Saturday, January 31, 2009

Max Giese: Goaltending prospect Alex Stalock scouting report

Minnesota Duluth goaltender Alex Stalock photo Brace Hemmelgarn

Minnesota Duluth goaltender Alex Stalock has had no trouble accumulating the accolades and personal awards during his decorated career in the WCHA and the USHL. The 6-foot-0 190 pound Junior goaltender was the Bulldogs' Team MVP in 2007-2008 and became only the third goaltender in school history to start every game. Drafted 112th overall in 2005, Stalock is a skilled and daring puck-handling goaltender that plays a hybrid style using both stand-up and butterfly techniques. He was named the 2005-2006 USHL goaltender of the year after he backstopped the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders to a USHL Championship in 2004-2005.

Recently named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for January 27th-February 2nd, Stalock doesn't just stop the puck, he also handles it expertly. His 6 career assists match his 6 career shut-outs. He does an excellent job playing the puck thanks to swift skating and skillful hands for the position. Stalock increasingly becomes more active handling the puck late in games if his team is losing. Giving the Bulldogs a chance to win every night, Stalock is calm and oozes confidence, which inspires his teammates to have the same. He's brilliant in breakaway situations and doesn’t flinch during the critical moments of a game.

This season Stalock has only allowed 56 goals in 25 games and boasts a .921 save percentage. He boasts the top poke check in college hockey and can rely upon his athleticism to scramble. The San Jose Sharks are pleased with his development "He has been having a very good season and is developing well" says Sharks scout Pat Funk. Stalock is far more economical now compared to when he entered his collegiate career and doesn’t commit prematurely. He keeps his head on a swivel, is vocal communicating with his teammates, and he anticipates well to the point where it appears as if he knows what the shooter wants to do with the puck at times. His stance is mechanically sound and he remains vertical and compact when in the butterfly. Stalock's flexibility allows him to hit the splits and cover the lower portion of the net. He tracks the puck well from the shooters blade into his body and this allows him to react and adjust to deflections.

Stalock's statistics aren't inflated because he is on a strong team, in fact the opposite is true. Most of the goaltending leaders in the NCAA have had to make around 400-500 hundred saves this season, while Stalock has already made 651 saves, many of them have been of the difficult variety. He aggressively cuts down the angle and challenges shooters. Stalock executes nice kick saves, plus he is fast and and precise with both his glove and blocker. "He's a real good athlete and he's cocky but in the right way" said Funk noting Stalock "has that mentality where if you beat me you're not going to beat me again".

With Thomas Greiss and Taylor Dakers already manning the nets in Worcester, and with promising prospects Timo Pielmeier and Tyson Sexsmith set to turn pro next season, there is no rush to bring Stalock out of college. The plan as of now is for Stalock to stay for his senior year and continue to carry the Duluth Bulldogs on his back. "Our staff has seen him play quite a bit and we are very happy with his progress, not only as a hockey player but as a leader also" said Funk.

Alex Stalock Scouting Report
January 30th vs. Wisconsin Badgers: Was brilliant in one-on-one situations and came up with numerous breakaway saves .. bailed out some of his teammates and never flinched during the critical moments of the game .. focused from the get go and came up with two point blank saves to begin the game without forfeiting any rebounds .. lost his stick at one point and displayed a creative thought process to play big low with his yellow pads and made the save .. tracked the puck from the shooters blade into his body .. cheated off the post and surrendered a softy short side .. moved swiftly laterally without opening any holes, although he needs to do a better job at finding the post when recovering back to his crease.

[Update] Alex Stalock, Jack Connolly earn WCHA Player of the Week honors - University of Minnesota Duluth Athletics.

[Update2] San Jose Sharks January 21st prospect report -

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Start Second Half On Up Note

The Worcester Sharks, playing without leading scorer Ryan Vesce who was recalled prior to the start of the game, defeated the Springfield Falcons 3-1 Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 3,459.

With Vesce gone the WorSharks had to juggle their top two lines a little, but they didn't miss a beat when Steven Zalewski connected at 3:25 of the first period to give Worcester the 1-0 lead. Zalewski took a Cory Larose pass from the half boards to the left of Springfield netminder Devan Dubnyk and fired a 15' wrister from the slot to light the lamp. Lukas Kaspar would get the second assist, but the play was really set up by a huge open ice hit by Brett Westgarth to keep the puck in the Falcons zone.

Worcester has two golden opportunities to grab another goal in the period. The first was after a Matt Fornataro shot had Dubnyk down and out, Jamie McGinn had his shot on the open net blocked by a diving Bryan Young. Later in the opening stanza a scrum around the net would result in a bouncing puck that deflected up and over the crossbar, landing right at the feet of Dubnyk who was able to cover the puck before a Worcester player could pounce on it.

The second period was dominated by special teams, with both squads getting chances skating with a two man advantage.

Worcester would get their chance after a great power play shift by Fornataro. With Bryan Lerg off for slashing, the WorSharks kept the puck in the Falcons zone right from the opening face off, with Fornataro spending most of the time in the slot screening Dubnyk. Theo Peckham took a bad roughing call against Fornataro after a Dubnyk save to give Worcester their two mad advantage for 53 seconds. The WorSharks had several great chances, but Dubnyk came up big several times to keep it 1-0.

Springfield would get their two mad advantage not long after the Peckhan roughing minor was killed. With Cory Larose already in the box for a hook in the offensive zone, Jason Demers was called for a borderline hook as Worcester began a shorthanded rush. It was the first of three borderline minor calls by referee Frederic L'Ecuyer against Demers in the period, and Worcester was two men down for 90 seconds. WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss wasn't required to make many saves over that 90 seconds, but the ones he did make were all great saves.

The WorSharks would grab a 2-0 lead at 3:16 of the third period when Kaspar picked the pocket of Falcons winger Rob Schremp in the neutral zone and skated just over the blueline, firing a 50' slapshot for the unassisted marker.

Greiss' bid for his first professional shutout would be spoiled at 8:11 of the third when Guillaume Lefebvre poked a rebound past Greiss to make the score 2-1. It was the tenth time in his career that Greiss would take a shutout into the third period, and the tenth time he would walk away without the whitewash.

Worcester would ice the game with an empty net goal with 35 seconds remaining when Tom Cavanagh fed Riley Armstrong for the 100' tally and the 3-1 final

With Ryan Vesce being recalled Worcester had no healthy scratches. Kyle McLaren is still out after hand surgery, but has begun skating and should be ready to play soon. Mike Morris is still suffering from a concussion, and there has been no word as to his progress.

Bryan Marchment joined coach Roy Sommer and assistant coach David Cunniff behind the bench for the game. At one point during Springfield's five on three all three Worcester coaches were standing on the bench, something seldom done by Sommer during games. Sommer also uncharacteristically got his dander up when the officials ruled a face off in the Worcester zone after a play ended up in the netting after hitting the crossbar.

Springfield was also missing their top scorer when Ryan Potulny was recalled by Edmonton. When Center Tim Sestito went down with what appeared to be right shoulder injury right at the end of the first period Springfield was forced to go with just 17 skaters. Former Worcester IceCat Derek Bekar was also not dressed for Springfield as he and the Falcons have parted ways amicably so Bekar can return to Europe.

There were four fights in the contest, with Brad Staubitz taking on Mathieu Roy in the first period and Guillaume Lefebvre in the third, with Staubitz winning both contests. Matt Jones showed his broken jaw is fully healed in his first professional fight, a second period tilt against Gilbert Brule that ended in a draw. Riley Armstrong and Viacheslav Trukhno engaged in a hugfest by the Springfield bench in the third period with Trukhno picking up an extra two for roughing. The WorSharks now have 58 fighting majors for the season.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Kaspar (gwg,a)
2. Dubnyk (31 saves)
3. Zalewski (goal, +2)
Honorable mention should go to Greiss (16 saves, most of them of the "high quiality" variety) and Patrick Travers (+3).

Even Strength Lines

Traverse, Demers, Buckley, Moore, and Westgarth rotated around with each other, with Wilson getting spot duty.

Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


Face Offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Even Strength
Zalewski 3-1/2-2/4-1 = 9-4
Jones 0-0/1-0/1-0 = 2-0
Desjardins 0-2/2-2/0-2 = 2-6
Cavanagh 2-2/3-1/3-2 = 8-5
Fornataro 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Fox 1-1/0-0/0-1 = 1-2

Penalty Kill
Zalewski 0-0/1-0/4-1 = 4-2
Cavanagh 1-0/0-0/1-2 = 2-2
Desjardins 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Larose 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0

Power Play
Larose 1-1/0-0/0-0 = 1-1
Fornataro 1-1/0-0/0-0 = 1-1
Zalewski 3-1/0-0/0-0 = 3-1

SPR 0 0 1 - 1
WOR 1 0 2 - 3

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Worcester, S. Zalewski (9) (C. Larose, L. Kaspar) 3:25
Penalties - M. Roy Spr (fighting) 5:42, B. Staubitz Wor (fighting) 5:42, R. Armstrong Wor (hooking) 8:12, M. Roy Spr (holding) 16:29

2nd Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - G. Brule Spr (fighting) 3:00, M. Jones Wor (fighting) 3:00, B. Lerg Spr (slashing) 7:46, T. Peckham Spr (roughing) 8:53, C. Larose Wor (hooking) 10:11, J. Demers Wor (hooking) 10:41, J. Demers Wor (interference) 15:51, J. Demers Wor (hooking) 19:02

3rd Period
Scoring - 2. Worcester, L. Kaspar (11) 3:16, 3. Springfield, G. Lefebvre (3) (T. Spurgeon, J. Taylor) 8:11, 4. Worcester, R. Armstrong (17) (T. Cavanagh, J. McGinn) 19:25 EN
Penalties - J. McGinn Wor (holding) 1:12, V. Trukhno Spr (roughing, fighting) 4:46, R. Armstrong Wor (fighting) 4:46, J. McGinn Wor (slashing) 5:00, S. Willis Spr (hooking) 9:25, G. Lefebvre Spr (fighting) 12:12, B. Staubitz Wor (fighting) 12:12

SPR Shots: 4 6 7 TOTAL: 17
WOR Shots: 14 12 8 TOTAL: 34

Power Play Conversion
Springfield Falcons 0-7. Worcester Sharks 0-5.

Springfield Falcons
Dubnyk 15-24-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:47 SV: 31 GA: 2 [L]

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 16-11-2 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:57 SV: 16 GA: 1 [W]

Attendance : 3459. Referee: Frederic L'Ecuyer (48) Linesmen: Brian MacDonald (72), Chris Libett (19)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sharks and Coyotes combine for 67 hits, Nabokov outlasts Bryzgalov in goaltenders duel to emerge with 2-0 shutout win

San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski faceoff photo
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov defenseman Christian Ehrhoff

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov summarized San Jose's 2-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes perfectly in a post-game interview. The netminder described Thursday night's sellout contest as a tight checking affair with a different dynamic, a different mentality than previous games. It started with an akward first period fight between left wing Ryane Clowe, where he battled a helmet caught around his neck as much as he did Daniel Winnik. Clowe also had a goal waived off due to a kicking motion later in the period.

The tenor of the game changed, slowing down and becoming much more physical. Goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov were incredibly focused. Nabokov finished the first period with a quick, reflex pad save on a Martin Hanzal shot from the slot. The Sharks defense cleared the play before Enver Lisin and Ed Jovanovski could crash the net to punch it home.

An unusual faceoff violation by Daniel Carcillo, and a subsequent delay of game penalty on Todd Fedoruk for shooting the puck over the glass gave San Jose two power play opportunities early in the second period. After the puck was sent through the crease once with several Sharks taking a whack at it, Marleau kicked it out to Christian Ehrhoff who hammered home his 4th goal of the season from the point. Ehrhoff has 4 points (1G, 3A) in his last 4 games, but more importantly his D-pair with Douglas Murray has been effective in a growing shutdown role. On the tight checking game against Phoenix, "You have to fight for every inch of ice out there" Ehrhoff said.

Ilya Bryzgalov turned a corner on the season and helped the Phoenix Coyotes battle back to a more competitive position in the standings (T-2nd Pacific, T-5th Western Conference). Bryzgalov has won 5 of his last 9 starts, but consistency is an issue. In 5 wins he has registered 1 shutout and has not allowed more than 3 goals against. In 4 losses he has allowed an average of 4.75 goals against. Phoenix is in all-or-nothing mode with Ilya, they need him to be a world beater every night in order to make a desperately needed playoff run. Bryzgalov shut the door on Jonathan Cheechoo late in the second period, and early in the third he absolutely smothered a rising point blank one-timer from Grier. He was named second star of the game for a sparkling performance against the #1 team in the NHL.

Evgeni Nabokov was equally focused in net for San Jose. "He is as sharp now as he has been all year" coach Todd McLellan said after the game. Nabokov withstood a late Phoenix onslaught to earn his second back-to-back shutout and set a franchise record scoreless streak at 170 minutes, 10 seconds. After 2 empty net chances hit the post, Marcel Goc added the empty net insurance goal with 15 seconds left.

The hitting in the game was intense. After a pair of crushing checks by Douglas Murray, Phoenix Captain Shane Doan flattened Murray with a hard shoulder check along the end boards in the second period. After the Coyotes flipped a puck high in the neutral zone on a clear in the third period, Doan also took a shot at rookie defenseman Derek Joslin as he tried to play the drop. The Sharks outhit Phoenix 36-31, and Devin Setoguchi lead the way with 6. Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski called Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas a Leafs Seeking Missle for his check/save on Jason Blake. Thursday night Setoguchi was using his speed to line up players and plaster them along the glass, some might call the performance "missle-like". The Sharks travel to Boston on February 10th.

Evgeni Nabokov stopped all 24 shots he faced to earn his 27th win of the season. The Sharks increased their Pacific Division lead to 24 points over Phoenix and Anaheim, and lead the Detroit Red Wings by 8 points with 1 game in hand for first place in the Western Conference.

A small photo gallery from the game is available here.

[Update] Head coach Todd McLellan addressed the recent play of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff after the game:

Even before the break during the Vancouver game I thought Christian looked much more confident. He is playing with more authority. I keep using that word with him, authority. He takes the puck and makes something happen. He is prepared to skate, prepared to pass. He has got a big shot, he got it through tonight. His confidence level should be going up, he has earned that right. We expect it to continue.

Christian Ehrhoff is the x-factor on the Sharks right now. Prior to the start of the season Ehrhoff cut down the backswing on his slapshot, speeding up the release. It was effective. He piled up 16 points in his first 20 games and was moving the puck quickly out of his own zone. A 16-game scoreless drought followed, and Ehrhoff was even benched for one game by the coaching staff for an unnamed reason. One former NHL front office member believed at the time it was for over-committing on plays.

The Sharks have a legitimate quartet of skilled, puck-moving defenseman in Dan Boyle, Rob Blake, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Ehrhoff. Along with Murray last season, Ehrhoff focused on his defensive responsibility to very impressive results. He has demonstrated that he can be an elite defenseman on both sides of the ice. The Sharks will focus on integrating returning players back into the lineup, and jockey for playoff position, but one of the keys to the second half will be maximizing the play of Christian Ehrhoff. Two of the best mentors in the league are a couple of seats down the bench in Boyle and Blake. Shifts alongside Boyle 5-on-5, and alongside Rob Blake on the power play, could be playoff gold in April and May for the German blueliner.

SYP Interview with San Jose Sharks prospect Logan Couture

San Jose Sharks center prospect Logan Couture

Kent Kean of the fantasy hockey website recently interviewed San Jose Sharks 2007 1st round draft pick Logan Couture. The 6-foot 195-pound center from London, Ontario currently leads the Ottawa 67's in scoring with 48 points. Interview reprinted with permission.

Kent: It’s been quite a year for you. How would you assess your season so far?

Logan: It has been a lot of fun for me. I've had the chance to wear the "C" this year, and its been a great learning experience for me. It's an honour to be a captain for such a special franchise as well. The team has been playing excellent hockey as of late, and hopefully we can continue to play our best heading into the playoffs in March.

Kent: You were a teammate of Derek Joslin’s with the Ottawa 67’s, how excited are you to possibly be reunited with him next year, especially with Jamie McGinn there as well?

Logan: Derek and Jamie have done great for themselves. I'm proud to say I played with them in Junior hockey because not only are they great hockey players, but they are great guys. They both have long NHL careers ahead of them!

Kent: Derek and Jamie are already rooming together in Worcester, which one of you is getting the floor?

Logan: [Laugh] I'm going to say that would be me, seeing as I have the least amount of rank!

Kent: Scouts say there’s no real weakness to your game, which part of it have you worked on the most this season to improve?

Logan: I worked a lot on just little things that San Jose has told me. With the coaching change this past year they changed a lot of their systems as well as their style of game. In the time I spent up there at the start of the year I enjoyed the way we were playing. So when I came back to junior I tried to bring the same style back with me and we've played a similar style to the Sharks which has been enjoyable.

Kent: A lot of people don’t know that you won the shooting accuracy competition in the 2007 OHL All-Star Game. Could you use the word sniper when describing Logan Couture?

Logan: Nooo that wouldn't be the word. Luckily, I've always had an accurate shot. When I was younger my dad made hockey nets, and he would have a setup in the backyard with a net and a board I would shoot off. He'd always want me out there working on my shot, he still is all over me to get out there when I’m at home, but I am more of a playmaker. Always have had more assists than goals.

Kent: What's the strongest part of your game right now?

Logan: I think the strongest part of my game is my two-way play. I always try to be the first guy back, help the defense down low, and keep goals out of our net first.

Kent: Have you started practicing your surfing yet?

Logan: [Laugh] No I haven't, but I'm good buddies with Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings and he's been telling me how he lives on the beach and he gets out into the water. So maybe I’ll have to start!

Kent: The 67’s are looking good this year. It being your last year in junior, do you feel more urgency to end it with a Memorial Cup berth?

Logan: We've been playing very well lately. Of course everyone wants to go out as a winner in Junior hockey, but there are only a certain few who end their junior career with a win. It would be nice to go far this year, and I think with the team we have, we are capable of it.

Kent: Were you ever into fantasy hockey?

Logan: No I never was into fantasy hockey, I got into football a little bit. The problem I ran into was that I’m a huge Bills fan, so no matter what I would pick a team full of Bills.

Kent: If you had a keeper team of your own who would your first pick be?

Logan: Alexander Ovechkin.

Kent: During your time in the minors and junior, is there anyone you've either played with or against who has flown under the radar, but you think will make a big impact in the NHL someday?

Logan: It's really hard to say. I've seen so many great players leave the OHL and have success in the NHL. It's hard for me to pick, but if I was forced to I would say Julien Demers, here with me in Ottawa. He was the Sharks 5th round pick last year. He's a big kid with a good shot, and he can move the puck. Real solid player.

Kent: Where is your first NHL goal puck going?

Logan: I think the first goal puck is going to go back home with my mom and dad. They have put in a lot of time, effort and money to my hockey and my brothers over the years. They deserve it, they are awesome.

