Sharks

Sharks must avoid letdown vs. Red Wings to keep winning streak alive

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Sharks must avoid letdown vs. Red Wings to keep winning streak alive

SAN JOSE - Sharks fans can breathe a sigh of relief now that head coach Peter DeBoer has confirmed that Tomas Hertl and Mario Ferraro are back in the lineup for Saturday's matchup against the Detroit Red Wings.

But just merely having these two pieces in the lineup doesn't mean the Sharks can sit back and take this game lightly. 

San Jose has strung five consecutive wins together, the most recent coming on Thursday night against a tough division rival in the Anaheim Ducks. The key now is to not get comfortable -- especially with the team still trying to climb their way up the standings.

"We talked to our group this morning," head coach Peter DeBoer told the media Saturday morning. "Human nature, (after) you've won five in a row and a big road win against a division rival is to kind of take a deep breath. And we can't fall into that trap."

Sure, San Jose has gotten points in five straight games and has defeated tough Western Conference competition in the Predators, Oilers, and Ducks. However, they're still sitting at just 19 points in the standings, second-to-last in the division and nine points behind the Pacific-leading Edmonton squad. Even with those five straight victories, San Jose still has an uphill climb ahead of them.

The trap becomes even bigger with the Red Wings in town. They might be at the bottom of their division, but that isn't likely to stop them from making the Sharks pay for their mistakes, no matter how small they are.

"This team always plays us hard, always tough," DeBoer said. "They're a speed team, which always gives us trouble. Their first line has been firing on all cylinders. So we've got to make sure we're prepared for this game."

The visiting Red Wings are 4-4-2 in their last 10 contests, having a three-game winning streak snapped by the Kings in LA on Thursday night. Over that span, they've been outscored 38-25 and have gone 7-for-31 on the power play.

While those numbers would seem to indicate that San Jose won't have too much trouble containing Detroit's offense, the top line consisting of Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Dylan Larkin has combined for 12 points against the Sharks over their careers.

Not to mention that the Sharks haven't always fared well against the Red Wings in the past, going 34-50-4-6 through 94 regular-season meetings and splitting last season's series 1-1-0.

[RELATED: What we learned as Sharks' win streak reaches five games]

The biggest key for the Sharks on Saturday night is going to be keeping the defense tight and the puck in enemy territory -- and preferably to not take their foot off the gas late in the game and allow Detroit to score any late goals.

This seemingly should be an easier task with Hertl and Ferraro healthy and in the lineup. But with the threat of a letdown looming after winning five straight games, San Jose has to be on top of their game no matter what. 

Hurricanes poke fun at Petr Mrazek after fighting Sharks' Joe Thornton

Hurricanes poke fun at Petr Mrazek after fighting Sharks' Joe Thornton

Thursday night’s matchup between the Sharks and the Carolina Hurricanes featured quite a ruckus, which began when Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek slashed Sharks veteran Joe Thornton after a play, prompting Thornton to put Mrazek on his back with a vicious forearm shiver.

During Friday morning’s practice, the Hurricanes decided to have some fun with their goalie by drawing an outline of where their net-minder gracefully hit the ice.

Mrazek remained on his back for several minutes after the blow but remained in the game.

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' shootout loss vs. Hurricanes]

The Sharks and Thornton may have won the fight, but the Hurricanes won the game 3-2 in a wild shootout.

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Sharks say Petr Mrazek 'flopped', got what he deserved from Joe Thornton

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Sharks say Petr Mrazek 'flopped', got what he deserved from Joe Thornton

There was no shortage of electricity in Thursday night's rumble between the Sharks and Hurricanes, which San Jose got a point out of after falling 3-2 in the shootout

But the game really went on the verge of exploding when Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek went after Joe Thornton -- which unleashed some next-level fury that Sharks fans on social media like to refer to as "Angry Joe."

"Jumbo plays hard, and the goalie went after him," Logan Couture said after Thursday's loss. "So, I don't know if the goalie expected to get pushed like he did, but if you're going to go at someone you're probably going to get pushed."

Thornton went to give the puck a nudge as he skated by Carolina's net, realizing a bit late that Mrazek already had frozen it. But it was enough to irk the Canes' netminder, who then attempted to violently slash Thornton and subsequently stood up out of the crease as if to square off with the future Hall of Famer. 

Thornton responded with a half-push, half-punch to Mrazek's face, sending the goalie toppling over backward to the ice. Mrazek remained there as a scrum ensued behind Carolina's net. 

[RELATED: Watch Jumbo send 'Canes goalie to ice with forearm shiver]

"I think it definitely gets your group emotionally engaged in the game when you have a goalie swinging a stick at a guy like, but, as you saw, Joe can take care of himself," Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer chuckled. 

Even after Thornton was ushered over to the penalty box to serve two minor penalties, Mrazek was slow to get up off of the ice. The long delay in play left some wondering if Mrazek had a concussion, but he stayed in the game. 

This, of course, raised a couple of mid-game questions. Should Mrazek have come out of the game and gone straight into the league's concussion protocol? Was it actually the fall and not Thornton's force that caused him to labor on the ice for so long? Or, was Mrazek waiting things out so Thornton would receive more discipline?

Sharks goalie Aaron Dell offered up his two cents after the game. "He either got hit really hard and should have gone into concussion protocol or he flopped a bit, but I guess that's the ref's call," Dell said with a shrug.

Mrazek didn't offer up much to the media after the game, calling it a "cheap shot" by Thornton before saying he has suffered hits "worse than those, so it's not bad." So, perhaps we'll never know the real story.

While there is a lot of attention on his tiff with Mrazek, Thornton also deserves credit for playing an incredible game. He led the third line along with Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc to one of its most impactful games so far this season, and set up Sorensen for San Jose's first goal on the evening. With the Sharks' road trip continuing with a back-to-back this weekend against the Floridian teams, getting that kind of bottom-six contribution is vital.

"He's playing well," Couture said of Thornton. "We need [the third line]. Can't win with only the top six scoring. Some nights you need the bottom six to score, and I think that line's looked really good."