SAN JOSE – It took another shootout, and a late third period goal-against prevented the Sharks from winning in regulation, but San Jose managed to improve its home record to 6-1-2 with the 3-2 victory over Colorado at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night.
That’s quite a difference from the club’s 3-5-1 road mark, which included a brutal 1-4-1 swing that ended on Saturday in Dallas with a 3-1 loss to the Stars.
Home teams, of course, have the luxury of getting their preferred matchups, putting players on the ice based on what the opponent runs out. Could that be a key to the Sharks’ home success?
“Probably. I don’t know how much matchups we actually do, but I think that’s a big part of it,” Dan Boyle said. “You can certainly put the players out there that you want in a certain position.”
Todd McLellan sees it differently than his defenseman.
“I wouldn’t say that that has been the difference in our ability to win at home and on the road,” said the coach. “The level of play has been better at home than it has been on the road, and it’s as simple as that.”
The Sharks have played six games that have gone past regulation, five of those at HP Pavilion. Along with the shootout win against Colorado on Tuesday, the Sharks beat Anaheim and Edmonton in the tiebreaker earlier this year. They lost to Nashville and Phoenix. Their sole overtime decision came in Nashville on Feb. 12, when Colin Wilson scored in a 1-0 win for the Predators.
There hasn’t been a distinct difference in the way the home and road games have been played, according to McLellan.
“Very tight, very low scoring games. We’ve been able to find that extra point more often here than on the road, and obviously we need to change that when we get on the road next week again.”
The Sharks continue a three-game homestand with Detroit on Thursday and Nashville on Saturday, before visiting Vancouver and Calgary in back-to-back games next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ryane Clowe is eligible to return against the Red Wings, now that his two-game suspension for leaving the bench against Chicago last Friday is ended. On Wednesday at HP Pavilion, Clowe was skating on the wing with Michal Handzus and Andrew Desjardins on what could probably be considered the fourth line.
Clowe has six assists but no goals in 16 games. McLellan was asked if the big winger would have to work himself back into a top six role.
“I don’t think Ryane Clowe should lose his top six role because of a suspension, when he got involved to defend a teammate. You shouldn’t lose your spot in the lineup that way,” McLellan said.
“With that being said, we liked how the lines have played up front, creating more scoring opportunities. We have to do what’s right for the team. When Clowie comes back, we’ve really stressed his foot speed and keeping his feet moving and using his overall size to drive the net than play around the boards.”
The Sharks’ top two lines featured Joe Thornton skating with Logan Couture and Tim Kennedy, while Scott Gomez centered Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. Kennedy skated in the spot that was occupied by Marty Havlat against Colorado, but Havlat sat out with a “maintenance day.” He’s expected to play against Detroit.
Left untouched was the trio of TJ Galiardi, Adam Burish and James Sheppard, which generated an important goal from Galiardi and several more scoring chances against the Avalanche.
McLellan sited their hard work, strong cycling, responsible defensive play and an ability to win races to the puck and as his reasons for keeping them together for practice, and presumably the game on Thursday.
“The reward was the goal, but I’d like to see them keep that type of play in their game, and more will come,” McLellan said.
Tommy Wingels, who missed Tuesday’s game, will also miss the Red Wings game. McLellan wasn’t specific when asked about Wingels’ injury, but made it clear that it had to do with his going hard into the boards, face first, in the game against Dallas.
“That’s like getting into a car accident, head on. He’s sore. Call it whatever you want,” McLellan said.
Matt Irwin didn’t suit up against Colorado, probably because he had just played three games with three nights in Worcester over the weekend and hopped on a cross-country flight on Monday. He could play tomorrow for the first time since Feb. 5, just before he was reassigned to the AHL.
In nine games for the Sharks – the first of his NHL career – Irwin had a goal and an assist for two points and two penalty minutes. He averaged nearly 19 minutes a game while players like Jason Demers and Brent Burns recovered from injury.
Despite his success, he wasn’t bitter when got reassigned, he said on Tuesday morning.
“You understand that coming in,” said the 25-year-old. “I got that opportunity because guys were hurt, so I knew guys were getting healthy, and that’s exciting. [The team gets] them back in the lineup and I was the guy that was pushed down. That’s the way it goes and the name of the game, and I’m happy to be back right now.”
“It’s going to be good to know that I had some success when I was up here, and was able to contribute with the team. You know the guys now, so you walk back in, say your hellos, and get back to work.”
Irwin was paired mainly with Boyle during his first stint here.
“If that’s where they want to put me, that’s great. I thought we played well together, and wherever they put me in, I’ll be excited to go,” he said.