Kent: Have a great finish to your year and all the best of luck Logan

Thursday, January 29, 2009

ECHL Pacific Division Notes, Stockton Thunder hire former Fresno Falcons head coach Matt Thomas and go on an 8-game tear

Ontario Reign lead ECHL Pacific Division Todd Jackson photo by Mike Brewster

The ECHL's Pacific Division is down one team from the last edition of the notes file in November. The Fresno Falcons ceased operations on December 22nd, 2008, becoming one of two ECHL franchises to fold mid-season along with the Augusta Lynx. Fresno (2003-2008) also joins the Long Beach Ice Dogs (2003-2007) and the San Diego Gulls (2003-2006) as California ECHL teams to fold in the last three years.

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, the slumping economy has resulted in a 5% drop in ECHL attendance from an average of 4,174 fans to 3,949 fans per game. All 4 Pacific Division teams are above the ECHL attendance average, averaging 5,540 fans per home game in California and Las Vegas.


ONTARIO REIGN (1st place, 23-15-3). The Ontario Reign padded their Pacific Division lead winning 4 of their last 6 games. Parity is the name of the game, as Ontario has registered a 12-7-2-0 record at home and an almost identical 11-7-0-1 record on the road. Rookie goaltenders John Murray (13-8-2, 2.63GAA, .923SV%) and 2006 third round draft pick Jeff Zatkoff (9-6-1, 2.25GAA, .936SV%) have shared the goaltending duties without a lot of offensive support. With only 111 goals for, the second lowest goal total in the ECHL behind Phoenix, Ontario goalies and the 4th best defense in the National Conference have had to make those goals count.

Forwards Todd Jackson (3g, 3a) and Itan Chavira (1g, 3a) had 4-game point streaks snapped in a 3-1 loss to the Alaska Aces. 3 different players scored for Alaska and Jean-Philippe Lamoureux stopped 28 of 29 shots to lock down the win for the Aces. The Reign earned back-to-back wins at home against Bakersfield in front of a combined 14,142 fans before heading to Alaska. Jon Francisco leads Ontario with 17 goals and 34 points, but only 3 players have reached double digit goals this season (Francisco-17, Todd Jackson-13, Geoff Walker-12,).

The Reign are the only expansion team playing in ECHL's Pacific Division this season. The first year Los Angeles Kings affiliate plays at the 9736-seat Citizens Business Bank Arena. Stockton (106,236 total fans, 6,640/game) and Bakersfield (106,776 total fans, 5,932/game) are leading the ECHL in attendance, but Ontario has posted a respectable 5,207 per game average (5th) in a very crowded southern California entertainment market. Minor league teams often have to build a following with success over time, but Ontario Reign fans have offered strong support of this team right out of the gate.

Ontario was recently announced as the host of the 2010 ECHL Allstar Game. Ontario joins Stockton (2008) and Fresno (2006), as California franchises hosting the leagues midseason showcase. The minor league ASG is expected to pump more than $1 million dollars into the local economy.

STOCKTON THUNDER (2nd place, 19-20-5). The Stockton Thunder fired head coach Chris Cichocki and hired former Fresno Falcons head coach Matt Thomas on Dec. 29th, 2008. A proven winner who has never missed the playoffs in 7 years as a head or assistant coach, the Thunder immediately responded earning 15 out of 16 points in the next 8 games, including a 7-game winning streak. Five players from Fresno were also added to the Stockton roster: Judd Blackwater, Igor Gongalsky (*), Kenny MacAulay (*), Daryl Marcoux, and Matt O'Dette (* - played in the 2007-08 ECHL Allstar Game in Stockton).

Stockton goaltender Andrew Perugini (8-6-1-1), ranks 20th in the ECHL with a 3.01 goals against average, and 15th in the ECHL with a .908 save percentage. Perugini notched his first professional shutout, his fourth consecutive win, stopping all 38 shots he faced in a 2-0 win at Victoria on Wednesday night. Center Ryan Huddy, son of Edmonton Oilers assistant coach Charlie Huddy, leads the Thunder in scoring with 23 goals (5th in the ECHL) and 45 points (7th) in 41 games played. Rookie left wing Garet Hunt leads ECHL with 186 PIMs in 41 games played, Adam Huxley is 6th with 132.

Charlie Huddy recently attended a 3-game homestand in Stockton during the NHL Allstar break. The Thunder wore jerseys from the parent Edmonton franchise on Friday and Saturday night and then auctioned them off for charity. Stockton was forced to play shorthanded with only 4 defenseman recently due to Ryan Constant's suspension, injuries to Mark Adamek and Cleve Kinley, and the callup of Kenny Macaulay to Portland of the AHL.

LAS VEGAS WRANGLERS (3rd place, 18-17-4). Las Vegas has 2 games in hand on Ontario, 5 games in hand on Stockton, and 6 games in hand on Bakersfield. The Wranglers picked up a pair of wins to build momentum heading into a 3-game weekend homestand against Bakersfield. Sunday at home against Victoria, left wing Mike Hamilton and captain Peter Ferraro each scored twice and Kevin Lalande made 37 saves in a 6-2 win. Tuesday, Las Vegas downed the San Jose Sharks ECHL affiliated Phoenix Roadrunners as Chris Ferraro scored the game winner on a second period power play in a 2-1 win.

The big news out of Las Vegas is undeniably Rob Blagojevich Prison Uniform Night this Friday against Bakersfield. The Wranglers will suit up in custom black and white striped prison uniform jerseys (ILLGOV-__ will proceed the players number), with Bakersfield opting for California prison inspired jumpsuit orange. The referees will suit up in mock policeman's uniform jerseys. All jerseys will be auctioned off for charity.

Calgary Flames 2005 fifth round draft pick, goaltender Kevin Lalande, was recently called up to Quad City of the AHL. Lalande registered a 6-7-2 record (.924SV%, 2.37GAA) in 17 games with Las Vegas. Another Vegas goaltender, John DeCaro, was loaned to Portland of the AHL earlier in the season according to the Las Vegas Sun. No word yet on if Washington Capitals web producer Brett Leonhardt is available.

BAKERSFIELD CONDORS (4th place, 13-23-6). Bakersfield, the Anaheim Ducks ECHL affiliate, is struggling with only 13 wins in 45 games played this season (for a slumping .288 winning percentage). The Condors have sunk to last place in the National Conference, and are only 3 points from tying Reading for last place in the ECHL.

The Condors scored 3 goals in a come from behind attempt that fell short en route to a 4-3 loss at Ontario on Sunday. Bakersfield has lost 6 of its last 7 games heading into Friday's Rob Blagojevich night in Vegas.

Right wing Jason Bailey was recently called up by the Iowa Chops of the AHL. Matt Pope leads Bakersfield with 23 goals and 42 points in 39 games played, right wing Chad Painchaud is first on the team with 32 assists. Ryan Nie has outpaced Yutaka Fukufuji in goal, registering a 6-6-2 record with a 3.31GAA and a 901SV% in 15 games played. Fukufuji has earned only 3 wins in 14 starts.

[Update] Shakeup in Stockton sees Thomas replace Cichocki - Brian Compton for

[Update2] Falcons gone but bills mount, Defunct team is sued by practice rink, still charged rent by city - Fresno Bee.

[Update3] Interesting note, the photo of Ontario forward Todd Jackson above was taken by Mike Brewster of Fontana, CA. A season ticket holder of the Los Angeles Kings since 2001, Brewster won the team naming contest from over 600 entries and was awarded a pair of tickets for the entire season. He says there has been 7,000+ fans for 3 straight games, and notes that there is not a bad seat in the new arena.

Darryl Hunt: Worcester Sharks Half Season Report Card

With the AHL in the middle of its All Star break, this is a good time to take a look at the Worcester Sharks players and how well they’re doing at the half-way mark of the 2008-09 season.

Each player’s grade is based on what was expected of them, how they’ve performed against those expectations, and a general feel of how they’ve played compared to other players on the team.

Players are listed by number, forwards first, then defensemen, and ending with the goaltenders. All statistics are as of 1/27. “X” denotes the player is currently not with Worcester.

6 Brad Staubitz LW [25 games: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point; (-9), 62PIM]
Staubitz is in Worcester what he is in San Jose, a third and fourth line physical presence. Last season after his switch from defense to forward Staubitz showed he does have some offensive skills by nearly doubling his career point total in just half a season, but so far this season those offensive numbers have all but disappeared. He is still learning his role as a forward, and occasionally takes ill-advised penalties by being over-aggressive.
Season highlight: Scored first NHL goal against Edmonton on 1/9
Grade: C

9 Tom Cavanagh C [22 games, 9 goals, 9 assists, 18 points; +2, 17PIM]
Cavanagh isn’t a flashy player, but he’s been one of the most consistent players over the last two and a half seasons. Cavanagh’s versatility is his strength, being able to play well in both ends of the ice. He has consistently been one of Worcester’s best face-off men. Cavanagh was just recently returned to Worcester after his second recall to the NHL.
Season highlight: 2 goal, 3 point game against Hartford on 10/31.
Grade: B

11-X P.J. Fenton F [30 games, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points; E, 16PIM]
Fenton started the season out on fire, with four points in his first four games. Since then the U-Mass product has struggled with just three points in his last 26 games. Fenton has the speed to play at this level, but questions have arisen about his strength and ability to compete in the AHL. Fenton was recently assigned to Phoenix of the ECHL
Season highlight: Goal, assist against Albany on 10/17
Grade: D

12 Matt Jones RW [19 games, 1 goal, 1 assts, 2 points; +1, 6PIM]
Jones has played just 18 games for the WorSharks after being struck in the face and having his jaw broken by a clearing attempt against Bridgeport on October 25. Jones returned just before Christmas, but was obviously hampered by the football-style face mask he wore, and has just started to pick up his game since its removal. Time will tell if Jones can return to the form he showed at the end of the 07-08 season.
Season highlight: Goal against Albany on 10/17
Grade: Incomplete

13 T.J. Fox C [44 games, 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points; (-8), 11PIM]
Hopes were that Fox would have a break-through season, but so far he’s had anything but. Fox has shown very little of the offensive abilities he debuted last season, and as such he sees the majority of his action on the third and fourth lines. This season Fox seems to be shying away from contact, and unfortunately that has led to his losing most of the one-on-one battles against the boards. His (-8) is tied for second worst among forwards with Staubitz, behind just enforcer Frazer McLaren.
Season highlight: Game winning goal against Springfield on 11/16.
Grade: D

14 Frazer McLaren LW [43 games, 1 goal, 0 assists, 1 point; (-12), 103PIM]
McLaren is becoming one of the AHL premier enforcers, taking on anyone willing to go. He still makes rookie mistakes by trying to play too aggressively or trying to challenge another team’s fighter while he should be paying attention to the play around him. McLaren has the speed to play in the AHL, but he’ll need to round out his game a little to not become a liability when he’s on the ice.
Season highlight: Goal against Lowell on 10/11
Grade: C

15 Steven Zalewski C [45 games, 8 goals, 17 assists, 25 points; E, 18 PIM]
Zalewski started the season on fire, and while he has cooled off a little bit he’s still one of the forwards Roy Sommer counts on in all three facets of the game. Zalewski centers one of the team’s top two lines at even strength, has played center and RW on the power play, and also kills penalties in the top two pairings. Should Zalewski continue along the same path, and improve his face off skills, he could easily become one of San Jose’s top prospects.
Season highlight: Five on three shorthanded, game tying goal against Houston on 11/22.
Grade: B

17 Ryan Vesce RW [45 games, 15 goals, 33 assists, 48 points; +1, 16PIM]
If the team were to hand out a mid-season MVP award, Vesce would be the runaway winner. The team leader in assists and points, Vesce anchors the WorSharks top lines at even strength and on the power play. Vesce is also a top four penalty killer, with two shorthanded goals to his credit. Every time he’s on the ice, Vesce or a line mate is a bona-fide threat to score. Vesce was the WorSharks representative on the PlanetUSA squad in the AHL All-Star Classic.
Season highlight: With 4 OT goals, 7 game winning goals, and 11 multi-point games, there are far too many to choose from.
Grade: A

18 Cory Larose C [30 games, 15 goals, 14 assists, 29 points; (-2), 19PIM]
Larose was sidelined for almost a month with a concussion, and has just recently returned to the line-up. Larose picked up where he left off before the injury, with a game tying goal in the last minute against Springfield. Larose’s strengths are in the offensive zone, and he possesses a rocket shot to go along with great instincts around the net. Should Larose stay healthy, Worcester’s chances of making a playoff will be greatly increased.
Season highlight: Goal, three points against Manchester on 12/20
Grade: B

19 Mike Morris RW [17 games, 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points; (-2), 6PIM]
Injuries have limited Morris to just 26 games over a season and a half, and he is currently sidelined with a concussion. When Morris plays he’s one of the best players on the ice. But it appears his health is going to be a problem, at least for the near future. And until those problems are sorted out it appears his future in hockey may be in jeopardy.
Season highlight: Goal, assist against Manchester on 11/1
Grade: Incomplete

20 Riley Armstrong RW [40 games, 16 goals, 8 assists, 24 points; +7, 58PIM]
Armstrong has made the transition from young prospect to AHL veteran, and it shows in his play on the ice. While still the antagonist, Armstrong has added a scoring touch this season unseen by him in previous seasons, and is quickly approaching his personal high for goals scored in a season. Armstrong can play any spot on any of the team’s lines both at even strength and special teams. Recently Armstrong has his first recall to San Jose, and since his return has shown a new determination to make it back to the NHL.
Season highlight: Hat trick, including a game winning goal, against Norfolk on 1/2.
Grade: A

21 Matt Fornataro C [22 games, 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points; E, 20 PIM]
Fornataro was assigned to Phoenix after a single game, but was recalled to Worcester at the beginning of December. After spending a few games on the third and fourth lines, recalls thrust Fornataro to the top two lines, where he as shown he isn’t out of place. Fornataro has good puck presence and very good vision of the ice, and plays at his best when surrounded by other skilled players.
Season highlight: Goal, assist against Albany on 1/9
Grade: C

22 Lukas Kaspar LW [38 games, 10 goals, 18 assists, 28 points; E, 20PIM]
After two stints with San Jose this season, time looked like it may be running out on Kaspar’s NHL future. Since his last assignment to Worcester, Kaspar has shown he isn’t giving up, and is finally playing at the level everyone expected he could. Kaspar has raised his game both offensively and defensively, and has become more willing to take the body against an opponent. Kaspar seems to be playing with a confidence he hasn’t previously shown, and if he keeps it up he could finally break into the NHL on a regular basis.
Season highlight: Goal, three points against Portland on 12/29
Grade: B

-X Claude Lemieux RW [23 games, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points; +2, 24PIM]
Those that were expecting the “old” Claude Lemieux were sadly disappointed when Lemieux began his comeback on 11/28. Lemieux played it straight in Worcester, very seldom showing the antagonist role that gained him his well deserved reputation. Unfortunately, once other teams figured that out the space he had during the first few games of his comeback quickly disappeared. But he played well enough to show he can still compete in the NHL, and has been recalled by San Jose.
Season highlight: Three zone break-away goal against Lowell on 1/3.
Grade: C

33 Andrew Desjardins C [39 games, 4 goals, 8 assists; 12 points; +5, 54PIM]
Desjardins was the only player from Worcester’s free-agent camp to make the squad, and plays primarily on the third line. Desjardins has filled in on all three lines as needed, and is part of the penalty kill rotation. He can play both a physical or finesse game, and can change from shift to shift depending on whichever role is needed. Desjardins is not San Jose property, but with a second half as good as his first he could easily find himself with a two-way deal in the future.
Season highlight: Three assists and a fight against Norfolk on 1/2.
Grade: B

44 Jamie McGinn LW [33 games, 11 goals, 9 assists, 20 points; +4, 42PIM]
McGinn has had two separate stints in San Jose this season as the rookie stands on the brink of being an NHL regular. McGinn never seems to miss a beat after his recalls are over as he hasn’t really had a bad game this season. His play on the top two lines has been very solid, along with his play on both the first penalty kill and power play lines. He needs a little work along the boards, but is otherwise good to go to the NHL.
Season highlight: Goal, assist in second NHL game against Detroit on 10/30.
Grade: A

2 Patrick Traverse D [43 games, 5 goals, 19 assists, 24 points; (-12), 20PIM]
In his 16th pro season, it’s obvious that Traverse has lost a step. But what he now lacks in speed he makes up for in experience and patience, which are things he readily passes along to his younger defensive partners. Offensively Traverse is having a good year, but three terrible games defensively and a handful of shorthanded goals against have caused his plus/minus to look positively terrible.
Season highlight: Goal, three points against Springfield on 1/23
Grade: C

4 Kyle McLaren D [17 games, 0 goals, 6 assists, 6 points; +2, 17PIM]
McLaren has played just 17 games for Worcester due to a hand injury cause by a Steve Downey hit from behind on 11/19. McLaren played three games after partially recovering, but decided to have surgery on his had just before Christmas. He is expected to return to action soon. In the games he does play, he is clearly the best player on the ice and brings with him communication skills both on the ice and on the bench that is sometimes lacking in his absence. Were it not for his salary, he wouldn’t be playing in the AHL at all.
Season highlight: 2 assists against Providence on 10/18
Grade: A

5 Jason Demers D [45 games, 2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points; +2, 26PIM]
When Demers first got here the rookie quickly earned the nickname “Wrong Way” because he always seemed to be skating in a direction opposite of that of the puck. That, thankfully, isn’t the case anymore. Demers had made a huge amount of progress in both ends of the ice, and his development has earned comparisons to Derek Joslin and the path Joslin took to get where he is. Demers has a long way to go to be NHL-ready, but there’s no reason to think he can’t make it based on how far he’s come in just half a season.
Season highlight: Three assists and a fight (vs Steve Downie) against Norfolk on 11/19
Grade: B

7 Brendan Buckley D [35 games, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points; +7, 73PIM]
When Buckley suited up on 10/25 he became the second former Worcester IceCat to play for the Sharks (Traverse is the other). A physical player, the ten year pro still has an issue about when to play the puck and when to play the player. Never blessed with incredible speed, Buckley has always relied on his strength to defend the net. Against players who have lots of speed, Buckley has problems. Despite his shortcomings he still is a valuable asset to the team.
Season highlight: Shorthanded goal against Manchester on 12/20
Grade: C

8 Mike Moore D [43 games, 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points; +10, 88PIM]
Moore is the most physical of all the WorSharks defensemen, throwing bone-crunching open ice hits on a regular basis. Opponents are no safer along the boards, as Moore has twice checked players through the penalty box door and has deposited more than a couple of players back onto their own benches. Offensively Moore is become much more comfortable, and has the speed to rush up ice and still get back in time to maintain his defensive responsibilities. Moore is without a doubt a bona-fide NHLer.
Season highlight: First career professional goal against Norfolk on 11/19.
Grade: A

24 Brett Westgarth D [42 games, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points; +4, 87PIM]
Westgarth struggled early in the season while trying to figure out what his role would be. With the earlier surplus of defensemen Westgarth was used on the fourth forward line so his physical presence could be used, and while he didn’t play badly it was obvious he wasn’t very comfortable up front. Now that Westgarth is back full time at the blueline--often paired with Moore--he has turned into a very good defenseman. He’s a solid AHL depth player, who with some hard work might make a long shot run at the NHL.
Season highlight: Game winning goal against Lowell on 1/10
Grade: B

25-X Derek Joslin D [36 games, 7 goals, 13 assists, 20 points; E, 26PIM]
After a decent rookie campaign, Joslin finds himself almost ready for the NHL. His great mix of offensive and defensive skills will make him a two-way force in the NHL for years to come. On defense Joslin can play either physical or passive depending on whatever the situation calls for, and his transition game from defense to offense is the best on the team. While the winner of the hardest shot at 98.6mph at the AHL skills competition, Joslin usually relies on a wrist shot that has a knack of finding its way through traffic an on net.
Season highlight: Goal, three points against Portland on 12/7
Grade: B

26 Michael Wilson D [20 games, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points; (-7), 10PIM]
Were it not for injuries and recalls Wilson would probably be a top-tier ECHL defenseman this season. The undersized, offense-first blueliner is overmatched defensively in the AHL. Wilson, at 165 pounds, needs to add some muscle mass to be able to compete at this level. He has enough offensive skills to keep himself afloat, but a defenseman that can’t play defense will eventually turn into a liability.
Season highlight: First career professional goal against Albany on 10/17
Grade: D

29 Thomas Greiss G [15-11-2, 2.73, .896; 1 assist, 0PIM]
Greiss has been very shaky all season, and is playing no where near as well as he is capable of. While his good games still outnumber his bad ones, the number of “soft” goals he’s allowed continues to grow. Greiss, who is still without a professional shutout, has allowed four of more goals in eight of his 28 games. Not included in that number is the 12/28 game against Portland where he was lifted after one period after allowing three goals. He has seemed to have gotten it turned around as of late, going 6-2-1 during January, although he allowed 13 goals in those two losses. With several prospects coming up behind Greiss, the second half of the season will be huge for his North American future.
Season highlight: 36 save win against Albany on 1/9
Grade: C

39 Taylor Dakers G [8-5-0, 3.00, .887; 0 points, 0PIM]
Dakers started the season on a five game winning streak, but has since run into some rough times losing five of his last eight starts. Dakers has only had two bad games, giving up seven goals to what might be the best team in the AHL in Hershey, and giving up four goals in relief of Greiss in Portland. Dakers is still young, and has a long way to go to even be considered for the NHL, but based on the improvement from last season to this it’s not out of the question.
Season highlight: First professional shutout against Springfield on 11/16.
Grade: B

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Milan Michalek scores twice, Evgeni Nabokov earns 43rd career shutout with 3-0 win over Colorado

The hockey gods did not favor the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night in a 3-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks. The loss gives Colorado only 1 win in the recent 4-game homestand. Defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist picked the wrong time to head to the bench to replace a broken stick in the first period. Christian Ehrhoff sped down the left wing and carried the puck behind the Avs net. With Ruslan Salei picking up Jonathan Cheechoo on the near side, and David Jones trying to take the middle with Ryane Clowe bearing down, Milan Michalek was left wide open on the right wing. Ehrhoff hit him on the stick with a hard pass, and Michalek buried it far side to open the scoring at 8:15.

