse, but it undoubtedly would be without the 28-year-old.

While Couture has stood out among a hapless offense, Jones has led one of the league’s best defensive units. The Sharks are among the best teams at limiting shots and scoring chances across all situations, but Jones has not let them down. 

Although his .922 even-strength save percentage is 27th among 51 goalies that have played at least 200 minutes, San Jose’s given him a razor thin margin of error. He had the fifth-lowest goal support of any goalie entering last night, as statistician Darin Stephens noted, and his play has been good enough to keep the Sharks in games in spite of that. 

Jones has also led the way for the league’s best penalty kill, posting a .940 save percentage in shorthanded situations. That’s the best mark among goalies that have faced at least 80 shots on the penalty kill, according to Stephens.

The sustainability of Jones’ penalty kill dominance and Couture’s 20.8 shooting percentage is an open question, but their importance to the team early in the season cannot be overstated. They’ve helped keep the Sharks afloat, and in a playoff spot with history on their side at the critical Thanksgiving mark. 

The Sharks need to not only let them have extra helpings during their holiday feast, but find a way to give them more help on the ice too.

 

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

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Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Logan Couture scored another goal for San Jose but was happier to see the Sharks' top line get untracked.

"We've got to get those guys going to help us offensively," Couture said of teammates Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier after the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night. "We need them to produce."

Thornton opened the scoring for the Sharks, with Pavelski adding an assist, the pair's first points since November 8, a span of five games.

"I think with Timo with us last game it brought us a lot of energy and a lot of chances," said Thornton, who scored his first goal since October 26. "Me and Pavs really like playing with him."

Joel Ward added an empty-net goal with 47.8 to play for the Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We got enough offense to win," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "That's all that matters. I thought we played a good road game. I don't care how it looks."

Brendan Perlini scored with 7:37 to go, ruining Sharks goalie Martin Jones' bid for his second shutout of the season. The Coyotes saw their season-high three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the eighth time in nine home games (1-7-1).

Jones finished with 26 saves.

"We defended really well," said Jones, who was tested seriously only twice in the first two periods. "The first 10 minutes they had a lot of jump and were buzzing around our zone, but after that not as much."

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta left at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury. Couture had collided with Raanta more than four minutes earlier, earning an interference penalty. Raanta skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and retreated to the locker room.

Scott Wedgewood took Raanta's place and was in net for only five seconds before the Sharks broke through. Wedgewood stopped Brent Burns' long shot from the top of the right circle even after it deflected off San Jose right wing Timo Meier. But the rebound kicked to the bottom of the right circle, where Thornton swept in and beat the goalie with a quick wrist shot.

"He (coach Rick Tocchet) looked at me and said go," Wedgewood. "I was like, alright. That's the tough part. Then shot, top, goal. That was tough."

San Jose made it 2-0 at 4:56 of the second, taking advantage of Arizona's inability to clear the zone while the Sharks were on a line change.

Justin Braun fought three Coyotes for the puck along the right boards before Joonas Donskoi swooped in, skated to the goal line then sent a pass across to Couture. Couture deked Wedgewood to the ice with a forehand fake, then scored on the backhand.

Perlini cut the lead to 2-1 when he redirected Derek Stepan's shot from the top of the right circle past Jones.

"We had some costly mistakes," Perlini said. "We got back within a goal but there were too many mistakes."

NOTES: Thornton has 22 goals and 83 points in 82 career games against Arizona. ... The Coyotes, who had played seven of their past eight on the road, opened a three-game homestand. ... Raanta made eight saves before leaving and has stopped 98 of the past 105 shots he's faced. ... Couture's goal was his first in five games.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: visit Las Vegas on Friday

Coyotes: host Los Angeles on Friday.