Sharks halve split-squad games with Coyotes: 3-1 win in San Jose, 2-1 loss in Phoenix

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, September 26, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

San Jose Sharks split squad NHL preseason game Phoenix Coyotes Joe Pavelski Bracken Kearns

San Jose Sharks split squad NHL preseason game Phoenix Coyotes Joe Pavelski Bracken Kearns

San Jose Sharks split squad NHL preseason game Phoenix Coyotes Douglas Murray

The clock is ticking down on the San Jose Sharks pre-season. After a pair of split-squad contests with the Coyotes in San Jose and Phoenix on Saturday night, the Sharks will have only back-to-back games with the Vancouver Canucks left on the domestic pre-season schedule. At the end of next week the Sharks will line up across from the Deutscher Eishockey Liga’s Adler Mannheim squad in Germany before traveling to Sweden for the NHL Compuware Premiere season opening games with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The pressure of delivering on a regular season laden with expectations is approaching at an ever quickening pace.

On Saturday night in San Jose Antti Niemi bolstered split squad A with 18 saves on 19 shots through two periods en route to a 3-1 win. Worcester Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock came off the bench for the final period, and goals by Patrick Marleau and defenseman Sean Sullivan 57 seconds apart in the third broke a 1-1 tie. In Phoenix, split squad B backstopped by goaltender Thomas Greiss dropped a 2-1 loss to the Coyotes after a pair of power play goals by Radim Vrbata. Jamie McGinn provided the lone Sharks goal in the second period.

The top two offensive lines of Clowe-Thornton-Setoguchi and Marleau-Pavelski-Heatley played at HP Pavilion. From the outside looking in, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have started each of the last two regular seasons with more of an edge to their game. Whether that was a reaction to postseason or offseason impetus is speculation, but it appeared as if they were prepared to take it out against the opposition on the ice. Saturday night an early first period Shane Doan hit along the endboards sent Joe Thornton directly to the locker room holding his face. An all business Joe Thornton returned to the bench without missing a shift, and he was staring holes in the back of a few select Phoenix Coyotes jerseys afterwards.

Antti Niemi started the game with a solid save down low on Viktor Tikhonov. After taking a pass from behind the net, Tikhonov spun and fired a low shot that was blocked and frozen by Niemi. On Joe Thornton’s next shift he circled around the Coyotes slot. Devin Setoguchi set up in front of Phoenix goaltender Matt Climie (Texas Stars, AHL). Thornton could not gain control of the puck in traffic, and a defenseman knocked Setoguchi’s stick out of his hands and kicked it up ice. Later in the period, Shane Doan scored the first goal of the game on the power play, putting home the rebound of Keith Yandle’s shot.

Center Benn Ferriero, who made the 2009-10 NHL roster out of training camp, set up a linemate with a slick back pass for a shot on goal. Climie was there to shut it down. The pair of split-squad games against Phoenix forced the Sharks to carry a larger training camp roster deeper into the preseason, but roster cuts are expected Sunday. On Thursday defenseman Nick Schaus (AHL), and Taylor Doherty (OHL) were sent down. On Wednesday defenseman Matt Irwin and Joe Loprieno were sent to Worcester.

Former Boston University and San Antonio (AHL) defenseman Sean Sullivan made an instant impression in the second and third period. Excellent moving the puck up ice, he also got into a one-on-one battle with Phoenix captain Shane Doan. After Doan took a run up high at him, on his next shift Sullivan launched Doan into Heatley with a big open ice check. Both wobbled and eventually fell to the ice. Sullivan buried a nice feed by Heatley blocker side in the third, and finished with a pair of quality defensive plays on Kyle Turris and Taylor Pyatt. Against Turris, Sullivan contained him on the rush and then knocked him off the puck. Against a larger Pyatt, he poked checked the puck and then drilled the 6-foot-4, 230-pound winger up high.

“You never know (about the roster cuts Sunday), the nerves are out there,” Sullivan said. “Once you get on the ice you are just playing, like any other game. You try to limit mistakes, play your position, any extra points you can put up there is a plus. I am just trying to get noticed and play the way I can.”

Niemi started the first with a big save on Tikhonov in front, in the second he would register the save of the game with a fully extended glove stop on Derek Morris. Yandle may be the Phoenix defenseman on the rise in 2010-11, but Morris has a booming slapshot that will always be dangerous.

Dany Heatley scored his second goal of the pre-season at 4:22. After Marleau held the puck in the zone, Justin Braun fired a point shot that Matt Climie could not control. Heatley gathered the rebound and waited out the Phoenix netminder before roofing a shot. “Phoenix is a quick team, quicker than Anaheim for sure,” Heatley said after the game. “I thought they played pretty well in the first. We started skating with them, and we cleaned up some things, especially in the third.”

At the NHL level, time and space to make plays closes down considerably. Outnumbered behind his own net 2-to-1, defenseman Nick Petrecki slid a between-the-legs pass to Kevin Henderson who was set up on the half boards. Later in the period, Joe Thornton was forechecked into the same area of the ice. Thornton used his reach to dangle around Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedeker, then he hit a forward cutting through the neutral zone with a crisp pass. Over an 82 game schedule, Thornton can make those plays on a nightly basis, Petrecki can not. The Sharks want the physically intimidating and offensively gifted blueliner to focus more on high percentage plays, playing body position, firing pucks up the wall or off the glass. Once Petrecki grasps the fundamentals, he is going to be a defenseman to keep an eye on.

A broken play finished off the second period for San Jose. Danish speedster Mikkel Boedker blew past his man on the right wing, and drove along the goalline towards the net. A late reacting Murray tried to get his stick in the shooting lane, but Boedker deked around to the front of the net. A wide butterfly by Niemi blocked the net down low.

The Sharks pulled away in the third period with quick strikes by Patrick Marleau and Sean Sullivan. Brandon Mashinter and Ryane Clowe also made effective use of their size late. Mashinter tried to check defenseman Sami Lepisto in the offensive zone, but missed. His second attempt sent the smaller Lepisto to the ice, then he slid to the front of the net to screen the goaltender. Later in the period Ryane Clowe carried the puck around the left wing, drawing a penalty on defenseman Garret Stafford, and holding on to the play long enough for Dan DaSilva to make it in front of the net. It was a play Clowe made with regularity in the second half of 2009-10.

After dropping two games against Anaheim, the Sharks earned their first win of the preseason with a split against Phoenix. “When you put the equipment on, you play to win. It doesn’t matter if it is an exhibition game, or playoffs,” Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game.

The announced attendance in San Jose was 15,855. The Sharks finished 0-3 on the power play at HP Pavilion, 2-3 on the penalty kill. Goaltender Alex Stalock stopped all 5 shots he faced in the third period. Defenseman Justin Braun finished with a game high 2 assists, 20:18 minutes of ice time, and one blocked shot. The Sharks finished 0-6 on the power play in Phoenix, 8-9 on the penalty kill. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (23:37), Kent Huskins (21:57) and Niclas Wallin (20:23) all finished with 20+ minutes of ice time for the Sharks. Jamie McGinn lead the team with 5 shots on goal.

A Sharkspage photo gallery from the San Jose split-squad game is available here. Video highlights of the split-squad game in Phoenix are available via

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