The Avalanche started pressing the play to tie the game on a late first period power play. Former Edmonton Shark killer Ryan Smythe tried to hit Marek Svatos in front, but he was bodied up by two Sharks defenseman in the crease. The puck deflected off Nabokov and trickled across the goal line. Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles was 2 feet away from tapping the puck in an open net. Liles dumped it back in front of the crease where Ryan Smythe appeared to knock it in for the equalizer. Sharks television announcer Randy Hahn called it a goal, but a slow motion replay showed the puck bouncing off Nabokov's midsection. Evgeni swept it off the goalline while his momentum carried his body into the net. With his entire upper body in the net, and only his glove and legs sticking out, the ruling on the ice stands. No goal.

Michalek padded the Sharks lead with his 13th goal of the season, his second of the game, 1:31 into the second period. Former Dartmouth College right wing David Jones took a pounding on crushing hits by Alexei Semenov and Douglas Murray. Jones was playing his first game after suffering a back injury January 13th against Columbus. He left the game in the second period with an injured shoulder after the Murray hit. Chris Stewart dropped the gloves with Murray a few minutes after the hit and was on the receiving end of several hard right hands. Stewart, a first round draft pick by the Avalanche in 2006, has 6 goals and 11 points in 23 games played this season.

The Sharks piled on the shots in the final two periods, outshooting Colorado 33-22, but Evgeni Nabokov had to come up with several outstanding saves to lock down the win. Former Shark Scott Hannan spun and wristed a blind shot on net from just inside the blueline, but Ryan Smythe was on the doorstep. Smythe tried to wait out Blake and Nabokov, but Setoguchi came over and forced him to take a low percentage shot. Milan Hejduk gathered the puck as Nabokov did not freeze it on the save. Hejduk fed Smythe for another shot from a hard angle. Nabokov stacked the pads to make the save, but did not control the puck. The save of the game actually came from defenseman Derek Joslin, who was recently sent down to participate in the AHL All-Star Game in Worcester. Joslin cleared a loose puck out of the crease a split second before Colorado left wing Wojtek Wolski could punch it home. The play is immortalized it what could be the best photo taken this season to date. The photo by Michael Martin of Getty Images is the fifth image of the photo gallery from the Colorado Avalanche game report.

The parade of missed Colorado chances continued in the third period. The Sharks graciously gave the slumping Avalanche a power play with a too many men on the ice call. They could not convert. With Andrew Raycroft pulled for an extra attacker, Colorado briefly buzzed around the Sharks net before San Jose cleared and Patrick Marleau juked a player out of his skates to score an empty net goal. His team leading 26th of the season. Evgeni Nabokov stopped all 31 shots he faced to earn his 43 career shutout, his 4th against the Colorado Avalanche.

The return of Claude Lemieux and Rob Blake to the scene of their 1996 and 2001 Stanley Cup winning seasons was a bittersweet one. Only 14,592 fans attended the game against the first place Sharks. The Avalanche hold an NHL-leading 487 game sellout streak that lasted almost 11 years, from November 9th, 1995 to October 16th, 2006. A full building in Colorado seats 18,007, but with Joe Sakic (hand/snow blower) Paul Stastny (forearm) and Adam Foote (arm) on the shelf Colorado is struggling with a 15,749 average this season at the gate. Lemieux received a round of applause for his return. He finished with 2 shots, 3 hits, 9:30 of ice time and an excellent display of stickwork around the net. Rob Blake returned from a jaw injury suffered January 15th against Calgary. Blake played with a protective cage around his jaw and finished with an assist, 3 shots, and 23:43 of ice time. Blake was second only to Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the team in minutes played. Vlasic finished with 29:11 and 3 blocked shots. Dan Boyle was scratched after suffering an upper body injury in the NHL All-Star Game.

[Update] Former Avs Lemieux, Blake help Sharks beat old team - Rocky Mountain News.

"I was disappointed to see that many empty seats," he said. "I've only seen this building sold out. Hopefully, this was just an off night. I'm used to seeing this place rocking and loud. "The economy's been tough everywhere, so I think we're seeing signs of it in all the buildings, but it's always great coming back here."

Lemieux, making a comeback at age 43 after last playing in the NHL in 2003, received a warm welcome from the crowd when he was shown on the videoboard with a message congratulating him on his return.

[Update2] Lemieux's return marked by shutout, The Avs miss two golden opportunities against league-leading San Jose and watch Michalek score twice in another home loss - Adrian Dater for the Denver Post.

If the Avalanche had been able to convert its two open-net opportunities Tuesday night, it might have at least come away with a point against the NHL's top-ranked team.

Instead, the Avs came away with the same thing they got on those two and every other chance against the San Jose Sharks: nothing.

It was more like 4 open net opportunities (Smythe, Liles, Smythe, Wolski), with 1 or 2 additional point blank chances that did not go Colorado's way. The Denver Post has a photo gallery from the game here, and a photo gallery of Claude Lemieux's return here. Dater's hockey blog and his regular Q-and-A with fans are among the best newspaper features in the league. Visit often.

[Update3] Boyle sidelined by injury from All-Star Game - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update4] Two new podcasts up today: Dudes on Hockey from Mike and Doug of Sharks Hockey Analysis, and the Rink Podcast from James and Tom of Jerseys and Hockey Love and AOL Fanhouse respectively. The podcast and website names might be a little irreverant, but they deliver a solid look at the hockey on the West and East coasts once a week. Add them to your playlist.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Notre Dame Remains No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

A press release from

Notre Dame Remains No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The University of Notre Dame was selected No. 1 on this week's USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll. For the seventh straight week, the Fighting Irish topped the poll, accumulating 497 points and 21-of-34 first-place votes.

This Week's Top-15 Match-ups:

Friday, January 30
No. 6 Vermont at No. 14 New Hampshire
No. 7 Michigan at No. 1 Notre Dame

Saturday, January 31
No. 1 Notre Dame at No. 7 Michigan

Boston University remained No. 2 with 489 points and the remaining 13 first-place votes, following wins against then-No. 12 University of New Hampshire this past weekend. Northeastern University (421) jumped two spots to the No. 3 position, while Cornell University (406) fell to No. 4. Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota (360) climbed one spot to round out the top five.

This week's action features three top-15 match-ups, including a series between No. 1 University of Notre Dame and No. 7 University of Michigan.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll - #16

(first-place votes in parentheses, Rank, School, Last Week's Ranking, 2008-09 Record Weeks in Top 15)

1 U. of Notre Dame, 497 (21) 1, 19-3-3, 16
2 Boston U., 489 (13) 2, 18-5-1, 16
3 Northeastern U., 421, 5, 17-5-2, 13
4 Cornell U., 406, 3, 14-2-3, 10
5 U. of Minnesota, 360, 6, 12-5-5, 16
6 U. of Vermont, 330, 7, 14-5-4, 11
7 U. of Michigan, 322, 8, 18-8-0, 16
8 U. of Denver, 284, 4, 15-7-3, 16
9 Princeton U., 241, 9, 13-5-0, 15
10 Miami (Ohio) U., 210, 10, 14-8-4, 16
11 Boston College,149, 14, 11-8-3, 16
12 U. of North Dakota,127, 15, 15-10-3, 7
13 The Ohio State U., 90, 11, 16-7-3, 4
14 U. of New Hampshire, 62 12, 11-8-4, 15
15 U. of Minnesota Duluth, 38 NR, 13-7-6, 1

Others receiving votes: Colorado College, 26; University of Wisconsin, 20; Yale University, 4; U.S. Air Force Academy, 3; Rochester Institute of Technology, 1.

NOTES: A total of 20 teams received votes.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 14th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the AHCA and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

[Update] Michigan's Kampfer OK After On-Ice Incident Against Michigan State - College Hockey News.

Golden Boy Boxing vs Golden Boy/Affliction MMA this weekend in southern Califorina, Fedor Emelianko earns first round KO over Arlovski

Affliction Golden Boy Heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko Kos Andrei Arlovski mma fight photo

The most dangerous pound-for-pound mixed martial artist competing today, Fedor Emelianenko, earned a shocking first round KO over former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski Saturday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim. 13,228 fans turned out for the Affliction/Golden Boy co-promoted Day of Reckoning event to watch Russian heavyweight Emelianenko counter a flying knee by Arlovski with an explosive straight right in the first round. Arlovski was knocked cold in mid-air.

It was a stunning result for Arlovski, who had started to gain an advantage putting together solid combinations on his feet. The win for Fedor Emelianenko is another in a long line of highlight reel victories. Emelianenko may not be a household name among mainstream sports fans and journalists, but he has approached the dominance of Mike Tyson in his boxing prime and surpassed it. The MMA card was a strong one, with Josh Barnett, Vitor Belfort, Renato Sobral, Paul Buentello and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira all earning wins. A photo gallery from's Dave Mandel is available here.

Golden Boy/Affliction's main competition for a light Saturday night sports schedule was oddly enough a Golden Boy promoted boxing match at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Tijuana resident Antonio Margarito (37-6, 27 KOs, Ring Magazine #1 Welterweight) earned the WBA welterweight title with a fight of the year candidate TKO over Miguel Cotto in 2008. Saturday night he suffered a crushing 9th round TKO loss to Southern California native Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs, Ring Magazine #4 Welterweight). Margarito tried to stalk Mosley early, but a dynamic "Sugar" Shane Mosley piled up punches until Margarito was out on his feet in the 8th round. The referee inexplicably let the fight continue for 43 more seconds in the 9th.

It was the first knockout loss for Margarito of his career. Despite the fight being shown on HBO, 20,820 fans showed up at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It was the largest crowd for any sports event held at the venue. There were allegations that Margarito had a "plaster like substance" removed from his hand wraps prior to the fight, an investigating by the CSAC has been started. On the undercard, it took Gilroy native Robert Guerrero (23-1-1) 43 seconds to knock out Edel Ruiz (31-22-4) as he stepped up to 130 pounds.

All of this took place in Southern California the day before the NHL All-Star Game Sunday on Versus. As a Sunday nightcap after the ASG, Versus offered a free broadcast from San Diego of WEC 38. World Extreme Cagefighting focuses on lighter weight classes, and Sunday's card featured former WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber coming off his first title loss in a rematch with the UFC's first Lightweight title holder Jens Pulver, and a WEC Lightweight Championship bout between Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone. Faber, a former U.C. Davis wrestler, crumpled Pulver with a shot to the body and submitted him with a guillotine choke 94 seconds in the first round. Varner held on to his title against Cerrone after a back and forth affair ended with an illegal knee by Cerrone in the fifth round. Varner was unable to continue, and after going to the cards he retained his title with a (49-46, 47-48, 49-46) decision. It sets the table for a highly contested rematch.

WEC 38 is scheduled to re-air on Versus January 28th. Also on the undercard, Sharkspage favorite Charlie Valencia earned a lopsided win, and Edgar Garcia knocked out Hiromitsu Miura. Nearly 8,000 fans were in attendance.

It was a busy but successful weekend for fight sports in Southern California.

[Update] The King of Cali -

[Update2] Varner Retains Lightweight Crown but leaves door open for Cerrone Rematch - World Extreme Cagefighting.

Yahoo Puck Daddy feature on San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle

San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle
San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle leadings NHL in scoring by a defenseman

Fresh off a 2-point peformance in this weekend's All-Star game, where he beat hometown goaltender Carey Price with a second period laser and tied Montreal right wing and ASG MVP Alexei Kovalev with a game leading 7 shots on goal, San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle was featured today by Yahoo's Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski; Dan Boyle on his all-star debut, some Soupy irony for Sharks fans.

When the Sharks originally traded Matt Carle, Ty Wishart and 2 draft picks to Tampa Bay for Boyle on July 4th, it was shocking to read in the San Jose media guide that he had never appeared in a single NHL All-Star Game. Scoring a combined 116 points for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2005-06 and 2006-07, he was always considered in media circles to be one of the elite puck moving defenseman in the NHL. Yet here he was this weekend one of 17 players appearing in the ASG for the first time. Boyle told Wyshynski that it was usually Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier representing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the midseason showcase.

Undrafted out of Miami University because of his smaller size, Boyle has played with a "career-long chip on his shoulder" according to Wyshynski. That drive and determination helped him bring a Stanley Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and has helped him garner serious Norris Trophy consideration with his play in San Jose this season.

Wyshynski also noted the irony of rookie All-Star head coach Todd McLellan using a defensive pair of Dan Boyle and Brian Campbell. The big ticket blueline acquisition for 2008 playing with the big ticket blueline acquisition for 2009. Boyle originally thought he would start on a pairing with Anaheim Ducks blueliner Scott Niedermayer, and he started out with Shea Weber and then took a shift with former Hab Sheldon Souray. Later in the period the former and current Shark were paired. Boyle said of the move "It was pretty much the only coaching they did."

Boyle was also the subject of a feature this weekend in the Mercury News, Sharks' Boyle finally seen as the star he is. Tracking much of the same arc of Boyle's career, David Pollak pointed to 2 instances that may have reenforced his overlooked and underappreciated circumstances with the media. A Detroit reporter told Boyle that he had no idea who he was until this season, and a second Dallas reporter preparing for an interview thought Boyle was Alexei Semenov.

Sharks rookie head coach Todd McLellan told Pollak "The offensive package was pretty clear, you knew what you were going to get, the one unknown may have been the defensive part of it... He's exceed my expectations".

After learing of the trade for Boyle on July 4th, AOL and contributor Eric McErlain described Boyle as the best offensive defenseman outside of Scott Niedermayer or Nicklas Lidstrom. High praise. McErlain also noted that Boyle occasionally manned the point on the power play by himself with 4 players flooding the offensive zone in front of him.

Along with similar comments over the years from John Fontana of and Tampa Bay Tribune beat writer Damian Cristodero, you knew what you were getting from Dan Boyle offensively this season. At what level he would be able to contribute defensively remained to be seen.

The Sharks won 9 straight games at home to open the season, and lost in regulation once after 25 games, but the blueline play was not rock solid to begin with. San Jose papered over any defensive lapses by scoring goals, then scoring insurance goals, then scoring goals just because they liked the sound of the fog horn. The Sharks did not run over teams as much as they mulched them, leaving bits and pieces of opposing squads in the rear view mirror. But there were too many last minute comebacks, too many blase efforts punctuated by a late third period frenzy. You can not score your way out of problems for an entire season.

Game-after-game, you started to see the Sharks defensive pairings gel as a unit. Brad Lukowich settled into a veteran defensive role, and he is able to intelligently take chances playing opponents with Boyle able to make up the difference on the other side. Blake has utilized his cannon of a shot well, but the chemistry with Marc-Edouard Vlasic has grown quickly. Watching Blake play a man in a corner gives you Ray Bourque flashbacks, and as someone who has followed the Bruins for 25+ years I feel qualified to make that statement. Ehrhoff and Murray were the most improved defensively last season, and Murray has cemented his role as a solid positional defenseman who can knock your block off at any time of his choosing. Christian Ehrhoff may be as talented as any defenseman on the roster, but it needs to be funneled in a way that will maximize the results.

Then there is Dan Boyle. On any given night there may be one defenseman who stands out offensively or defensively, but none have done so as much or as consistently as Boyle. Early in the season it was noted on this blog that the aggressiveness on offense carried over to the other side of the ice. He pressured opponents into making mistakes, he anticipated plays to pick off passes in the neutral zone. He is not above a little stick chopping around the crease, but the bottom line is that he does not give up on plays. Time and space will close down in the playoffs, and games will become more intense, but the Sharks will have a lot of confidence with the puck on Dan Boyle's stick.

The wave of emails from fans regretting the loss of Boyle was not as large as the post-trade deluge after Joe Thornton came west, but interestingly it was more diverse. Emails came from Florida, New York, Washington D.C., Boston and Toronto noting that Sharks fans did not know what had just dropped in their laps. They were right.

[NOTE] A recap of the ASG weekend, an ECHL Pacific Division review, a Max Giese feature on goaltending prospect Alex Stalock, and MMA/Dakar Rally notes are on deck for the next few days.

[Update] Boyle sits for a legendary photo-op - SJ Mercury News.

Versus blogger interview with Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard

Versus recently arranged for a panel of bloggers to interview Boston Bruins forward and Eastern Conference All-Star Marc Savard. Originally drafted in 1995 by the New York Rangers, Marc Savard has played 12 seasons in the NHL with New York, Calgary, Atlanta, and the Boston Bruins.

