Fresh Line Combinations Help Sharks Remain Undefeated

SAN JOSE- Make no bones about it, through at least 30 minutes (if not more), the San Jose Sharks simply stunk up the ice against the Anaheim Ducks. But when things are going well, things are going well, and despite by far their most lack luster performance of the season (and some questionable officiating) the Sharks pushed their season opening win streak to six with a 3-2 shootout victory on Tuesday night.

The Sharks were outskated badly through a period and a half, out-shot 16-4 at the first intermission but amazingly carried a 1-0 lead into the dressing room. But the Ducks would continue their dominance through the middle frame and managed to beat Sharks netminder Antti Niemi twice.

With his team as flat as they have been all season (which is to be expected when your No. 1 defenseman in Dan Boyle is out of the lineup with the flu), head coach Todd McLellan mixed up his lines in the middle frame. After a couple of different tweaks, the Sharks quickly found some combinations that had some legs.

The first line which really helped get the momentum back was a trio of Tommy Wingels, Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus. The latter two have some natural chemistry from their days with the Chicago Blackhawks and last year here with the Sharks. It was only a matter of time before the twosome would be matched together again. The mix up also helped Wingels find his game as the second year right wing was (like the team in general) having his worst game of the season through the halfway point.

Taking Havlat’s place on the second line would be newcomer Scott Gomez and it was evident in their first couple shifts that the trio of Gomez, Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe fit really well together. And with the Sharks trailing 2-1 in the third, the new line saved the day. Gomez would earn his first career point as a Shark by making a nifty little drop pass to Couture who beat Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller with just 2:45 remaining.

Thanks to an unbelievable save by the game’s first star Antti Niemi—off of Sharks nemesis and Ducks All Star Corey Perry no less—the overtime period would go scoreless. In the shootout, the only shooter to convert would be Michal Handzus in the first round as Teemu Selanne hit the post with a chance to tie in round three.

It certainly wasn’t pretty and neither the calls nor the bounces were going the Sharks way but better lucky than good? When you’re hot, you’re hot, right?

You can imagine Wednesday’s Sharks practice will probably be the most intense all season as the coaching staff can’t be overly pleased with this performance. Here is some of what coach McLellan had to say afterwards in his post-game presser:

“Tonight wasn’t a very good night. We got through half a game and two lines didn’t even get the puck to the net so we weren’t going to continue to do that. We had to shuffle something up and I’ve always liked the way ‘Zus and Marty play, they seem to communicate well and did a good job. We put Gomer in a different role but that’s the first time we’ve had to do that this year so it was a little bit of a wake-up call at that moment for a lot of guys too.”

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