Programming note: Canucks-Sharks coverage starts Thursday night at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE -- The Sharks’ coaching staff had a plan for the last three days, as the club welcomed a break in its peripatetic October/early November schedule. Aspects of their play like special teams, defensive sort-outs and coverage off of faceoffs were among the many items on the agenda.
Was everything accomplished that coach Todd McLellan and staff wanted to accomplish?
“The menu that we created on Sunday, we did. We got everything in,” McLellan said. “It felt compacted, because of trying to get so much done, but yeah, we did.”
Tommy Wingels cited the Sharks’ third period struggles when asked to pinpoint what the team was able to tighten up since Monday. San Jose has surrendered 18 goals in the final frame, third-most in the NHL.
“When we have given up goals in the third period, they’re preventable things,” Wingels said. “It’s mental mistakes on a lot of sort-outs, or over-backchecking in the defensive zone. You can watch it on film, but when you can work on it three or four times in practice, it really is helpful. We welcomed this rest, and got better in it."
The Sharks will host Vancouver on Thursday in the first of five meetings between the Pacific Division rivals. The Canucks (9-4-0) have been a pleasant surprise early after some offseason changes that included a new general manager (Jim Benning), a new head coach (Willie Desjardins), and a blockbuster trade with Anaheim in which Ryan Kesler was dealt away.
The Canucks missed the playoffs last season under John Tortorella but there’s still a ton of talent on their roster, including the Sedin twins and new guys like Radim Vrbata, Nick Bonino and goalie Ryan Miller, who is 9-1 on the year.
Early indications are Vancouver will be right in the thick of things in the Pacific Division all season long.
“They’ve got a good team. They’ve always had a good team there,” Logan Couture said. “They played us hard last year and it’s always a battle when we play them. I don’t think anything’s changed about the way we prepare against that team.”
Wingels said: “Last year, they didn’t have the success they wanted, but as an organization and a team, they’re top notch. We know what kind of test it is for us, and we’re going to have to bring our best to beat them.”
The Sharks may have a new player in their lineup, as Tyler Kennedy seems ready to go. On Wednesday, the 28-year-old took shifts on the third line right wing with either Chris Tierney or James Sheppard in the middle, and Tomas Hertl on the left.
San Jose will have to make a roster decision in order to activate Kennedy from injured reserve, and it’s unclear what will be done.
“We’ve got some healthy bodies finally back, and we’ve got a number of different potential combinations we can use with a lot of different players,” McLellan said.
Regardless of who is in or our of the lineup, the Sharks should be well rested for their final home game before another long, seven-game road trip begins on Saturday in Dallas.
“Three days of practice, most guys spend the rest of the day on the couch relaxing, at least the guys without kids,” Couture said. “It’s been nice to do that and get away from the game for a bit, but I’m ready to get started playing again.”
* * *
Antti Niemi will start in net for the Sharks, McLellan confirmed. It will be his fifth straight start.