Savard added a veteran scoring punch to the first placed Bruins when he signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2006. This season he leads the team in scoring with 56 points while left wings Milan Lucic and Marco Sturm, and centers Patrice Bergeron and Patrice Bergeron are on the shelf with injuries. A 2-time NHL All-Star, Marc registered 3 assists in Sunday's 57th annual NHL All-Star game at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

[Q] This is your second appearance in the NHL All-Star Game, how much does this selection and this game mean to the players?

[MS] It is huge obviously to be rewarded, but you could not get there without your teammates. We have had a great year here in Boston so far. It is going to be special. I am born and raised in Ottawa, so it is just up the road. And with this being the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens, it should be an exciting time.

[Q] During the NHL lockout you went to play in the Swiss League, and then you came back the following season and you had a career high 97 points. How much of that can you attribute to playing abroad?

[MS] It was a special time to be able to go over there and play overseas. Everyone was going through a tough time in the NHL with the lockout. I had a couple of injuries the year before, I was really going over there to test my body and make sure it would hold up. Obviously coming back I wanted to have a strong year. I was able to do that, and every since then my career has kind of taken off.

[Q] I have a question about the All-Star Game, guys like David Krejci and Matt Hunwick came up a little short. As a veteran, what do you tell those guys to keep them focused and to get them shooting for All-Star Games in the future?

[MS] There are a lot of deserving guys that miss out every year. I was in that situation before to. It makes you hungrier, and want to do better. Those guys have that kind of attitude. I am sure those guys will be playing in a couple of these. Tell them to keep working hard, and tell them that they are going to get that recognition if our team keeps playing as well as it is.

[Q] You came to Boston in the offseason following the Joe Thornton trade. Was there any pressure put on you to fill his shoes by the fans, by the media, or yourself?

[MS] I don't think so. I came in here and just wanted to continue to play good hockey. I came in from Atlanta and felt strong. With the signing of Zdeno, I was really excited to come here and play. Things have been great ever since. There is always pressure there, I put pressure on myself to do well. I want to produce every night. No one is going to fill Joe Thornton's shoes, he is a great hockey player. And he is a big man, so it is tough for me to fill those shoes. Hopefully I have done good with what I have done.

[Q] What do you feel is the biggest reason for the Bruins re-emergence in the NHL this year?

[MS] I think coming out of last year's playoffs we really proved something to ourselves even though we only went 7 games with Montreal, but we gave them a good battle. Coming back to this season we really didn't change many players. We added Michael Ryder, Patrice Bergeron got healthy and Manny Fernandez got healthy too. I think we are a confident group, we get along great. I think we just took off from there. We take care of each other out there, and we do a great job on the ice. Claude Julien's system, when you have the same guys back from last year, it is a little easier to go back and play hockey because everyone is on the same page.

[Q] You mentioned the pressure, you are playing with a storied franchise but one who is lacking a cup since the days of Bobby Orr. How much pressure is there for the Bruins to win a Stanley Cup vs pressure you may have felt with other franchises?

[MS] Boston is a huge hockey market. With all of the teams surrounding us doing so well winning championships, we want to join that group. In the same sentence, we know we have a long task at hand. The fans have been excellent this year. They have been out, they have been loud. It has been an awesome atmosphere to play in. You can see what winning teams do. They bring the crowds back. We want to go out and have a really good second half and be able to go as far as we can in the playoffs. The goal is to win a Stanley Cup.

[Q] The All-Star Game is in Montreal this season, and we all well know the history between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens and the relationship between the two franchises. What is it like when you play in Montreal, does the extra fan reaction from the fans in Montreal motivate you?

[MS] It does for sure. It is an awesome city to play in, as a visitor and I am sure especially as a home player. It is a great city to go in, a great atmosphere, you go in ready for those games because the crowd is into it. It is a lot of fun. I really enjoy playing up there. It is one of my favorite places to play away from home.

The full podcast with much more from Marc Savard is available for listening or download in 2 parts here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Versus All-Star Game liveblog with Mike Chen, Jon Swenson and Earl Sleek at 3PM

Mike Chen of Kukla's Korner and Fox Sports, Earl Sleek of Battle of California and AOL Fanhouse, and myself will liveblog the 57th annual NHL Allstar Game live today at 3PM.

Tune in to Versus, log on to, and chime in!

Torrey Mitchell injury update

San Jose Sharks center Torrey Mitchell injury update

San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak offered an update on the injury status of Torrey Mitchell Saturday on his Working the Corners blog. According to Pollak, general manager Doug Wilson said that sophomore center Torrey Mitchell did not suffer any "structural damage" when he left a Worcester-Hershey game Sunday after a collision in the first period. The Sharks said that there was some residual soreness from the broken leg, but that the most recent injury occured in a different area.

According to a source in Worcester, Mitchell was on crutches Sunday night and could not put any weight on the injured appendage. He was not seen after leaving the bus from Hershey, and was not around for the optional skate on Monday. Mitchell returned to San Jose for evaluation on Tuesday.

Mitchell suffered a broken leg after crashing into a goal post in training camp. After three and a half months of rehabilitation, the Sharks sent the 5-foot-11, 190-pound forward to their AHL affiliate in Worcester for a reconditioning assignment. Mitchell played all 82 games of his rookie campaign with the San Jose Sharks in 2007-08, registering 10 goals and 20 total points on an effective checking line. Along with Joe Thornton and Craig Rivet, Torrey Mitchell was a catalyst early in the season as the Sharks got off to a rocky start.

The NHL revised its injury disclosure policy for 2008-09. According to the NHL, clubs are no longer required to disclose the specific nature of player injuries. They are required to disclose when a player will miss a game due to injury, and required to disclose when he is expected to return. The Sharks have been very cautious with details about Mitchell's injury, and cautious about a timetable for his return.

With the team clicking on the ice, and the depth afforded by players like Goc/Plihal/Lemieux and the expected return of Jeremey Roenick, San Jose can afford Torrey Mitchell as much time as needed to allow the leg to heal fully. Last season Ryane Clowe returned after a knee injury with 4 games left in the season and proceeded to pile up 4 goals in the first 4 games of the Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff series with Calgary. A more defensive role is slotted for Mitchell on the third line, but the more time left in the season to integrate him into the lineup the more successful he will be.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Work Overtime To Beat Falcons, 4-3

The Worcester Sharks, behind Ryan Vesce's fourth overtime and seventh game winning goal of the season, defeated the Springfield Falcons 4-3 Friday night at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 4,996.

The Mass Pike rivals kept referee Zac Wiebe very busy in the first period with the physical play between the two teams resulting in 42 penalty minutes being called. The biggest hit of the period came from--who else?--Mike Moore when he blasted Springfield defenseman Taylor Chorney into next week with a huge open ice hit a little over four minutes into the game. Chorney skated off under his own power but did not return.

On the next shift Moore was on the ice Falcons enforcer Guillaume Lefebvre would go after Moore several times, and would earn an instigator minor to go with their matching fighting majors. Patrick Traverse would make the Falcons pay from the high slot when Vesce hit him with a centering feed, with Traverse's blast beating Springfield goaltender Devan Dubnyk for the 1-0 lead at 7:18 of the first.

Referee Wiebe would call several sets of matching roughing minors throughout the rest of the period: Andrew Desjardins/Theo Peckham at 7:44; Brad Staubitz/Peckham at 18:32; and Jamie McGinn/Mike Gabinet at 19:09. Gabinet picked up an extra roughing minor, which gave Worcester a rare four on three power play. Springfield's Jake Taylor then took a high sticking minor with 4.5 seconds remaining in the opening period. The teams would stay four on three, with Taylor's minor not starting until Peckham's matching minor came off the board.

With the face-off taking plays in the Falcons zone and just 4.5 seconds remaining in the period, WorSharks head coach Roy Sommer pulled goaltender Thomas Greiss in favor of a fifth attacker. It didn't take Nostradamus to figure out what was going to happen next. Tom Cavanagh, recently reassigned from San Jose back to Worcester, lost the draw cleanly to Tyler Spurgeon. The puck went right to the tape of Mathieu Roy's stick, who flew the puck 190' and into the yawning net to knot the game 1-1 on the shorthanded/empty net tally.

The second period was much cleaner than the first with the only penalty being Staubitz for a well-deserved boarding minor at 10:15.

Worcester would grab the lead on Brett Westgarth's second of the season. His blast from the blue line deflected off two different Springfield players and rolled past Dubnyk just 1:25 into period number three. Vesce and Lukas Kaspar picked up the assists on the play.

Springfield would grab the next two goals, both on the power play. Ryan Potulny would blast a one-timer past Greiss at 4:11, and Bryan Lerg would light the lamp with a backhander at 14:19 for the lead.

But if the WorSharks have shown anything this season it's that they are never out of any game, and Worcester would prove that again when Cory Larose, playing in his first game since suffering a concussion on December 26th, tipped a Traverse blast from the point at 19:19 to knot the game at 3-3.

Worcester would end up with a power play just as regulation ended when Lefebvre took a cross checking minor at 19:55. Vesce would connect just 20 seconds into the overtime stanza with a 10 foot wrist shot through the five hole of Dubnyk for the 4-3 final.

Only Kyle McLaren and Mike Morris remain on the injury list. Worcester's healthy scratches were Matt Jones and Michael Wilson. James McEwan has been released from his PTO and has returned to Phoenix.

The game was the fourth consecutive game to go into overtime, a franchise record for Worcester. The WorSharks have seven of a possible eight points in those games. The previous overtime record was three games in a row, set December 22-29, 2007. Worcester managed just a single victory in that three game stretch.

With his three points Ryan Vesce has now scored in a franchise record 12 consecutive games. The streak is the second longest active in the AHL this season, behind Alexandre Giroux 21 game streak. Both Chris Minard of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Mike Santorelli have had 14 game scoring streaks this season.

The three stars of the game were:
1) Vesce (gwg,2a)
2) Roy (g,a)
3) Traverse (g,2a)
Honorable mention should go to Mike Moore (+2) for his physical play setting the tone for the game.

WOR 1 0 2 1 - 4
SPR 1 0 2 0 - 3

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Worcester, P. Traverse (4) (R. Vesce) 7:18 PP, 2. Springfield, M. Roy (2) (T. Spurgeon) 19:58 SH EN
Penalties - R. Armstrong Wor (hooking) 3:57, M. Moore Wor (fighting) 6:13, G. Lefebvre Spr (instigating, fighting, misconduct - instigating 47.10) 6:13, A. Desjardins Wor (roughing) 7:44, T. Peckham Spr (roughing) 7:44, Served by F. McLaren Wor (bench minor - too many men) 10:27, B. Staubitz Wor (roughing) 18:32, T. Peckham Spr (roughing) 18:32, J. McGinn Wor (roughing) 19:08, M. Gabinet Spr (roughing, roughing) 19:08, J. Taylor Spr (high-sticking) 19:55

2nd Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - B. Staubitz Wor (boarding) 10:15

3rd Period
Scoring - 3. Worcester, B. Westgarth (2) (R. Vesce, L. Kaspar) 1:25, 4. Springfield, R. Potulny (18) (T. Peckham, M. Roy) 4:11 PP, 5. Springfield, B. Lerg (8) (S. Willis, M. Gabinet) 14:19 PP, 6. Worcester, C. Larose (14) (P. Traverse) 19:19 Penalties - J. Demers Wor (tripping) 3:38, B. Westgarth Wor (roughing) 7:24, M. Gabinet Spr (boarding) 7:24, R. Armstrong Wor (tripping) 13:42, G. Lefebvre Spr (cross-checking) 19:55

OT Period
Scoring - 7. Worcester, R. Vesce (15) (P. Traverse, C. Larose) 0:20 PP
Penalties - No Penalties

WOR Shots: 11 8 16 1 TOTAL: 36
SPR Shots: 7 11 7 0 TOTAL: 25

Power Play Conversion
Worcester Sharks 2-3. Springfield Falcons 2-5.

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 15-10-2 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:03 SV: 22 GA: 2 [W]

Springfield Falcons
Dubnyk 15-22-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:20 SV: 32 GA: 4 [L]

Attendance : 4996. Referee: Zac Wiebe (89). Linesmen: Robert St. Lawrence (10), Rich Patry (52)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hockey Notes - January 23rd

- Schedule of events for the Honda/NHL SuperSkills Event January 24th and the 57th annual NHL Allstar Game January 25th live from Montreal.

Coverage begins at 4PM (PT) Saturday on Versus, 3PM (PT) on Sunday. The NHL Network will begin coverage with a "Meet the Players" segment at 2PM (PT) on Friday, with 7AM (PT) practice coverage on Saturday, a "Red Carpet Show" at 1PM (PT) and a 6PM (PT) post-skills game show also on Saturday, an All Access ASG pregame show at 1PM (PT) on Sunday and a post-game show starting at 6PM (PT). The NHL also created a microsite with interactice and multimedia content here.

Saturday, January 24

1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Player Red Carpet Arrivals, Bell Centre. NHL All-Stars and YoungStars will greet fans and media along the red carpet upon their arrival for the night's festivities.

4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Honda/NHL SuperSkills – featuring the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck, Bell Centre. Six of the NHL’s most creative players will compete to win the votes of fans by performing feats of puck-handling and goal-scoring in the latest addition to the Honda/NHL SuperSkills competition, the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge. Fans will determine the winner by mobile text messaging in-arena. Top young players in the game will take center stage in the sixth NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck where this year, for the first time, the three-on-three game will pit NHL sophomores against rookies.

6:30 p.m.
Bud Light NHL All-Star Concert on Crescent Street from Maisonneuve to Ste. Catherine Street. Canadian rock band and multi-Juno Award nominee, Hedley, will headline a free outdoor concert. Hockey and rock fans alike will have the opportunity to celebrate the 57th NHL All-Star Game among NHL ice sculptures that will decorate Crescent Street.

Sunday, January 25

6:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
NHL All-Star Mascot Breakfast, Bell Sports Complex. More than 600 children from the South Shore of Montreal area will enjoy the opportunity of a lifetime when the NHL’s mascots take over the Bell Sports Complex during All-Star Weekend. In collaboration with the NHL and the Montreal Canadiens, kids between the ages of 8-12 will enjoy a special breakfast while watching the league’s mascots hit the ice for their very own “skills” competition. Games, face painting and photo ops with the mascots and some NHL YoungStars will make this an experience to remember.

3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
57th NHL All-Star Game, Bell Centre. The 57th NHL All-Star Game pits the League’s best players against one another in an East-versus-West format. The All-Star Game will be televised live on CBC and RDS in Canada and VERSUS in the United States. NASN, ASN, J Sports, Sky Mexico, Fox Sports Australia and other NHL international broadcast partners will provide live coverage of the NHL All-Star Game to more than 150 countries and territories in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Rim, Mexico and the Caribbean. NHL Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage which can be heard on stations around the United States and Canada as well as on Sirius XM Radio's NHL Home Ice, located at XM channel 204 and on SIRIUS channel 208 with the “Best of XM” programming package.

* - All times Pacific.

- Covering the Allstar Game from a blog perspective will be SBN's James Mirtle, and's Puck Daddy.

- Tripp Mickle published an informative article on a midseason spike in NHL attendance and ratings numbers for the Sports Business Journal: This Week's News NHL's attendance, TV ratings both showing increases. Mickle cites NHL attendance numbers that have increased 1.5% through the midpoint of the 2007-08 season. According to ESPN, 10 NHL teams are at or above 100% of capacity this year. The San Jose Sharks are 11th, with a 99.9% average for 17,483 fans per game at HP Pavilion. With (22,604) or without (21,592) including the New Year's Day Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Blackhawks lead the NHL in attendance followed by Montreal (21,273), Detroit (19,724), Philadelphia (19,413) and Toronto (19,301).

Mickle also cites improved regional and national television ratings through January 11th. According to Mickle, Versus ratings improved from an average of 265,314 viewers to 310,732 viewers midway through the season. NBC scored a ratings bonanza with 4.4 million viewers for the Winter Classic, the most watched regular season NHL hockey game in 34 years. Regional ratings increases were lead by the Washington Capitals (+140%) , followed by Phoenix (+100%), Chicago (+72.6%), Boston (+53.2%) and San Jose (+42%).

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg crunched the numbers with DMA market statistics and came up with average household viewing numbers for 22 U.S. teams. The NY Rangers lead all the U.S. teams with an average of 76,568 households tuning in per game, the San Jose Sharks finished 9th with 30,955 watching Comcast Sporsnet Bay Area broadcasts. A Florida Panthers squad making a run in the standings finished last with an abysmal 2,320 households.

Earlier this month, John Ourand also wrote about the looming battle between sports networks and cable carriers, Cable, sports nets put off battles for a year. The New Year saw a major battle between Viacom and Time Warner, which put several popular programs at risk barring a large rate increase. Time Warner finally relented, albeit quietly, but it may foreshadow a similar impasse with regional sports channels. Time Warner signed a 1-year extention with Fox regional sports networks until Dec 31, 2009, but negotiations after that point may become difficult.

Ourand also reports that DirectTV failed to reach an agreement with 2 of Comcast's RSNs, CSN New England and CSN Bay Area, and has requested arbitration:

The two sides were unable to reach a deal after Comcast tried to raise rates for its Bay Area RSN by 40 percent and its New England RSN by 25 percent.

Comcast bought the two RSNs from Rainbow in May 2007, believing that they have always been undervalued. Each network receives about $1.75 per subscriber per month, sources say, which is on the low side for comparably sized RSNs.

DirecTV balked at the increases, which would have pushed for CSN Bay Area’s license fee to about $2.45 and CSN New England's to about $2.20. DirecTV was particularly irked about the increase for CSN Bay Area, which is expected to lose A’s and Sharks games to CSN West next season.

In the SJ Mercuy News today, a normally critical John Ryan notes that this season may be a true breakthrough for the San Jose Sharks. "More and more, this is looking like the Sharks true breakthrough into full-fledged big-sport status" Ryan said. He even, shock upon shock, offered a compliment for Versus 18% ratings increase "they paint a pretty picture".

- The latest episode of Bones, "Fire In the Ice", features David Boreanaz solving a murder in between club ice hockey games. Boreanaz is a rabid Philadelphia Flyers fan, last season he blogged during the Stanley Cup Playoffs for The episode can be viewed online at or at During a dream sequence after a hard check to the ice, Luc Robitaille appears to Boreanaz's character and tells him the Flyers will not make it out of the first round without Briere.

- Phoenix keeps cutting as losses keep growing - Globe and Mail.

The Phoenix Coyotes' losses this season are expected to hit $45-million (all currency U.S.) once their debt servicing is taken into account, according to two sources, and the club is making further cutbacks after layoffs last week.

Among the austerity measures pushed on the club by the NHL, which is monitoring the Coyotes' financial and player-personnel moves, is a reduction in travel by the club's scouts, according to sources. Last week, the Coyotes laid off 18 people in the front office, about 10 per cent of their staff.

Sources have said the Coyotes owe about $80-million to SOF Investments LP, an equity fund owned by computer tycoon Michael Dell and his family. The club has pledged almost all of its assets and revenue to the company as collateral.

More from the New York Times Slapshots hockey blog.

- Stars coverage takes a hit - From the Rink.

You may have heard the news. The two Dallas daily newspapers, The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, are now going to take up a content-sharing arrangement with their sports coverage, something that's becoming more the norm in the print media these days.

