SAN JOSE – In one of the least surprising developments of the approaching NHL trade deadline, Sharks forward Ryane Clowe did not dress for Monday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, making it all the more likely that the winger will be dealt before Wednesday.
News has been trickling out for days about the likelihood of Clowe’s departure from the Bay Area. Perhaps that’s why several Sharks downplayed the late lineup change after a 3-2 win over Vancouver at HP Pavilion, after Clowe took part in the morning skate.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks 3, Canucks 2]
“It’s the way this business works. You come to the rink, see he’s not playing, and that’s it,” Logan Couture said. “Forget about it, move on, and get ready for the game.”
Joe Thornton, who, like Couture, scored on Monday night, said: “It’s kind of been swirling around that [Clowe] is going to get traded for the last week or so. Who knows where he goes, who knows if he stays? We don’t know. He’s a big part of this team, and we wish him all the best.”
Clowe had played well in the previous three games after returning from a shoulder injury, registering two assists, but his unavailability meant James Sheppard was slotted on the wing on the Joe Pavelski-TJ Galiardi line. Although it didn’t generate a goal, the trio played well and was on the ice as much as any line during even strength play.
“I thought Pav had a pretty solid game, good both ways, and the wingers responded and played around him,” Todd McLellan said.
Pavelski led all Sharks forwards with 23 minutes and two seconds of ice time.
The Sharks got a rare goal from their fourth line, as Andrew Desjardins broke a scoreless tie at 7:41 of the second period. He buried a loose puck with Adam Burish screening Cory Schneider after Scott Gomez attempted to put it on net from high in the zone.
The goal was Desjardins’ first in 35 games.
“It’s good to get one. The main thing is just contributing other ways as well and winning games,” said Desjardins, who later fought to a draw with Vancouver’s Steve Pinizzotto.
Less than a minute later, Thornton ended a 12-game goalless drought with a wrist shot past Schneider, and Couture’s power play tally gave the Sharks three goals in just two minutes and 13 seconds.
Couture had some good looks at the net earlier, but got a fortunate bounce on his 15th of the season after Patrick Marleau aimed the puck towards the crease from the corner.
“Kind of got lucky. Patty passed it really hard and went off my stick, off my left foot and I think off my right foot and in," Couture said.
A brief video review confirmed Couture didn’t kick it in, and the Sharks had a commanding 3-0 lead.
Instead of taking control, though, the Sharks sat back from then on. Chris Higgins’ goal at 17:26 of the second period gave Vancouver momentum that carried into the third, and Alex Burrows brought the Canucks back to within 3-2 midway through the final frame with a rebound goal.
Although his club held on for its fifth straight win, the relaxed effort in the second half of the game didn’t please McLellan.
“I was actually pretty disappointed in our group after we made it 3-0,” he said. “[We] took our foot off the gas, we started doing things we weren’t doing in the first 30 minutes of the game. It almost came back to bite us.”
Thornton said: “It gets 3-0, and everybody gets kind of comfortable. … You can’t let up, and I think we did.”
Niemi made 23 saves in his 13th straight start, and is now tied for fourth in the league in wins (17). His biggest stop came in the second period when the Sharks led 2-0, when he turned away a breakaway by Jannik Hansen. Moments later, Couture’s marker made it 3-0.
“I know he has lots of speed so he might be going to the back side,” Niemi said of Hansen’s attempt. “I was kind of expecting that.”
The Sharks will have a complete day off on Tuesday, and could very well be without Clowe for good when they gather for the morning skate on Wednesday morning in preparation for a game with the Wild.
Whether Clowe is still on the roster or has departed, McLellan suggested he doesn’t expect it to be a distraction then, either.
“They are smart people in the locker room, they sense what’s going on with Clowie’s situation,” he said. "It didn’t just pop out of thin air today, it’s been there and around the club for a little while. Clowie is a San Jose Shark right now, and he may play a lot of games for us yet.”
Or, he may not. Either way, the surging Sharks will plow ahead.