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Extended roadies could benefit Sharks
Big blocks of games before and after Olympic break await San Jose
1/10/10 - By Mike Lee

Having just passed the halfway mark on the regular season schedule, the remaining schedule can be bucketed into two groups. There’s the pre-Olympic run, which includes the next 17 games, and the post-Olympic rush leading up to the playoffs, which will consume all of March and the first two weeks of April.

That second half group of games is comprised of 20 games, including a six-game road trip that will take them to four of the five cities that comprise the NHL’s Northwest Division.

The pre-Olympic segment also finishes with a six-game road trip that will take San Jose through four of the five Central Division cities and a quick jaunt threw Buffalo and Toronto .

Two long road trips are tough, especially in the second half of the season, but they can benefit a team like San Jose . One of the things head coach Todd McLellan has criticized his team for during their two losses on their recent four-game home stand is his teams tendency to try and get too fancy in front of home fans.

Teams tend not to worry about pleasing fans on the road, so some of the simple errors that have been plaguing the Sharks the past week on home ice, may not be something McLellan and San Jose fans need to worry about while the Sharks trek across the Midwest next month.

There’s also something to be said about confining 25 professional athletes to hotels, airplanes, busses and road practice rinks. They’ll have two two-week stints to focus on hockey and nothing but hockey.

No wives, girlfriends, children, and friends to distract them. The younger players will get a chance to really settle in as professional players. Camaraderie isn’t something to be ignored. Heading into the NHL’s second season, teams that trust each other are teams that will play deeper into the run for a Stanley Cup.

While the NHL schedule makers were probably trying to accommodate the need to bundle road games in order to cut down on travel costs and the amount of miles that these teams are forced to cover, they also provide these clubs with this opportunity to have players become a team.

One downside to the schedule is that the first long road trip ends right before the Olympic break. Whatever benefit the Sharks establish from that trip, the players won’t be able to carry that over into games right away. A third of the Sharks will be in Vancouver , playing for multiple teams, while the other two-thirds will be back in the Bay Area.

The Sharks haven’t announced practice schedules during the break, but players are expected to be given some time off, especially given the rigorous run that awaits them after the break.

San Jose will play 15 games in March alone, which equates to a game every other day. That will carry over to April for 10 days, when the Sharks close out the regular season with 5 games.

The fun starts Monday night in Los Angeles , where the Sharks will have a chance to avenge a 6-2 thrashing that the Kings handed out in San Jose last week. The division game makes things all the more interesting. Los Angeles is on the brink of dropping out a playoff spot after being one of the first half surprises this season, so they have more motivation than simply beating a division foe.

The Sharks spent Sunday afternoon practice focusing on the mental side of their game. In their last four games, San Jose has committed an astounding 73 giveaways, including 20 in each of their last two games. Giving up 10 goals in losses to the Kings and Red Wings last week can be attributed to a lack of detail and sloppiness that the Sharks coaching staff hopes to correct.

That was the message on Sunday. Having already dropped three of four games to the Kings this season, Monday night will be a good time to start working on cleaning up details and sloppy play.

Down on the Farm

The Worcester Sharks have vaulted themselves into 3rd place in the AHL Atlantic Division, after a nice 9-2-0 run in their last eleven games. The baby Sharks had a six-game winning streak snapped by the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday night.

Sharks prospect Logan Couture leads Worcester in scoring, even though he’s only played in 26 of their 38 games this season. Couture missed 12 games while playing for the big club in San Jose earlier this season. He is 5th in scoring in the league with 14 goals and 25 assists, and was named to the Canadian AHL All Star roster.

Couture will be joined in Portland , Maine for the All Star game by teammate Danny Groulx, who will help man the back line for the Canadian roster.

Former Shark Patrick Rissmiller will be playing for the PlanetUSA AHL team, along side former Shark prospect Graham Mink. Rissmiller has been centering a line for the Grand Rapids Griffins, after starting the season in Hartford . He played for the Wolf Pack last season while under contract with the New York Rangers.

Mink has 10 goals and 10 assists for the Rochester Americans this season. He played for Hershey last season and was recalled by the Capitals for two games.


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