When it comes to the NHL, this means Mike Heika of the Morning News will be the only writer on the beat. Tracey Myers of the Star-Telegram will be reassigned.

- More notes will be posted soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Patrick Marleau named to Allstar Game as injury replacement, Joe Thornton named Western Conference ASG captain

Patrick Marleau 2009 NHL Allstar Game montreal photo
San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau Ottawa Senators Antoine Vermette

On Wednesday, Sharks captain Patrick Marleau and Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas were named to the Western Conference 2009 Allstar Game roster as injury replacements for Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom. Marleau will represent San Jose along with center Joe Thornton, defenseman Dan Boyle, and rookie head coach Todd McLellan. Sophmore right wing Devin Setoguchi will participate in the NHL YoungStars Game.

This will be Patrick Marleau's third Allstar game after previous apperances in 2004 and 2007. He is second on the Sharks in total points with 51, first on the NHL's best team in goal scoring with 25, first in the NHL (taking over Jeremey Roenick's role from last season) with 8 game winning goals. He is the only Sharks forward in the top 5 for ice time logging an average of 21:31 minutes a game.

The usual statistics do not tell the whole story of Marleau's resurgent season. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that he should have been the first Shark selected to the ASG roster. Joe Thornton is outside of the pocket for another run at an NHL scoring title, but another volcanic finish to the season could easily put him back in play. Dan Boyle currently leads the NHL in scoring by a defenseman, and is garnering serious consideration as a Norris Trophy Finalist as the NHL's best defenseman.

But take Patrick Marleau out of the lineup and the Sharks lose an element of size and speed that you can not replace. You take away a large immovable body constantly planted in front of opposing goaltenders. You take away one of the best 2-way players on the team, the most consistent skater shift to shift, and a physical force along the boards. You take away a scoring threat on the penalty kill, a threat that forces teams to respect his speed and often forces them into taking penalties to prevent breakaways. Marleau has drawn 14 penalties this season according to, and he is second in the NHL behind a trio of Philadelphia Flyers with 3 short-handed goals.

Marleau is San Jose's franchise leader in games played (840), goals (263), assists (327), points (590), power play goals (80), game winning goals (51), and shots on goal (1830) among other franchise marks. If a locker room follows the tone set by the captain, then the Sharks are quietly going to put up the best regular season record in the NHL before putting their bodies on the line in the playoffs in an attempt to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

Joe Thornton was named today as the captain of the Western Conference Allstar Game roster. After learning of his selection as captain, Thornton told's John Kreiser "I'm shocked and excited. It's a big honor to be named captain of an All-Star Team." "Unbelievable" he continued, "There are so many good players on the team. They must have picked me because I'm getting old." Veteran Montreal Canadiens forward Alexei Kovalev will represent the East as their ASG captain.

[Update] Patrick Marleau getting a belated invitation to NHL All-Star game - David Pollak's Working the Corners blog.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sharks grind out a 2-1 overtime win over a struggling Vancouver Canucks team ground down to the nub

Different teams take different approaches heading into the most difficult arena to earn a road win in the NHL. Columbus and St Louis tried to outwork the Sharks man for man, Chicago and Philadelphia tried to trade goals, Anaheim and Calgary tried to pound out a win within the rules, or not. After 25 games at HP Pavilion, only the Calgary Flames earned a hard fought win at the Tank in regulation. Dan Ellis and Dwayne Rolson combined for 95 saves on a 100 total shots as the Predators and Oilers weathered an onslaught to hand the Sharks their only overtime losses en route to San Jose's NHL best 22-1-2 home record.

The Vancouver Canucks, bringing a 5-game losing streak into the building, opted for a different tact in a 2-1 overtime loss to San Jose. Left wing Taylor Pyatt scored 12:38 into the first period, and the Vancouver Canucks proceeded to fold up like an umbrella and flood their own defensive zone trying to hang on for a win. At times it looked as if there were 5 other goaltenders in front of the Vancouver crease making saves along with Roberto Luongo. Granted, Pyatt's goal was one for the highlight reel. Daniel Sedin carried the puck behind the net and brother Henrik executed a slick touch pass in traffic. Pyatt slid to an open area in the slot and buried the shot high inside the far post.

Then the Canucks were done. Scoring chances by Mats Sundin or Daniel Sedin were like mirages in the desert. You think you may have just seen Nabokov stuff a Sundin breakaway late in the third period, but did it really happen or were your eyes blurry from staring at the prevent defense in the Canucks zone. After 2 false starts, Roberto Luongo turned in his best performance after an extended absence due to a nagging groin injury. Luongo finished with 27 saves on 29 shots, and key saves on Pavelski, Michalek and Patrick Marleau gave the Canucks an opportunity to earn 2 points. Even Jody Shelley was feeling the puck on his stick with 2 quality point blank shots on goal after turnovers down low.

The Sharks could not punch through the Canucks umbrella for 59 minutes and 19 seconds. With Evgeni Nabokov pulled for an extra attacker, the Sharks had 5 forwards (Pavelski, Marleau, Setoguchi, Thornton, Clowe) and Dan Boyle on the ice trying to earn the equalizer. Boyle is the NHL's leading defensive scorer.

Joe Thornton won a clutch offensive zone faceoff, and Patrick Marleau beat 2 Canucks in a battle for a loose puck to spark a scrum in front of Roberto Luongo. Thornton gained possession behind the net and slid a pass through the crease and 7 bodies to find an open Devin Setoguchi on the left wing. Setoguchi scored his 21st of the season to send the game into OT, assists Joe Thornton (42) and Patrick Marleau (26).

Henrik Sedin fed Taylor Pyatt on a 2-on-1 in overtime, but Pyatt shot wide right. Daniel Sedin took a roughing penalty 2:17 in the extra period, and the Sharks amped up the pressure in the Canucks zone. After the play broke down in front of Luongo, Marleau hammered the game winning goal glove side for his 25th of the season at 3:08, assists Joe Thornton (43) and Joe Pavelski (19). Sharks pulled a win out of the hat, and head into the Allstar Game break with a 20 point lead over the Phoenix Coyotes for 2nd place in the Pacific Division. The Anaheim Ducks have an opportunity to tie Phoenix with a road game today against the last placed NY Islanders (4PM).

[Update] Sharks defeat Vancouver in overtime - SJ Mercury News.

[Update2] Thoughts on Claude Lemieux's first NHL game since March 23rd, 2003:

Claude Lemieux registered 3 shots on goal and 3 hits in 7 minutes of ice time on the fourth line with Tomas Plihal and Jody Shelley. It was right about where you would expect in terms of minutes. Head coach Todd McLellan has said the "trust factor" has not always been there on the fourth line, and the Sharks have cycled through Riley Armstrong, Tom Cavanagh, Brad Staubitz and Jamie McGinn from the AHL Worcester affiliate trying to find a player who fits. If the Sharks are looking for a role for Lemieux to fill, they should look back to the line of Matteau-Sutter-Stern. A veteran fourth line that could answer a physical challenge or play a simple, steady low-risk game in their own zone.

Goals are going to come from elsewhere on the roster, the Sharks need shutdown shifts late in periods or late in games, especially in the playoffs. Shelley-Roenick-Lemieux has that potential. Shelley was on the leadership committee with the Blue Jackets, Roenick has devoted himself to do whatever it takes for this team to win. If Lemieux can fit the role the Sharks need, he will fit into the lockerroom as easily as Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich did in the offseason.

[Update3] Canucks lose to Sharks in last-minute heartbreaker - Vancouver Sun.

On Marleau’s goal, the Canucks felt the whistle should have been blown when Luongo appeared to have the puck covered. But the Sharks dug it out and Thornton found Marleau in the right circle. Luongo was down and didn’t have a chance.

"I didn't know where the puck was," Luongo said. "I was just laying there and I knew it was somewhere around me... I tried to get up there but I was kind of in a panic and the pass was coming across. I saw him at the last second and was trying to react as fast as I could, but obviously it went in the top of the net."

A photo gallery from the Vancouver Sun is available here.

[Update3] Jason Botchford writes in the Vancouver Province that the real Roberto Luongo is back, but he points to turnovers and mistakes that are still plaguing the struggling Northwest franchise. The Canucks Nation blog notes that Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault will not be sleeping easy over the Allstar break with the team's recent subpar play. He speculates that a return to a trapping style of play may force GM Mike Gillis to look for alternatives behind the bench. The Vancouver Province was the first major newspaper to link to this blog back in 1999.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

San Jose Sharks-Vancouver Canucks morning skate notes and photos, Claude Lemieux debuts tonight against the Canucks

Claude Lemieux debut with the San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks NHL photo morning skate
San Jose Sharks Claude Lemieux Brian Boucher

The San Jose Sharks (33-6-5, T-1st NHL) are coming off possibly their two best games of the season in a hard fought 3-2 loss to Calgary on Thursday and a 6-5 win over Detroit in one of the best offensive displays of the season on Saturday night. Tonight the Sharks face off against a team trending in the opposite direction. The Vancouver Canucks (22-19-6, 2nd Northwest) have dropped 5 straight games, and the addition of center Mats Sundin and the return of goaltender Roberto Luongo have yet to produce the desired results short term.

All eyes are on the Sharks callup of right wing Claude Lemieux from Worcester of the AHL. The Bay Area's two largest newspapers both offered Lemieux plenty of coverage. David Pollak in the SJ Mercury News notes Lemieux was more "ordinary dad than legendary villian". The San Francisco Chronicle, which does not have a regular beat reporter covering the Sharks, posted an AP wire article from Greg Beacham: It's a dream come true for newest Shark Lemieux.

ESPN's Pierre LeBrun pictures 43-year old Claude Lemieux in a third or fourth line roll similar to that of Jeremy Roenick, and quotes 39-year old defenseman Rob Blake after he ran into Lemieux yesterday in the locker room "It makes J.R. and I a little younger on our team". Head coach Todd McLellan has subbed Roenick a couple of times on the first line when things were not clicking on the ice. Expectations for Lemieux are for him to contribute in a more limited role unless he has a surprise in store for the league.

Lemieux was brought in to be a veteran influence and add defensive responsibility on a fourth line that has cycled through a number of AHL forwards this season. A return to his agitator and chief villian status is not likely to occur in San Jose. McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson are most likely looking for a veteran forward who can play steady defense in his own zone, play physical in the opponents zone, and crash the net looking for loose pucks if the opportunity arises. Conditioning and adapting to the speed of the modern NHL are question marks, but after watching him several times in Worcester he has shown the ability to accomplish that. Todd McLellan said he has earned the opportunity in the NHL, and San Jose is testing him midseason to see if he can deliver. Speedy checking line center Torrey Mitchell was expected to return from a leg injury in mid-to-late January before suffering a setback in Worcester. Worst case scenario is that the Sharks will see if they have another depth forward they can use on the fourth line.

During the morning skate, the Sharks worked on faceoff drills, playing the puck off the end boards, and then paired off for individual drills. Marcel Goc and Mike Grier focused on faceoff responsibilities, Tomas Plihal worked with Brian Boucher on rebounds, and Rob Blake (with a protective cage around his jaw) stayed late along with Alexei Semenov and Jermey Roenick to practice defending against forwards entering the zone.

The Vancouver Canucks pregame skate was performed with a different mood entirely. There was a palpable sense of foreboding or uneasiness, and it was much more tight than the earlier Sharks skate. The Canucks practiced a number of drills with the focus on speed. 2-on-3 drills, playing the puck from behind the net with speed, entry passes into the zone in stride (i.e. with speed). Former Sharks Steve Bernier and Rob Davison were on the ice along with Mats Sundin and allstar snub Daniel Sedin. Roberto Luongo was on the ice after allowing 9 goals against in 2 games since his return from a groin injury.

6-foot-3, 235-pound goaltender Jason LaBarbera was recently acquired from the Los Angeles Kings for a seventh round draft pick. LaBarbera was given the reigns with a young defense in front of him in Los Angeles, but it did not work out and general manager Dean Lombardi opted to go with Ersberg and a young Jon Quick with Jonathan Bernier is in a holding pattern. It was a big chance taken by Lombardi, and it has paid off somewhat with Quick registering a 4-5-0 record (920GAA, 2.24SV% 2SO) and solidifying a struggling goalie rotation. Unfortunately for the Canucks, Curtis Sanford and Jason LaBarbera failed to provide steady goaltending prior to Luongo's return.

On the Team 1040AM radio station (pregame allday until 7PM), their outlook for the Canucks chances tonight against the Sharks are bleak. Radio color analyst John Shorthouse said there were three reason for the Canucks recent struggles: Nothing is going right, bad goaltending, and bad penalty killing. They described the situation leading up to the 5-game losing streak as a "perfect storm" of injuries and problems. Their hope that the Canucks would play loose and try to sneak a win out of an HP Pavilion was night and day different from how Vancouver looked at the morning skate, anything but loose.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo said on the Team 1040 "We don't have any pressure, no one expects us to win so we are going to go out there and try to win". Center Mats Sundin added, "San Jose is a fast strong team, with good scoring power up front. They are a very tough at home, it will be a good challenge for us". Sundin said Claude Lemieux's return made him feel a little better, "I wish there were more guys like that".

A photo gallery from the morning skate is available here.

[Update] Lemieux is le back, Veteran agitator returns to NHL after six years out of game - Jim Jamieson and Ben Kuzma for the Vancouver Province.

[Update2] Delays on Mitchell update, Marleau announcement; Blake skates, and more on Lemieux’s return tonight - David Pollak's Working the Corners blog.

[Update3] Canucks-Sharks Preview -

The San Jose Sharks have been long on talent but short on grit in recent seasons as one of the NHL's elite teams that failed to reach a Stanley Cup final. They're hoping a feisty veteran with a distinguished postseason resume will provide a difference as they continue on what may be their best season in franchise history.

Claude Lemieux may make his return to the NHL after a 5 1/2-year absence Tuesday when the Sharks host a slumping Vancouver Canucks team.

The Sharks (33-6-5), who have a NHL-leading 71 points, recalled the 43-year-old Lemieux on Monday from Worcester of the AHL, where he had three goals and eight assists in 23 games. Lemieux, who has not been in the NHL since splitting the 2002-03 season with Phoenix and Dallas, has 379 goals in 1,197 regular-season games, but is more known for his 80 playoff goals - 19 of them game-winners - and winning Stanley Cup titles with Montreal (1986), New Jersey (1995, 2000) and Colorado (1996).

Max Giese: McKeen's Hockey Worcester Sharks report

The Worcester Sharks traveled to Norfolk recently for a weekend two-game set with the Admirals. McKeen's Eastern U.S. scout Kevin Hopson provided notes on several Sharks prospects for, including Torrey Mitchell, T.J. Fox, Steve Zalewski, Lukas Kaspar, Jamie McGinn, Frazer McLaren, Jason Demers, Mike Moore and Thomas Geiss. Hopson was kind enough to share his report with Sharkspage and those of you who enjoy this material can find reports like this every day at

Torrey Mitchell (SJ), C, Worcester Sharks
Mitchell was voted San Jose's Rookie of the Year in 2007-08 and was recently assigned to Worcester for a conditioning stint with the team .. it was his first game of the season, at any level, after suffering a broken leg during NHL training camp .. however, Mitchell did not miss a beat in his debut, as he recorded a goal and created several other scoring opportunities on the night .. Mitchell is a swift skater who displays first-class vision and has the ability to nourish puck-hungry teammates with his quality distribution game .. he is lively with the puck and possesses a sneaky and rapid release in close .. successful at finding open ice and putting himself in opportunistic situations away from the puck .. a key component on the man advantage, given his offensive prowess, and a defensively responsible pivot that can also play in his own end.

T.J. Fox (SJ), C/RW, Worcester Sharks
Fox is a dynamic forward who possesses good size, a quick first step and quality intuition in the offensive end .. he has the capacity to spot open teammates and hit them in stride .. Fox is also dominant at getting shots on net given his swift release .. he owns limber hands and can work in tight spaces but needs to display better strength on the puck, as he can get outmanned down low despite his 200-pound frame .. unfortunately, Fox has been a disappointment this season and will need to raise his level of play significantly if he is going to surpass last year's point total.

Steve Zalewski (SJ), C, Worcester Sharks
Zalewski is a quality, playmaking center that excels at both ends of the ice ..his attention to detail in the defensive end and his eagerness to produce in the attacking zone has molded him into the ideal special teams player ..Zalewski is successful at winning battles along the boards, as he can dissect the puck out of traffic with his quick stick and immediately feed it to one of his teammates ..he keeps the puck tight to his body, which allows him to work in difficult spaces and carve a path through the opposing defense when he wants to charge the net ..owns clear vision and can get the puck to teammates in a straight shot ..displays patience with the puck, especially around the net, where he can wait for an opening before shooting or distributing the biscuit agile skater who maneuvers well around the ice but needs to improve his play in the circle, especially considering the importance of his draws on the PP and PK.

Lukas Kaspar (SJ), LW, Worcester Sharks
Kaspar is a strapping forward who is on pace to have his most productive season yet .. he is a reliable skater with above-average speed but lacks a true top gear .. displays quick vision and a dangerous passing game, particularly below the hash marks .. has a nose for the net and will drop anchor in front of the crease or the high slot area in anticipation of putting one home .. owns supple hands, which allow him to be shifty with the puck in 1-on-1 situations .. is becoming a formidable two-way player given his defensive awareness and ability to strip opponents of the puck .. Kaspar exhibits all of these skills as a regular special teams player.

Jamie McGinn (SJ), LW, Worcester Sharks
McGinn is an industrious winger who looks and plays bigger than his size (6-0, 200) .. he enjoys a smooth skating stride and does an efficient job of getting from point A to point B .. McGinn is not flamboyant but he possesses solid puck skills and is dependable at keeping the puck in the offensive zone .. demonstrates the ability to make crisp passes when given sufficient time and space to work with .. labors in both ends and sees special teams duties as a result of his hard work and consistency .. plays with an edge and is not afraid to drop the gloves should the situation present itself .. can seal the deal in front of the net, as evident by his shootout capabilities.

Frazer McLaren (SJ), LW, Worcester Sharks
McLaren is a colossal winger (6-5, 228) whose primary focus is to separate opponents from the puck .. he is not much of a contributor in the offensive end, statistically speaking, but he can help create opportunities on the forecheck .. plays an extremely physical game and acts as the team's official enforcer .. painstaking along the boards and sees PK time given his toughness and willingness to block shots .. an adequate skater who can also use his big frame to go strong to the net.

Jason Demers (SJ), D, Worcester Sharks
Demers is an offensively gifted defenseman who shines at moving the puck .. he benefits from his strong skating abilities, as he can carry the puck deep into the opposing zone and then feed teammates with his short, precise passes .. Demers is a budding PP quarterback who also owns a rapid and heavy slapshot from the point .. he is not as strong in his own end but is starting to improve this part of his game .. earlier in the season, Demers was making some questionable decisions in the defensive end, especially down low, and held on to the puck too long at times .. however, he is displaying more confidence on the puck now .. not only has his decision-making process speeded up, but he is making better choices on the ice.

