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ANAHEIM – There weren’t many encouraging signs to be gleaned from the Sharks’ 2-1 loss to dismal Buffalo on Saturday.
The play of rookie center Chris Tierney is one, though. Tierney skated for a season-high 15 minutes and 44 seconds in the game with Matt Nieto and Tommy Wingels, on what was the Sharks’ only line that seemed to create any scoring chances through the first two periods.
The performance came after Tierney was pulled from the lineup for two straight games in Boston and against Columbus.
“I thought Chris’ assertiveness and aggressiveness in the game was stronger than it’s been over a little while,” Todd McLellan said at Honda Center on Sunday, where the Sharks were preparing to play the Ducks. “On a night where we were disappointed in the team’s performance, we saw some growth in a young player, which is a positive for us.”
The 20-year-old indicated he was more energized against Buffalo than he had been before he sat out.
“I thought I had my feet moving a lot more. We were creating some chances as a line. I thought there is still work to be done, you can keep improving every game, but I felt a lot better than I did the last couple games, for sure,” Tierney said.
It wasn’t a perfect game for Tierney, though, who was on the ice for the Sabres’ first goal and had trouble at times advancing the puck through the neutral zone. He admits that he’s still learning the game, but getting a chance to observe from the press box did him some good.
He’s still looking for his first career NHL goal, and has two assists and a -1 rating in seven games.
“To have that time off and be able to watch guys like [Logan] Couture and [Joe] Thornton, there are so many guys you can watch on the team, what they do and how they react to things,” he said. “I took that time to kind of watch what they were doing out there and take some tips from that.”
There may have been a fatigue factor, too, as he gets used to an NHL schedule that includes regular cross-country flights.
“It’s been busy, for sure. You’ve got to be a lot better with getting your sleep, and nutrition, and all that stuff,” Tierney said. “If you have a bad game or something doesn’t go well that night you’ve got to forget about it and just move on to the next game, and have a positive mindset going in that you’re going to have a good game and be better.
“Even when you do have good games, you have to have the mindset you can improve. It’s definitely been different, mentally and physically.”
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Defenseman Jason Demers’ one-game absence vs. Buffalo was due to an unspecified minor health issue, and he will be in the lineup on Sunday against the Ducks.
Forward Tyler Kennedy is “still close” but not ready to return vs. Anaheim, McLellan said.
Antti Niemi will start in net, as the Sharks try to end their four-game losing streak and Anaheim's seven-game winning streak.