SAN JOSE – The Sharks made the decision before their second round playoff series even started that they were going to stay overnight in Nashville after Game 4. Considering they played a game that lasted nearly six periods and went until 1:03 a.m. local time, that unquestionably turned out to be the right call.
Flight records show that the Sharks took off from Nashville at 10:49 a.m. CT on Friday, and landed back at SJC at 12:55 p.m. PT after being in the air for a little more than four hours.
“It’s tough to sleep after games regardless, win or lose, but if you’re going to stay there, you get your little bit of extra rest and travel the next day,” said Joe Pavelski, who estimated he went to sleep around 2:30 or 3 a.m. after the game.
The team reconvened at their practice facility on Saturday morning, in preparation for the biggest game of the season. Looking to end a two-game losing streak to the Predators and move to within one win of the Western Conference Final, they’ll have to quickly locate their energy to match what will likely be a fired up Nashville club after Thursday/Friday morning’s emotional 4-3 final in triple overtime.
“It’s obviously one of those things where nutrition and rest [are] important, getting your fluids,” Paul Martin said. “Games that go to 1 a.m. or whatever time it was, that doesn’t happen too often. It’s shocks the body a little bit. But, it’s playoffs, and you have to refocus and do the best you can making sure you’re staying hydrated and getting your food and your treatments, and get ready for the next game.”
San Jose held an optional skate on Saturday morning, with several players on the ice, including veterans like Brent Burns, Joe Thornton and Joel Ward.
There have been days where coach Pete DeBoer has told everyone to stay off the ice, but this wasn’t one of them.
“I’m grimacing a little bit. But, these guys are consummate pros,” DeBoer said. “They bent a little bit with me on that this year in trying to manage their energy a little bit, but they have some routines that they want to do to make them feel good, so we’ve got to work with each other there. I think we have. I trust them that they’ll be ready tonight.”
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Despite coming off of the tough loss, the Sharks can draw upon the fact that they won the first two games of the series at home, and that they were the better team for much of the second half of Game 4 before Mike Fisher’s goal at 11:12 of the third OT.
“We’re in a position to come home, it’s 2-2. You never expect it to be easy,” Pavelski said. “I think if we can play the way we played the second half of that game, and create those chances and keep pushing, it’s going to come for us.”
DeBoer was encouraged by the many scoring chances his team created after a lackluster first period, but cautioned that at this time of the season, no one team is going to control play for the duration. It’s all about capitalizing when you’re going well, and avoiding catastrophe when the other team has the territorial edge.
“The NHL playoffs, nobody dominates anybody for 60 minutes. You’ve got the best eight teams left in the World. There’s ebbs and flows,” DeBoer said.
“You knew they would come out with a push [in Game 4]. They’re at home, their backs are against the wall. They controlled a little bit of the play through the first half of the game. I thought we did through the second half of the game. That’s going to be every night here. There’s going to be no domination by one team or another, and there isn’t anywhere else in the league.”
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Driving the proverbial bus for Nashville in its two wins was the Fisher line, with wingers Colin Wilson and James Neal. They combined for nine even strength points in games three and four, including Neal’s late third period goal that sent Game 4 to overtime, and Fisher’s game-winner.
After Game 4, Predators coach Peter Laviolette said: “That line has been really good. Wilson has been excellent, Neal has been good, Fisher is good – he really gives you everything he’s got every shift. That line is noticeable every time we’re on the ice.”
Pavelski was asked what the Sharks have to do to slow them down.
“You have to match their intensity. They seem to be playing well down low and getting to the net a little bit and getting under guys,” he said. “You have to be ready to box a line like that out.”