Mike Moore (SJ), D, Worcester Sharks
Though he is not a big point producer for the Sharks, Moore demonstrates some good offensive skills for a defenseman .. he looks a little heavy-footed at times in the defensive end but displays good acceleration and straight-ahead speed once his feet start moving .. can unload a booming slapshot from the point and is not afraid to pinch aggressively in order to work down low .. steady in his own end, as evident by his positive plus/minus rating, and plays a physical brand of hockey .. also shows no hesitation in dropping the gloves when the time arises .. sturdy on his feet and strong on the puck, as he possesses excellent leverage and balance, and can sometimes draw penalties as a result.

Thomas Greiss (SJ), G, Worcester Sharks
Greiss is a typical butterfly goalie in the sense that he likes to drop to his knees and take away the lower part of the net on a regular basis .. however, he also has the leg strength to get back to his feet quickly .. Greiss moves well laterally and has good leg extension, which makes it difficult for opponents to maneuver the puck around him, particularly on breakaways .. he is skilled at playing the puck and shows incredible calmness when handling the rubber in traffic .. on the downside, Greiss has a tendency to give up fat rebounds and is vulnerable to being scored on when there are a lot of bodies in front of him.

Monday, January 19, 2009

KNBR interview with San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan

San Jose Sharks rookie head coach Todd McLellan

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was interviewed by Tom Tolbert and Ralph Barbieri yesterday on KNBR 680AM.

The first-year head coach McLellan coached the San Jose Sharks to the NHL's best record at the halfway point of the 2008-09 season, and with a 4-1 road win over Edmonton he was named as the starting coach for the Western Conference for this weekend's NHL Allstar Game in Montreal. McLellan is the second rookie head coach to coach an Allstar Game after Doug McLean (Florida Panthers 1996). He will be assisted by his former boss in Detroit Mike Babcock, where McLellan was an assistant coach from 2005-08, and where he won a Stanley Cup after the 2007-08 NHL season.

A partial transcript of the interview:

"I'm enjoying the process. I'm having a lot of fun and enjoying going to the rink everyday. Its a good group of people from Doug Wilson and his staff all the way down. It makes me feel good going to the rink, and then when I see the players in the morning it feels like we are part of the team. I think that is important. A lot of times coaches are left on the outside, they are the bad guys. The way the players are responding to Trent Yawney, Todd Richards, Jay Woodcroft and myself it often feels like we are part of the team so we always enjoy being there. We still have to crack the whip, which they don't always like, but thats part of our job and their responsibilities. It's been a fun process."

"That is one of our goals. Two things, we don't want to be on an emotional roller coaster. It is hard to come down from a high and to get up from a bottom. We want to keep everything on an even keel. When you lose 2 or 3 it is too easy to get down on yourself and stay down there. Vice versa when your winning a lot you can get so high you don't realize the effort is the thing. The play isn't where it should be. We evaluate the team based on our foundation every day, not just from the score. Obviously when you lose 6-0 in Detroit you are not very happy, things didn't go very well. We lost here at home to Edmonton and Nasvhille and had well over 100 shots on goal combined in those 2 games. We had a number of scoring chances and did not give up many goals. We were quite happy with the effort and the input, but the results happen some times. Bounces don't go your way. We try to keep our team at an even keel, we don't want to be all over the map. The players appreciate that."

"We are going (to the AllStar Game) as a coaching pair. There will be 4 coaches representing their teams and the players and the league. Head coach, assistant coach, it doesn't really matter. In fact, I probably would not be in the position I am now if Mike Babcock had not given me the opportunity to coach in the National Hockey League with one of the best teams in Detroit. I am really respectful of that. There isn't really a lot of work for a coach to do at the Allstar Game quite honestly. We probably have to learn how to say 'next' in four different languages and we will be fine."

"Joe Thornton is a great hockey player, but he is a better human being. That tells you how much respect I have for him. He has done everything we have asked him to do as a player and as a leader, and he has tried to change his game a little bit. Not dramatically, but just a little bit. When you bring him into the coaches office and review his game, you mix in some positives and mix in some negatives and he responds the same way to both and goes out and tries to improve his game. Patrick Marleau is the same way, and basically throughout the lineup. Once your superstars are doing that it makes it a lot easier for the foot soldiers to do it."

"Nabby is obviously in a different position with only 2 goaltenders in him and Boucher. He has done a tremendous job. Nabby has been through some ups and downs with out hockey club, and he will be through more again because he plays so many games. The situation is 6-0 in Detroit and he finishes the game. We started the game together and we finished the game as a team. We weren't very good. It wasn't 6-0 until very late in the game. We went into the third down 3-0 and we still had a chance to come back. The one time we did pull (Nabokov) in Calgary, we were just red rotten. From the coaches on down. Nobody performed the way they should. It was as much just getting Nabby out of there to get him out of there as it was to shake the team up. Sometimes the coach has to try something. Nabby came out and maybe we could change the momentum. It didn't work that well that night".

"You talk about leaders and followers, what is more important. Everybody looks at the captains and the assistants, whatever sport that may be, and talks about their leadership qualities. If you have the best leader in the world, and we have one of the best in Patrick Marleau, and you don't have people who want to follow and are going in other directions, there is only so much he can do. The followers and the foot soldiers are just as important as those dominant players in a locker room. I think that is one thing Doug Wilson does a tremendous job of, is maybe spot the players that are not pulling the right way, and we address them. We spend time with them and try to bring them back into our fold. If it doesn't work, then we move on. Those players, if they accept the responsibility of being dominant people, they accept the responsibility of being held accountable for both the good and the bad, if they are willing to do that and work on their game it makes it 100 percent easier with everybody else."

"I will play Dan Boyle as much as we need. You don't want to run a horse to death but there were more minutes left in him the other night. He is a competitive, competitive human being. He wants to be on the ice. When there is a line change, he is looking back basically telling the coach 'I am ready, lets go.' He is capable of handling even more minutes, do we want to run him that much on a regular basis? Absolutely not. We would wear him right out. In the past in Tampa Bay, a 29-31 minute night was not out of the ordinary for him."

"We can put all the X's and O's up on the board we want, and ask players to be in certain positions at certain times, but one if we don't have the puck or have not competed for it nothing is going to happen, and two we are going to lose a lot of momentum in a game. The first thing you have to do right from the faceoff is compete for the loose puck. The puck doesn't care who gets there first. You might as well take advantage and try to beat the other team. Once you establish position there are so many good things that can happen... If you have the puck, or have the potential to have the puck, you are on offense. You have a chance to score. It is a lot more fun playing that way than playing on the defensive side the whole time."

"Claude Lemieux brings a little bit of grit and some energy. His situation is no different than a lot of young players that have come up from the American League this year, and there have been a number of them. He has earned his opportunity to come up and help the Sharks, he is part of the Sharks family now. We are looking are looking forward to giving him that chance. We hope this thing works out for everyone."

"When you get in a playoff situation, and obviously that is what we are building for, it is too easy to stop one individual. Joe has taken a lot of heat over the last few years about playoff performances whether good or bad, or whether it is valid or not. He is going to continue to have that pressure on him, players targeting him as an individual. We need other people to pick up the slack, we can't let them off the hook. Right now we are getting that output from everybody, but there will be dry spells. When it works that way we have to count on Mike Grier and Marcel Goc and Tomas Plihal."

"Marcel Goc has been tremendous (on faceoffs). For a small man, I don't think the opposition realizes how good he is. It is 6-5 against Detroit with a minute left, Marcel has that responsibility to go out and go against some of the best faceoff men in the league in Datsyuk and Zetterberg. He did a tremendous job. That can only help his confidence. In the playoffs when we need that key situation and he is having a good night, he is going to be there again and he has already experienced it."

[Update] Todd McLellan was also a guest last week on the NHL Hour with commissioner Gary Bettman and Bill Clement. McLellan notes the biggest difference in responsibilities on game day between being a head coach in San Jose and an assistant in Detroit is his responsibility with the media. He mentions that it takes up a lot of time but it is vital to promote the Sharks and the game of hockey. McLellan also talked about a turning point in training camp that occured during an inter-squad game when the players really bought into his new offensive system, the influence Minnesota Wild GM Doug Riseborough had on him when he was the head coach of their affiliate teams in Houston in the AHL and Cleveland of the IHL, that the grind of travel as a West Coast team was something he had to get used to, discussed the similarities between Detroit and San Jose, and pointed to some "ghosts in the closet" that may have to be exorcised by players in the the playoffs.

San Jose Sharks 20 game highlight video

Here is a San Jose Sharks highlight video for the second 20-game stretch of the 2008-09 season. The highlight video for the first 20 games is available here. All footage obtained via the NHL's Youtube video channel. The song is "Scary" by The Mad Capsule Markets. Photos taken by Sharkspage.

The Sharks started the second quarter strong winning 6 straight games, finishing with a 14-2-4 record and 32 out of a possible 40 points. It was a slight drop from a hot 16-1-3 start after the first 20 games. Goals for dropped from 73 to 66 as the Sharks were held without a power play goal in 7 games, but goals against also dropped from 49 to 47 helped by a string of 26 straight penalty kills.

Brian Boucher put a wounded Washington Capitals squad out of its misery in a 7-2 home win on November 22nd, before San Jose settled into Nabokov-mode as Evgeni registered 18 starts in the next 19 games.

[Update] Sharks' midseason report: McLellan, team hungry for more - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update2] Top 25 most significant players of the NHL's first half - Jay Feaster for

[Note] An illness sidelined me for the first 2 weeks of 2009. Thanks go out to Darryl Hunt and Max Giese for keeping this blog running in my absence. If I have not responded to your email, please send it again and I will try to answer it as soon as possible. Thanks. Regular posting should begin tomorrow.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Take Five On The Road

The Worcester Sharks finished their road swing through the Mid-Atlantic states with five out of a possible eight points in what could easily be described as their toughest four game stretch on the schedule.

The trip did not start out on a great note as the WorSharks were pummeled by the Philadelphia Phantoms 7-1 on Wednesday, January 14. The Phantoms would score the games first six goals, including three power play tallies and a shorthanded marker. Worcester's lone highlight was a Lukas Kaspar goal off a rebound of a Ryan Vesce shot.

Friday night saw the first of two games in Norfolk, and the WorSharks again found themselves down by multiple goals. Worcester goaltender Thomas Greiss had a puck stolen from him while Worcester was on the power play for a Norfolk shorthanded goal, and a deflection off of rehabbing Torrey Mitchell's skate beat Greiss five hole for a 2-0 Norfolk advantage early in the second period.

Worcester would grab the next two goals when Mitchell put one in a yawning net and Matt Fornataro roofed one over Norfolk goaltender Mike McKenna on a break-away. The WorSharks would win the shootout on goals by Vesce, Jamie McGinn, and Fornataro for the 3-2 victory.

Saturday night showed how bad, and how well, the WorSharks can play. After a Patrick Traverse goal just 34 seconds into the contest gave Worcester a quick 1-0 lead, Norfolk would run off five consecutive goals to go into the first intermission up 5-1. Worcester did not fold however, and Riley Armstrong grabbed a quick goal just 14 seconds in to period number two to keep the WorSharks on life support.

Worcester would cut the lead to 5-4 late in the second period when Vesce lit the lamp with a shorthanded marker, and less than 90 seconds later McGinn would score on the power play. The improbable comeback would be complete at 8:36 of the third period when Jason Demers connected on a power play goal to knot the game 5-5.

The WorSharks would get the game winner in overtime after a Mike Moore Blast was mishandled by Norfolk netminder Karri Ramo, and Vesce knocked home the lose puck for the greatest comeback in Worcester Sharks history.

The four goal comeback isn't the biggest in Worcester professional hockey history however. The Worcester IceCats scored six goals after being down 6-1 to comeback on the Manchester Monarchs 7-6 on March 30, 2003. Norfolk Admirals head coach Darren Rumble was on that IceCats team, and scored a goal from his own side of the red line during the comeback.

Worcester plays several three-in-three weekends, but the 230 miles between Norfolk, Virginia and Hershey, Pennsylvania is the longest distance between games, and it showed in the third period against the Bears.

Worcester jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first when McGinn connected while the WorSharks were on a two man advantage, and Zalewski scored 44 seconds later to make it 2-0.

It would stay that score into the third period when the legs began to tire and Hershey outshot the WorSharks 19-5, by far the biggest shot deficit the Worcester has had in a period all season. Sami Lepisto would connect on the power play and Alexandre Giroux would set the AHL record for most consecutive games with a goal at 15 with another power play tally. Worcester would hold on to get the game into a shootout, when the Bears Kyle Wilson scored the only goal for the 3-2 Hershey win.

During the first period of the Hershey loss, Torrey Mitchell was injured his leg and did not return. There are conflicting reports as to which leg was injured, but there was confirmation by bother San Jose and Worcester that an injury did take place.

Ryan Vesce (2g,2a) and Patrick Traverse (g,3a) finished the trip with four points. Jamie McGinn (2g,a) and Steven Zalewski (2g,a) had three.

Worcester's injury list remained unchanged. With Torrey Mitchell playing two games on a rehab assignment, Matt Jones was a healthy scratch in the first Norfolk game and Claude Lemieux was a healthy scratch in the Hershey game.

Worcester's power play was clicking on the trip, scoring four goals in 19 chances. The downside was they allowed two shorthanded goals. The penalty kill was not very good, killing just 16 of 21 chances. The WorSharks had one shorthanded goal.

Worcester has two games remaining on the road trip, with tilts in Springfield and Lowell before the All-Star break. For those interested in going to the AHL All-Star Classic in Worcester, tickets are still on sale but are going fast. Visit HERE for tickets and more details.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Stun Devils 2-1

The Worcester Sharks finished their longest homestand of the season with a 2-1 victory over the visiting Lowell Devils Saturday night at the DCU Center in snowy Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 4,530 very loud fans. The WorSharks finished their seven game homestand at 5-2.

Since an opening night loss in Lowell, Worcester has rung up four wins in a row against the Devils. The four previous games between the two teams had been physical affairs, and Saturday night was no different as players on both sides threw huge hits despite some fairly wide open play.

The biggest hit of the period came when Lowell Nicklas Bergfors was skating through center ice with his head down looking for the puck that was between his feet. Worcester’s Mike Moore took advantage of the situation and threw a huge shoulder check to the unsuspecting Bergfors, sending the forward backward and down to the ice. Both Ryan Murphy and Stephen Gionta jumped Moore right after the hit, with Gionta quickly disengaging from the battle saving himself a possible third man in game misconduct.

The first period would be scoreless, but not for the lack of chances. WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss and Devils netminder Dave Caruso both made huge saves in the stanza. Worcester did get one past Caruso in the period, but referee Francois St. Laurent lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead.

The first period would end with an altercation that would result in a WorSharks power play to start the second. Riley Armstrong bumped Lowell center Brad Mills along the half boards to the left of Caruso just after the horn sounded. As Armstrong and Mills began shoving each other Devils enforcer Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, owner of the AHL's longest name, introduced himself to the situation. When the dust settled all three got roughing minors.

Worcester didn't convert with the man advantage, but continued to pressure Lowell as play stayed in the Devils end. With the long change Lowell couldn't get their penalty killers off, but the WorSharks were able to make a line change as they continued to pressure the tired Lowell defense.

That pressure would pay off when Claude Lemieux blasted a high laser from the top of the right face-off circle that Caruso just got his left shoulder on. The puck bounced his in the air and landed just shy of the goal line, where T.J. Fox was able to bang it home for his first goal in 14 games and the 1-0 lead at 2:28. Andrew Desjardins grabbed the second assist.

Lowell would tie the game at 1-1 just over two minutes later when Bergfors stole a clearing pass at the Worcester blueline and was hooked. As Anssi Salmela jumped off the bench as part of a line change Bergfors fed him the puck. Salmela fought off a Michael Wilson check and blasted a slapshot by Greiss.

The rest of the contest was played with a playoff intensity, with neither team gaining much of an advantage. Both goaltenders continued their stellar play throughout the game, and it looked like it would be headed to overtime when Brett Westgarth would shock the Devils with his first goal in a Worcester uniform.

After an icing call brought a face-off in the Devils zone, Matt Fornataro won the draw to Ryan Vesce. After dealing with some traffic Vesce fed Westgarth at the left point, who then blasted a laser through a Fornataro screen and off the far post and into the net for the 2-1 lead.

The Devils tried to pull Caruso several times over the last 90 seconds of the game, but Worcester’s tenacious forechecking kept the netminder on the ice. Caruso was finally able to make it to the bench, but Westgarth and Moore were able to keep the puck tied up in the corner as the clock ran out on the Devils.

Worcester’s line-up was unchanged from Friday’s tilt against Albany. The games are beginning to pile up for those on the WorSharks injury list. Cory Larose, who was expected to play this weekend, missed his ninth game with a concussion. Kyle McLaren has now missed 22 games with his hand injury caused by Steve Downey’s check from behind in the first Norfolk game. Mike Morris has missed 23 games with his concussion. Morris has played just 26 games in a Worcester jersey over a season and a half.

It was funny to watch the Devils forwards give Mike Moore a wide berth after Moore’s huge hit on Nicklas Bergfors. That allowed Moore’s defense partner Brett Westgarth to have some good opportunities to lay some hits on the Lowell puck carriers. While I did not keep track, there certainly seemed to be a lot more dump-ins than usually when that pairing was on the ice.

Referee Francois St. Laurent had a tough night as he officiated the game while suffering from flu-like symptoms. St. Laurent was obviously dragging behind the play as the game went on, and actually left the ice during a late third period radio break. He did return in time for play to restart after the break. At no point did his illness seem to affect the game, however.

The WorSharks hit the road for the next two weeks as the AHL All-Star game takes over the DCU Center. Prior to the start of the Lowell/Worcester game the two WorSharks representatives were presented with their All-Star jerseys. Ryan Vesce will be representing Worcester on the Planet-USA team wearing #16. It’s Vesce’s second appearance in the All-Star Classic. Derek Joslin was voted as a starter for Team Canada, and will wear #77. Joslin, currently in San Jose, is expected to return to Worcester for the All-Star game.

4+6=10 is an easy math problem, but it’s also what Vesce and Lukas Kaspar were on the homestand. Vesce had at least one point in every game, and Kaspar had points in six of seven.

The three starts of the game were:
1. Westgarth (gwg)
2. Greiss (21 saves)
3. Caruso (34 saves)
Honorable Mentions need to go to Mike Moore for his physical play and Jason Demers for a goal saving break-up after Greiss had made a great save on a 2v0 break-in.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Zalewski 1-2/6-0/3-0 = 10-2
Fenton 1-1/0-1/0-2 = 1-4
Vesce 1-0/1-0/0-1 = 2-1
Desjardins 3-0/2-2/1-1 = 6-3
Fornataro 2-0/1-0/0-0 = 3-0

Power Play
Zalewski 1-1/1-0/0-0 = 2-1
Armstrong 1-0/0-0/1-0 = 2-0
Vesce 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0
Lemieux 1-1/0-0/0-0 = 1-1

Penalty Kill
Vesce 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Desjardins 0-1/0-0/1-0 = 1-1
Armstrong 1-0/0-0/1-0 = 2-0
Kaspar 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Zalewski 0-0/0-0/1-1 = 1-1

LOW 0 1 0 - 1
WOR 0 1 1 - 2

1st Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - M. Spiller Low (slashing) 4:05, S. Gionta Low (unsportsmanlike conduct) 11:21, R. Murphy Low (fighting) 11:21, M. Moore Wor (fighting) 11:21, B. Buckley Wor (interference) 16:41, P. Letourneau-Leblond Low (roughing) 20:00, B. Mills Low (roughing) 20:00, R. Armstrong Wor (roughing) 20:00

2nd Period
Scoring - 1. Worcester, T. Fox (3) (A. Desjardins, C. Lemieux) 2:28, 2. Lowell, A. Salmela (6) (N. Bergfors) 4:37
Penalties - L. Kaspar Wor (slashing) 11:17, T. Fox Wor (holding) 13:39, P. Letourneau-Leblond Low (hooking) 19:09

3rd Period
Scoring - 3. Worcester, B. Westgarth (1) (R. Vesce, L. Kaspar) 18:24
Penalties - M. Spiller Low (interference) 8:24, M. Fornataro Wor (slashing) 10:53, P. Davis Low (hooking) 13:38

LOW Shots: 10 7 5 TOTAL: 22
WOR Shots: 12 12 12 TOTAL: 36

Power Play Conversion
Lowell Devils 0-4. Worcester Sharks 0-6.

