SAN JOSE - Man, do the Sharks ever bite.
And we don’t mean that in a scary, intimidating way.
They just bite.
Edmonton’s West Coast Mystery Tour continued Tuesday in San Jose, where it defies all logic that a team as deep and as good as last year’s Western Conference finalist is now in very real danger of missing the playoffs.
This, a day after Edmonton rolled into Anaheim, where it’s equally baffling how a team with as much high end talent as the Ducks is somehow languishing in 12th.
Too much sun?
“We put ourselves in this position, and we’re the only ones who can get ourselves out of it,” said San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. “We need to show some urgency and get every point we can.”
No kidding. The Sharks were supposed to be Cup contenders again this season, instead they’re in eighth, by a thread, and on a 3-8-1 slide heading into Edmonton’s visit.
“We’re in a funk and we need to get out of it and get it going,” said Douglas Murray. “It’s easy to talk. We have to get it done on the ice, get some wins, get the confidence level up as a team. We’re too good a team to let this go on any longer.”
After making the playoffs seven years in a row, eight is no gimme.
“It seemed like it was always the race for 1, 2 or 3,” said Ryane Clowe. “Now it’s the race to get in there. If we go on a run, we’ll set ourselves up nice. But the important thing is that you dont want to wait until that last minute. We’ve got to put it together right now
Linus Omark went to Oklahoma City to learn how to be a better player. Too bad he had to spend most of those four months learning how to recover from an injury.
“I’d never been hurt, never missed a single game before because of injuries,” said Omark, who broke his ankle very early in his reassignment and missed 12 weeks. “A guy slew footed me from behind and I went into the boards with my foot.
“It was tough for me in the beginning but I was really glad they let me go back home to Sweden.
“After that everything was positive and I’m glad to be back.”
He’s not at full speed yet, but he’s not far off.
“The first two or three weeks it didn’t feel that good,” he said. “But the strength has come back now and I wouldn’t say 100%, but I’m getting better with every game.”
Tuesday marking the first meeting of two coaches who’ve both been sidelined by head injuries.
Tom Renney is back after being knocked into la-la land by a Ladislav Smid clearing attempt in practice last month and San Jose’s Todd McLellan returned to the Sharks bench for the first time after missing three games after being accidentally clubbed on the head by a Minnesota player’s stick.
“I don’t know if it feels the same for everybody else, but you just don’t feel right,” McClellan said of his post-concussion symptoms. “That’s the best way of putting it. You don’t feel like yourself. Things happen around you, and it takes awhile to catch up with it.
“Everything that’s still and not moving is fine. When you get into a situation where there’s a lot of motion and noise, it’s harder to focus.”
The players missed him.
“It’s tough to kind of pinpoint one thing, but he has a presence back there,” said Joe Thornton. “He has a good feeling for this team and a good feeling for the game. He knows who’s going and who’s not, and he can adjust things on the fly.”
ON THE PLUS SIDE
Ryan Whitney went into Tuesday’s game two strokes behind Shawn Horcoff for the Oilers Green Jacket. He’s -18 on the season, Horcoff -20. Horcoff’s played 65 games, though. Whitney put up his number in 34.
“I’m minus 18 and I’ve played 34 games, that’s probably the worst you could look,” said the veteran defenceman. “I think eight or nine of them have been empty netters, but there are also just plays where I have to be better defensively. That’s kind of unacceptable for being older and being a leader on this team.”
STAY AT HOME
When you are tutored as a kid by Jacques Lemaire in Minnesota, defence becomes second nature.
Ask Nick Schultz.
“It was an expansion team, so I had the chance to play at 19 and the coaches really understood defence,” said the Oilers defenceman. “It was great to learn from those guys, they were great teachers. From a teaching standpoint (Lemaire) is one of the best when it comes to the little details. He was aware of so many little things about the game that he’d always be showing you in practice.”
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