Lowell Devils
Caruso 1-8-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:19 SV: 34 GA: 2 [L]

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 13-9-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 21 GA: 1 [W]

Attendance : 4530. Referee: Francois St. Laurent (38). Linesmen: Bob Paquette (18), Brian MacDonald (72)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Drown River Rats 4-1

The Worcester Sharks, behind three third period goals, outstanding goaltending by Thomas Greiss, and Claude Lemieux's return to his agitating ways, defeated the Albany River Rats 4-1 Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 3,109 fans.

Great special teams play by Worcester ruled the early parts of the first period as referee Nygel Pelletier whistled the WorSharks for four minor penalties in the opening stanza. Worcester would kill off all four minors, and would has several great scoring chances while shorthanded. The best was Jamie McGinn standing all alone at the far post, but Albany netminder Justin Peters just got just enough of his stick on shot to keep the game scoreless.

It was on a partial breakaway by Riley Armstrong that Albany would have their lone minor of the period called, and the ensuing power play would lead to an ESPN-worthy defensive highlight for Worcester. A bouncing puck ended up on the stick of Albany's Mike Angelidis in the neutral zone, who then took off on a breakaway against Greiss. Lukas Kaspar, who started almost a full zone away, caught the streaking Angelidis from behind and lifted his stick while stealing the puck away.

Worcester would get the game's first goal at 15:27 skating with an extra attacker as referee Pelletier was ready to call a delayed minor on Albany. As Armstrong jumped on to the ice to replace Greiss, Lemieux dumped the puck to the half board to the left of Peters. Andrew Desjardins grabbed on the loose puck and fired a shot on net that pinballed around before ending up behind Peters.

It looked to this writer that the puck hit T.J. Fox after it hit Albany defender Tim Conboy and then when in, but the goal was credited to Desjardins.

Albany would net their only goal of the game with just 56 seconds left in period number two on a very luck bounce. Jerome Samson would fire the puck along the glass and into the Worcester zone to the left of Greiss. The puck would fly the corner and hit a stanchion behind Greiss, bouncing back toward the front of the net. It would hit Greiss in the back of the leg and bounce into the net to knot the game 1-1.

While the shots in the third period were even at 11-11, Worcester would just about totally control the period.

Kaspar would add a game winning goal to his great defensive play on a 30' laser that Peters had no shot at stopping. The goal, at 4:41 of the third, was set up by a great diving pass by Matt Fornataro. Ryan Vesce threw the puck toward the slot just before getting blasted an Albany defender, and with the puck out of his reach Fornataro dove to beat the defense to the puck, sliding a great pass right in Kaspar's wheelhouse.

The WorSharks would get an insurance marker just a couple of minutes later on the power play when Kaspar found Fornataro standing all alone behind Peters to make it 3-1.

Albany head coach Jeff Daniels would pull Peters for an extra attacker with over two minutes to go in the contest, but any chance of a comeback was squashed by an Armstrong steal in the neutral zone for an unassisted empty netter to make the score its 4-1 final.

Worcester had no healthy scratches, and its injury list remains unchanged. Cory Larose is close to being ready to return from his concussion. Matt Jones, who had been playing with a football-style face mask as he recovered from a broken jaw, played his first game without the face mask. His play was significantly more physical without the mask than with it.

There's been no official confirmation from either San Jose or Worcester, but it appears that Torrey Mitchell will be making a rehab stint with the WorSharks some time in the near future. One would have to guess San Jose will not send him down next weekend as Worcester is on a 4 game/5 day road trip through the Mid-Atlantic teams. The weekend after sees road games in Springfield and Lowell, so that seems to be the more likely weekend.

Claude Lemieux returned to his roots Friday night, agitating every Albany player he could and playing his chippiest game since his return. Several times in the contest when it looked like Albany was gaining some momentum, Lemieux would skate a shift where he did what he used to do best--getting the opponent to focus on him instead of the game. Lemieux received a couple of standing ovations from the bench side of the arena after shifts.

After one of those Lemieux shifts, Frazer McLaren got into a Youtube-worthy fight with Albany Nicolas Blanchard. Both players landed huge bombs with both hands. Blanchard got the quantity, but McLaren got the quality in a battle that was one of the year's best.

If it weren't so sad it would be funny...Roy Sommer again got a mock cheer from a large portion of the crowd when he called his timeout, this time at 7:16 of the second period after the WorSharks were called for consecutive icing calls over a span of 90 seconds or so.

There were many VIPs in attendance, with Sharks scouting director Tim Burke and Dirk Graham in the crowd. With Carolina playing in Boston Saturday afternoon several members of the Hurricanes' front office were also in attendance, including General Manager Jim Rutherford. Todd Frederickson, who is the AHL's Vice President in charge of Team Business Services was in town as All Star preparations reach the home stretch.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Greiss (36 saves)
2. Kaspar (g,a)
3. Fornataro (g,a)
An Honorable Mention needs to go to Justin Peters (38 saves) and Claude Lemieux (overall play).

Even Strength Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Even Strength
Desjardins 2-0/5-5/2-1 = 9-6
Fenton 1-1/1-0/1-0 = 3-1
Zalewski 2-0/3-0/5-3 = 10-3
Vesce 1-3/2-2/3-1 = 6-6
Lemieux 1-1/0-0/0-1 = 2-1

Penalty Kill
Vesce 0-0/0-0/3-3 = 3-3
Zalewski 0-0/1-0/1-1 = 2-1
Fox 0-0/0-1/0-0 = 0-1

Power Play
Vesce 2-0/0-1/0-0 = 2-1
Fenton 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1

ALB 0 1 0 - 1
WOR 1 0 3 - 4

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Worcester, A. Desjardins (4) (C. Lemieux, M. Moore) 15:27
Penalties - M. Moore Wor (slashing) 4:24, L. Kaspar Wor (tripping) 10:40, M. Flood Alb (slashing) 12:30, P. Fenton Wor (tripping) 16:33, B. Buckley Wor (hooking) 17:13

2nd Period
Scoring - 2. Albany, J. Samson (8) (J. Paiement) 19:04 PP
Penalties - A. Desjardins Wor (tripping) 3:08, N. Blanchard Alb (fighting) 8:52, F. McLaren Wor (fighting) 8:52, J. McGinn Wor (slashing) 18:16

3rd Period
Scoring - 3. Worcester, L. Kaspar (9) (R. Vesce, M. Fornataro) 4:41, 4. Worcester, M. Fornataro (3) (L. Kaspar, S. Zalewski) 6:44 PP, 5. Worcester, R. Armstrong (15) 17:52 EN
Penalties - J. Melichar Alb (tripping) 5:55, B. Carson Alb (hooking) 13:16, Served by R. Weston Alb (bench minor - too many men) 19:58

ALB Shots: 14 12 11 TOTAL: 37
WOR Shots: 18 13 11 TOTAL: 42

Power Play Conversion
Albany River Rats 1-6. Worcester Sharks 1-4.

Albany River Rats
Peters 6-13-2 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:51 SV: 38 GA: 3 [L]

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 12-9-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:42 SV: 36 GA: 1 [W]

Attendance : 3109. Referee: Nygel Pelletier (41). Linesmen: Hans Baker (67), Paul Simeon (66)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

San Jose Sharks hold on for 5-3 win over last place New York Islanders, leapfrog Boston for 1st place in the NHL, home point streak reaches 21 games

San Jose Sharks New York Islanders NHL hockey photo
NHL hockey fight Alexei Semenov vs Tim Jackman photo
NHL hockey fight Alexei Semenov vs Tim Jackman photo

More notes on the San Jose Sharks 5-3 win over the New York Islanders will be posted soon. Video highlights from the game are available here. A limited photo gallery from the game is available here.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Chomp Devils 3-2

The Worcester Sharks, behind Riley Armstrong's second game winning goal in 24 hours, defeated the Lowell Devils 3-2 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts Saturday night in front of 5,082 fans.

Earlier this season the WorSharks had a tendency to give up early goals, and then would battle back through sheer will to pull out victories. It happened so often that Worcester never seems to panic when they give up the game's first goal, always confident they can recover. And like Friday night against Norfolk, the WorSharks found themselves down 1-0 early.

Former Worcester IceCats forward and San Jose Sharks draft pick Jon DiSalvatore would grab that opening goal at 4:15 of the first period. The Devils would take advantage of numbers with Andrew Desjardins playing without a stick, with defenseman Tyler Eckford skating in to the circle to the left of Worcester goaltender Thomas Greiss and feeding DiSalvatore wide open in the slot. DiSalvatore would beat Greiss clean to the high stick side from 15 feet for Lowell's only lead of the night.

With Worcester carrying the play for the rest of the opening stanza--they would eventually out shoot Lowell 16-5 in the period--Lowell netminder Jeff Frazee would make several big saves to keep his team in the lead. The WorSharks would finally get one past Frazee with 48 seconds left in the period after Brett Westgarth boomed a slapshot wide to the left of Frazee. The rebound would come right to Lukas Kaspar standing all alone at the far post. Kaspar literally slam dunked it into the yawning open net to knot the game at 1-1.

The assist was Westgarth's second in as many games, and his third of the season. Ryan Vesce grabbed the second assist, extending his points streak to four games. Vesce is making a strong statement to be a representative for Worcester in the AHL All-Star Classic taking place at the DCU Center by tallying 23 points (10g,13a) in his last 19 games.

Lowell began the second period pressing Worcester at every opportunity as the teams spent most of the early parts of the second period in the WorSharks zone. After being trapped in their own zone for over a minute, the WorSharks were forced to ice the puck. Being unable to change lines after the icing, Lowell again trapped Worcester in its own zone for over 30 more seconds before before Claude Lemieux intercepted a pass and flipped the puck into the neutral zone.

Lemieux took one look at the Worcester bench and saw there was no one between he and the Lowell net, so as fast as his gassed 43 year old legs could carry him, Lemieux took off for the puck and outraced Lowell defenseman Matthew Spiller three zones, beating Frazee 5-hole for the 2-1 lead.

Worcester would extend its lead to 3-1 when Riley Armstrong took the puck off the half boards to the left of Frazee and skated out toward the slot, beating Frazee with a wicked low wrist shot through traffic.

There is just about nothing worse in hockey than surrendering a goal in the waining seconds of a period, and Worcester did just that with Lowell on the power play as DiSalvatore hit a wide open Nicklas Bergfors with a cross crease pass with just 2.4 second showing on the clock to get Lowell back within a goal at 3-2.

But that was as close as Lowell would get as Greiss and the Worcester defense totally shutdown the Devils offense for the 3-2 final.

The scratches for Worcester remain unchanged from Friday's game against Norfolk, with P.J. Fenton being the only health scratch.

After starting the season on fire, Steven Zalewski has gone almost ice cold. For the first time in his pro career Zalewski was held shot less in consecutive games, and he has gone pointless in his last five games. Zalewski also hasn't scored a goal in nine games dating back to December 13th.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Armstrong (gwg)
2. DiSalvatore (g,a)
3. Greiss (18 saves)v Honorable mention needs to go to Claude Lemieux for his highlight goal and Jeff Frazee (34 saves) for keeping the Devils in the contest early on.

Prior to the WorSharks/Devils game, the Worcester Sharks held the First Annual High School Hockey Clash Between the Auburn Rockets and Hudson Hawks. The game ended in a 1-1 tie as Hudson's Jeff Derby scored late in the first period, and Auburn's Trevor Standring getting the tying tally with just two minutes remaining in the contest. The Worcester Sharks will also be hosting the Second Annual High School Hockey Classic between the St. Peter-Marian Guardians and the St. John’s Pioneers on January 31 before the WorSharks/San Antonio Rampage tilt at the DCU Center.

LOW 1 1 0 - 2
WOR 1 2 0 - 3

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Lowell, J. DiSalvatore (10) (T. Eckford, M. Fraser) 4:15, 2. Worcester, L. Kaspar (7) (R. Vesce, B. Westgarth) 19:12
Penalties - M. Fornataro Wor (hooking) 1:30, M. Corrente Low (roughing) 6:55, M. Fraser Low (roughing) 6:55, B. Westgarth Wor (roughing, roughing) 6:55

2nd Period
Scoring - 3. Worcester, C. Lemieux (3) 4:59, 4. Worcester, R. Armstrong (14) (M. Wilson, J. McGinn) 8:46, 5. Lowell, N. Bergfors (7) (J. DiSalvatore, M. Swift) 19:57 PP
Penalties - O. Magnan Low (holding) 16:18, M. Moore Wor (tripping) 19:02

3rd Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - M. Spiller Low (boarding) 0:48, P. Letourneau-Leblond Low (high-sticking) 8:32, R. Armstrong Wor (high-sticking) 8:32

LOW Shots: 5 11 4 TOTAL: 20
WOR Shots: 16 12 9 TOTAL: 37

Power Play Conversion
Lowell Devils 1-2. Worcester Sharks 0-2.

Lowell Devils
Frazee 9-6-2 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 58:46 SV: 34 GA: 3 [L]

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 11-9-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 18 GA: 2 [W]

Attendance : 5082. Referee: Chris Cozzan (68). Linesmen: Mark Messier (12), Bob Paquette (18)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Sink Admirals, 5-1

The Worcester Sharks, behind Riley Armstrong's first professional hat trick, defeated the Norfolk Admirals 5-1 in a fight-filled contest Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 3,174 fans.

Norfolk would grab their lone goal halfway through the first period after trapping the WorSharks fourth line in their own zone. As Worcester began to break down defensively, Chris Gratton fed Mike Lundin at the blue line for a one-timer that beat WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss clean to the glove side for the 1-0 lead.

Both Lundin and Gratton are playing in the AHL for the first time after stints in the NHL. Gratton has played 1,086 games over 15 seasons for six different NHL franchises, including three different stints with Tampa Bay, before being assigned to Norfolk on December 9th. Lundin had gone straight to the NHL from the University of Maine and played 106 games for the Lightning before being sent down on December 13th.

Worcester would get the equalizer on the power play at 18:58 of the opening period when defenseman Michael Wilson blasted a low slapshot to the far post that Admirals goaltender Mike McKenna handled easily. The rebound went right to the tape of Armstrong, who buried it to knot the game at 1-1.

With just six seconds left in the period and the teams lined up in the neutral zone for a face-off, Norfolk's Brent Henley and Worcester's Frazer McLaren began to jaw at each other. Just as the puck was dropped the two went at it, but the fight was cut short when Henley lost his footing just a few seconds into the struggle.

Not to be outdone, and while Steve Downie and Andrew Desjardins continued jawing at each other on the benches after almost dropping them in the previous shift, Brad Staubitz and Jay Rosehill dropped the gloves just two seconds after play resumed. It was a true main-event type battle, with each player landing several clean shots with both hands. Rosehill gets the edge because of a cut over the right eye of Staubitz, but without the cut the fight would have been just about dead even.

Downie would earn himself a ten minute misconduct from the bench during the fight.

Worcester hasn't gotten too many bounces going their way in the last month or so, but their number came up several times Friday night with each one resulting in a goal.

The first would happen 2:47 into period number two when a Desjardins feed would send Armstrong down the right side. Armstrong would put a fairly easy shot on McKenna, who deflected the rebound off to his left and behind the goal. Armstrong would get to the puck first and nearly fanned on the bouncing puck, getting just enough of the puck to get it moving toward the slot. As the puck bounced along it hit the back of McKenna's left skate, which had come off the post, and just over the goal line for the 2-1 lead.

Matt Fornataro would make it 3-1 on another odd bounce goal. Fornataro would fire a high blast that McKenna deflected with his blocker off the end glass. The puck would bounce directly back at McKenna, landing on top of the net. The puck would bounce off and hit McKenna in the back, rolling into the net.

Worcester would put the proverbial knife in the back of Norfolk with a shorthanded goal with just 34 seconds left in the second period. Greiss would send a lose puck over to Desjardins, who streaked down the right side. Desjardins threw a centering pass across the slot that a Norfolk defender just got a piece of. Ryan Vesce managed to get just enough of the puck on his backhand to propel it along the ice toward the net, where it banked off the right post and in for the 4-1 lead.

Armstrong would net his third of the game on the power play when he pounced on a lose puck and pushed it into the net from a scrum in front of the Norfolk net and with Riku Helenius, who had replaced McKenna to start the third period, down and out at 16:40 of the third.. The power play was a result of Helenius slashing Matt Jones in the head after Jones and Helenius collided while Helenius tried to make a save. Jones was uninjured.

With Norfolk down 5-1, it was only a matter of time before tempers flared again between the two teams. According to the scoreboard, it was "no time", as just as the linesman dropped the puck to begin play after the Armstrong goal, opposing centers Blair Jones and T.J. Fox went at, with Fox retreating to his blueline before standing his ground. Fox isn't a fighter at all, but he acquitted himself well in battle against his larger opponent.

It would take just five seconds for the next fight, and it was one that was definitely going to happen at some point. After the face off Downie slashed Desjardins, and they both dropped the gloves and began throwing bombs at each other. Downey is a much better fighter than Desjardins and got the better of the two early in the fight, but Desjardins got the sweater over Downey's head, and with the linesmen trying to separate them, landed shot after shot at the defenseless Downie.

Even with the linesmen trying to break up the altercation, neither player was willing to stop fighting. It took Admirals captain Zenon Konopka coming over to Downie to get him to stop fighting, and order was soon restored. Both Downie and Desjardins were given game misconducts.

Worcester would be on the power play for much of the games last 3 minutes with Norfolk being called for two minors in addition to Downey's slashing penalty. WorSharks fans were ready to jump out of their seats as Armstrong fired a slapshot at a yawning open net, but an absolutely incredible save by Helenius kept the score at its 5-1 final.

P.J. Fenton was the only healthy scratch for the WorSharks. The injury list remains unchanged, with Kyle McLaren (hand), Mike Morris (concussion), and Cory Larose (concussion) all on the injured list. Defenseman Derek Joslin was recalled to San Jose prior to the game, and winger Jamie McGinn was reassigned back to Worcester.

Former San Jose defensive prospect Ty Wishart was recalled to Tampa Bay Friday afternoon. Wishart and Matt Carle, along with draft picks, were traded to Tampa Bay for defenseman Dan Boyle. With Wishart's recall Norfolk dressed only 17 skaters, and had only four natural defensemen.

Worcester fans got a scare when Armstrong went hard into the end board heels first early in the third period. After being tended to by the training staff he had to be helped off the ice, and after a few moments of sitting on the end of the bench walked to the locker room under his own power. He missed a couple of shifts but returned no worse for wear.

Worcester finished the home portion of the four game series against Norfolk at 2-0, winning the first contest on November 16 by a 4-3 score. The two teams will play twice in Norfolk, on January 16th and 17th. Considering the two games at the DCU Center, those two games should be very physical affairs. Bookending those games are trips to Philadelphia and Hershey. That will be a very interesting four game stretch for the WorSharks.

Referee David Banfield had two pretty bad calls during the game. He called Armstrong for slashing at 16:28 of the first after Armstrong played a waist high clearing attempt and his stick hit a Norfolk Admiral forward in the arm. The only was that can be called a slash is if the referee thinks it's not a play at the puck. That fact Armstrong hit the puck should have made his intention clear. He also called Claude Lemieux for tripping after Lemieux knocked a puck carrier over with his shoulder.

The three stars of the game were
1. Armstrong (hat trick)
2. Vesce (g,a)
3. Greiss (27 saves, assist)
My ballot was Armstrong, Vesce, and Desjardins (3a)

Because of the scrum in front of the net on what was Armstrong's third goal it was initially unknown who scored the goal, so no hats were thrown on the ice. When he skated on the ice after being announced as the game's first star, several hats rained down on the ice in celebration.

Even Strength Lines

Traverse, Buckley, Demers, and Wilson all played in various combinations.

Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


Faceoffs (offense/nuetral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Even Strength
Zalewski 2-3/3-2/0-1 = 5-6
Dasjardins 1-3/3-4/1-0 = 5-7
Vesce 3-1/1-1/3-3 = 7-5
Fox 0-1/2-0/1-0 = 3-1
Fornataro 0-0/0-1/1-0 = 1-1
Lemieux 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1

Penalty Kill
Vesce 0-0/0-1/2-1 = 2-2
Zalewski 0-0/3-0/2-1 = 5-1

Power Play Lines
Vesce 1-2/0-0/0-0 = 1-2
Armstrong 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0
Zalewski 1-1/0-0/0-0 = 1-1

NOR 1 0 0 - 1
WOR 1 3 1 - 5

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Norfolk, M. Lundin (1) (C. Gratton, B. Henley) 13:25, 2. Worcester, R. Armstrong (11) (M. Wilson, L. Kaspar) 18:58 PP
Penalties - R. Armstrong Wor (hooking) 0:32, G. Potulny Nor (high-sticking) 16:23, R. Armstrong Wor (slashing) 16:28, B. Henley Nor (fighting) 19:54, F. McLaren Wor (fighting) 19:54, S. Downie Nor (misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct 75.4) 19:56, J. Rosehill Nor (fighting) 19:56, B. Staubitz Wor (fighting) 19:56

2nd Period
Scoring - 3. Worcester, R. Armstrong (12) (A. Desjardins, B. Westgarth) 2:47, 4. Worcester, M. Fornataro (2) (R. Vesce, P. Traverse) 14:37, 5. Worcester, R. Vesce (11) (A. Desjardins, T. Greiss) 19:26 SH
Penalties - L. Kaspar Wor (holding) 18:04

3rd Period
Scoring - 6. Worcester, R. Armstrong (13) (A. Desjardins, C. Lemieux) 16:40 PP
Penalties - M. Moore Wor (roughing) 5:35, Z. Konopka Nor (tripping) 5:46, C. Lemieux Wor (tripping) 6:43, M. Curadeau Nor (hooking) 11:58, R. Helenius Nor (slashing) 15:36, B. Jones Nor (fighting) 16:40, T. Fox Wor (fighting) 16:40, S. Downie Nor (slashing, fighting, game misconduct - persisting a fight 47.5) 16:45, A. Desjardins Wor (fighting, game misconduct - persisting a fight 47.5) 16:45, C. Lawrence Nor (slashing) 17:31, Z. Konopka Nor (hooking) 18:17

NOR Shots: 9 12 7 TOTAL: 28
WOR Shots: 11 8 12 TOTAL: 31

Power Play Conversion
Norfolk Admirals 0-5. Worcester Sharks 2-6.

Norfolk Admirals
McKenna 6-8-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 39:58 SV: 15 GA: 4 [L]
Helenius 0-0-0 Start: 3rd 0:00 Min: 20:00 SV: 11 GA: 1

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 10-9-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:56 SV: 27 GA: 1 [W]

Attendance : 3174. Referee: David Banfield (44). Linemen: Bob Bernard (4), Chris Millea (33)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Winter Classic II offers a deep dish slice of hockey at Wrigley Field, Detroit Red Wings overpower Chicago Blackhawks 6-4

Chicago Sun Times front page Winter Classic cover
Chicago Tribune Winter Classic Blackhawks Detroit Red Wings front page

More from the Winter Classic II and Detroit's 6-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field will be posted soon. Many fans tuned in to the second annual Winter Classic on New Year's Day to see two of the top Western Conference teams battle for Central Division playoff position. Many tuned in hoping to see 40,000+ fans battle snow and the intense winds off Lake Michigan. Many recooperating souls simply wanted a brief respite from college football bowl fatigue. What all of them witnessed was a special moment for the National Hockey League as the Detroit Red Wings earned a 6-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at historic Wrigley Field. It was a day where the players, fans and media all returned to hockey's roots, and the audience at home had the opportunity to watch 60 minutes of the sport as it was meant to be played.

After a dominant first period by the Chicago Blackhawks, the visiting Detroit Red Wings responded to the 3-1 deficit with 5 unanswered goals. Jiri Hudler scored twice and added an assist, and the defending Stanley Cup Champions also received goals from Pavel Datsyuk, and defenseman Brian Rafalski and Brett Lebda. After Lebda scored early in the third period, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Christobal Huet was pulled in favor of Nikolia Khabibulin. Heritage Classic and Winter Classic I veteran Ty Conklin stopped 33 of 37 shots for Detroit, and looked sharp in goal on the first and third base sides. Conklin boosted his outdoor NHL record to 2-1 with the New Year's Day win.

The season opening broadcast on NBC contained the requisite blimp areil shots, but was short on atmosphere from the crowd, local bars and the surrounding roof top viewing parties. The hand-flipped scoreboard treated the Wings and Hawks like a three inning baseball game, and a group including Bobby Hull, Denis Savard and Stan Mikita among others sang an off-key Harry Carey version of "Take me out to the hockey game". The fans at Wrigley appeared girded up for the cold weather, and as usual the best vignettes come directly from them via blog coverage, flickr photos and youtube videos.

It was also an opportunity for the mainstream media to ramp up coverage for the once-a-year event. The Chicago Sun Times published a beautiful 2-page cover photo of the Winter Classic for today's paper. Online, the Sun Times posted a photo gallery and a special section covering the event.

[Update] Red Wings spoil Blackhawks' fun outdoors - Chicago Tribune.

[Update2] Cold fact: It was special. Only the score missed the mark -- not surprising at Wrigley - Chicago Sun Times.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Interview with's David Migdal on winning the Winter Classic contest Winter Classic Contest winner

Last week during the Sharks 5-0 win over Vancouver,'s David Migdal won the Winter Classic Contest for tickets, hotel and airfare to today's outdoor game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. David has posted photo galleries and short recaps on Inside Hockey from the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks games.

After talking about the Winter Classic for much of the Vancouver Canucks game, I asked David a few questions about winning the contest, his background in hockey, and what he expects the outdoor game conditions to be like.

[Q] Where are you from before moving to San Jose, and what hockey teams did you follow before the Sharks in the NHL, Canada or Germany?

[DM] Born in Munich Germany to Russian parents. At 6 months old we moved to Calgary, Alberta. Saw my first pro-hockey game in the Saddledome in '84. At 10 years old we moved back to Germany. 1988 is when I got my first taste of Team Canada hockey and this was the start of my now lengthy, and permanent, love affair with Team Canada hockey. Team Canada hockey above all else.

In 1990 we left Germany and moved to Toronto, Ontario and my first strong connection to a pro-hockey team developed with the local Maple Leafs squad. While watching games at the Maple Leaf Gardens, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark became my first hockey idols. Over the course of 3 years, staring in '95 I moved to California and then back to Toronto, only to end up back in California. In 1997 I went to SoCal to study in University. I was the only student up at 3am in the dorms watching the Nagano Olympics.

After I finished school I returned to NorCal and began to follow the San Jose Sharks. Traveling and moving as much as I did in my life (13 different schools from Grade 1 to end of high school) I began to get used to adjusting to the local culture & customs of whatever place I was living in at the time.

[Q] How long have you been following the Sharks? How would you rate this team among past Sharks teams you have watched?

[DM] I have been a Sharks fan since the '99-'00 season. This season's roster is without a doubt the deepest and most talented Sharks team in franchise history. I also however think that the potential of this years team (looking purely at the talent and not who is behind the bench) is virtually the same as it has been, for the past 3 seasons.

[Q] How did you find out about winning the Winter Classic contest on, and what was included in the prize package? Who is going to the game with you?

[DM] I got a call from the Sharks organization and the gentleman calling asked me if I had ever won anything before? I was perplexed by the question and I was absolutely not thinking about the fact that I had entered the contest just a few days earlier, so I asked him: "What do you mean?". To my complete and happy surprise he replied saying that I had just won the Sharks Winter Classic contest.

The prize package includes 2 tickets to the game, 2 nights at a hotel and $500 in airline gift cards. My best friend Dylan, who will be coming from Toronto, will be joining me.

[Q] What are your rough plans for the day of the Winter Classic? Is there one thing in Chicago or one thing at Wrigley you want to see?

[DM] On Jan. 1st, I hope that we wake up without needing the assistance of too many Tylenols, since we will likely have rung in the New Year nice & proper just a few hours earlier. I am still finalizing the details of the pre & post game festivities but I plan to be seeing, eating & drinking in everything hockey, the entire time. I really want to do some tailgating before the game and meet some people from Chicago in the process.

I will be wearing a Sharks jersey (over a winter coat of course) as well as a Sharks toque, so I will be representing San Jose the entire time. I hope to show people in colder states that hockey in San Jose has a strong & dedicated following and that the team has a good hockey home over there on the West Coast. Once inside the stadium, just seeing the rink in the infield of Wrigley Field will be a unique sight all on its own. I do hope we get to see some snow fall during the game since that will only add to the incredible experience and make the memory that much more special. In the end, its all about the hockey. Being able to see this type of back to basics hockey game live is the only reason why I am trekking all the way out to Chicago.

[Q] The wind chill off of Lake Michigan can be intense. What do you expect for temperature and wind conditions? How do you think that will effect the teams on the ice?

[DM] Conditions will likely be similar to the weather we saw at last years Classic. Temperature hovering around 32-degrees, strong Chicago winds and a good snowfall. I imagine that the words 'it will be freezing' will be an understatement.

Having likely not played on outdoor ice for at least a decade, most players will likely go through a hefty learning curve with the ice, just like we saw last year. Bad passes and a lot of turnovers will likely define the 1st period. Bad ice will affect everyone and everything. As the game goes on however and the players adjust their game to it, we should start seeing good hockey during the 2nd. I want to think that the Wings will struggle with the ice conditions because a lot of their game depends on fast transitions and heavy puck movement. That system, technically needs good ice conditions for all that crisp passing. If the temperature starts to drop and fluctuate, the ice will get choppy, holes will form and wet snow will accumulate more. This will make everything from skating to bringing the puck up the ice and having it stay on the blade, much more difficult.

It seems like the Red Wings would be more affected & bothered by the reduction in smooth play. I could see them having difficulty making adjustments and I like to think that this will cause them problems. I hope the young Hawks squad approaches the change in conditions with less fear & concern than the Red Wings and I hope it leads to them being able to bring that extra bit of energy & strength required to control the puck more, from the start of the game. If the Hawks can get comfortable with the conditions before the Red Wings, I hope that this will allow them to develop enough of a lead in order to make it a good battle towards the end of the game.

Live View of the rink by Wrigley WebCam - delayed by 15 min:

[Q] Any predictions for the game?

[DM] I see the Hawks surprising some people and leading early on in the game and putting up a good fight. I hope the Hawks will win but the Wings will likely pull it out at the end.

[Update] Good friend of the blog Eric McErlain is attending the Winter Classic game for AOL Fanhouse. Eric posted the video above from yesterday from Wrigley Field. Also check his youtube channel for several video interviews. More on the Winter Classic will be posted soon.

San Jose Sharks 3 game capsule: 3-2 overtime New Year's Eve loss to Minnesota Wild drops San Jose to 1-0-2 for road trip

NHL shift chart San Jose Sharks vs Minnesota Wild

- Minnesota (18-16-2, 4th Northwest) was a franchise in trouble. Dropping 10 of its last 13 games and losing franchise right wing Marion Gaborik to a nebulous injury, passionate Minnesota Wild hockey fans have reduced themselves to booing their own team. Often.

A 3-2 overtime win over San Jose on New Year's Eve would offer a brief solace to the green masses. Former Sharks captain Owen Nolan asked to play against his former team, despite being less than 100%. Nolan returned from a 10-game absence and promptly opened the scoring on a first period power play with a deflection on a Brent Burns shot from the point. Nolan finished with 18:37 of total ice time, 3+ minutes on the power play, 1 goal (his 6th), 4 shots, and 1 death stare after sticks got up in front of the net.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was mixing lines trying to generate energy on the back end of a 3-game road trip, as well as trying to work Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek back into form after their return from injuries. The result was the return of the impressive Marleau-Thornton-Cheechoo combination and a second line of Michalek-Pavelski-Clowe. Setoguchi was cycled in and out of the top two lines, and rookie Jamie McGinn skated at times with as many as 7 other forwards.

One of the keys to the season has been the work ethic across all 4 forward lines, and in the second period it was San Jose again pressing the action and outshooting Minnesota 16-11. A bizarre penalty was called on Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom. He held onto a save too long in his glove, and the referees called a "Delaying Game-Smothering Puck" penalty on him at 10:44. With 6 seconds left on the power play against the top rated penalty kill in the NHL, Setoguchi circled behind the net and then snapped a shot from in front that beat Backstrom clean. There was not a Minnesota Wild player within 7 feet of Setoguchi.

Minnesota was not getting bounces early in the game. A hit post in the first was followed by a disallowed goal by Andrew Brunette and another hit post in the second. When Evgeni Nabokov gloved a point shot and held onto it to force a faceoff, the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center got on the refs hard for not calling a bizarre penalty on him. Noticeable on the Fox Sports North broadcast (the game was not televised in San Jose) was an ample number of Sharks fans in the crowd. A large group chanted and thumped the Sharks logo behind the Minnesota broadcasters during the first intermission, and there was another directly behind head coach Jacques Lemaire on the Wild bench. A handful of Sharks fans held up Marleau and Michalek jerseys behind the post-game show as well as unintelligible Jonathan Cheechoo signs. Ship some of those Minnesota Sharks fans out to San Jose for the playoffs.

The gameplan was pretty clear for Minnesota against the Sharks. Score early, then lock it down defensively and clog up the neutral zone. It did not work after Nolan's first goal, but a Joe Thornton goaltending interference penalty at 12:41 offered another opportunity late in the third. It worked as Minnesota scored twice on the same shift. San Jose looked flat footed on the penalty kill. Center Krys Kolanos appeared to rocket another shot off the crossbar for Minnesota, but seconds later he set up James Sheppard from behind the net for a point blank goal. A replay showed that the initial Kolanos point shot deflected off the back netting, not the crossbar. Goal Kolanos. He has two goals on the season, both against San Jose. Minnesota announcer "I want them both".

Nabokov was pulled with 1:15 left, and the Sharks responded with strong pressure in the final minute of the third period. With the extra attacker three successive scoring chances were created by Thornton on the right half wall. The third was the charm as he found an open Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the far side, who snapped a quick shot on Backstrom. Milan Michalek picked the rebound out of a scrum and slid a backhand home for his 9th goal of the season at 19:34. There would be overtime.

Minnesota center Mikko Koivu drove into the Sharks zone in OT, pulled up and hit Brent Burns at the point. A rocket of a shot by Burns snuck under the crossbar for the game winner 1:38 into overtime. The 3-2 OT loss gives San Jose 4 out of a possible 6 points on the 3-game road trip, and boosts the overall record to 28-4-5, one point ahead of the Boston Bruins for 1st place in the NHL. Niklas Backstrom earned his 17th win stopping 32 of 34 shots. Evgeni Nabokov finished with 29 saves on 31 shots. Jody Shelley dropped the gloves Derek Boogard in the first period. Boogard could be the top heavyweight enforcer in the game today. According to SJ Mercury beat writer Dan Pollak, defenseman Douglas Murray was held out of the game after suffering a leg injury against Dallas.

Minnesota blogs Minnesota State of Hockey and Hockey Wilderness were not high on the Wild's chances prior to gametime. Star Tribune beat writer Michael Russo blasted the talent level of the Minnesota roster, and suggested that a less than stellar performance this season may not be a bad thing from a draft and develop standpoint. In a long blog rant, Russo also questioned whether Gaborik is not playing due to injury or holding out for another undetermined reason. He asked to speak with Gaborik four times, and was denied. Russo also explained that many inside the organization were not happy with his criticism, but he felt he owed an honest account to his readership.

NHL shift chart San Jose Sharks vs Dallas Stars

Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek and Ryane Clowe scored and Evgeni Nabokov turned in a sparkling 28 save performance en route to a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Monday. The Sharks lacked intensity in the first two periods, but Evgeni Nabokov was focused and combative in one of his best performances of the season.

Matt Niskanen initially had the Stars lone third period goal waived off, but replays showed 6-foot-6 defenseman Alexei Semenov tipped the puck out of the air and into the net with his hand. With his glove raised high above his head when he made contact, the puck changed directions and beat Nabokov far side. As the referees were deliberating, the Dallas Stars crowd stood on its feet chanting "goal, goal, goal" while pointing towards center ice. Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe combined for two key blocked shots late in the third period to keep Dallas from tightening the game.

In the second intermission, San Jose assistant coach Trent Yawney mentioned that poor "puck management" has contributed to the Sharks recent inconsistent play. Specifically the decision making by the defense when carrying the puck out of its own zone. The quick transition game for the Sharks is sparked from the defense, and if Blake, Boyle, Ehrhoff or Vlasic have trouble moving the puck up ice the offensive attack bogs down in the neutral zone.

Including the Dallas game, the Sharks power play has connected only 4 times in its last 26 opportunities. The penalty kill has held opponents scoreless in 23 straight opportunities. Against Dallas, the Sharks had to kill off 3 late penalties on Cheechoo for interference on Stephane Robidas, Blake for delay of game, and Boyle for closing his hand on the puck. Short handed, Stephane Robidas hooked Patrick Marleau drawing a penalty shot. With a slow pace, Marleau tried to snap a shot under the arm of Turco but the Dallas goaltender was there for the save.

According to David Pollak, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was a healthy scratch for the game after his performance against St Louis.

NHL shift chart San Jose Sharks vs Dallas Stars

More soon.