Sharks, Avs battling for playoff spot

Mar 26 2012 - 3:55pm

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- As if the playoff stakes are not enough for the Sharks these days, Monday night's game at HP Pavilion features an added layer of competitive one-upmanship.

San Jose and the Colorado Avalanche -- each with 86 points -- are facing each other for the first time since the Feb. 27 trade that brought Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi to San Jose in exchange for Jamie McGinn.

The Avalanche has fared slightly better than the Sharks since then, going 7-4-2 while San Jose went 6-5-3. But look only at the points each player has earned with his new team, and the deal appears pretty one-sided.

McGinn has eight goals, including two game-winners, and four assists with Colorado. Winnik has a goal in each of the past two games--one of them a game-winner as well--but only one assist as a Shark beyond that. Galiardi, who has been sidelined for five games with an upper body injury, is scoreless in his eight as a Shark.

Still, the Sharks stress that any judgment should go beyond goals and assists, that teams are the sum of their parts and that a new line featuring Winnik, Tommy Wingels and Andrew Desjardins is now starting to show potential.

However things play out, don't think that Winnik winced each time McGinn scored for the Avalanche.

"I can't control that," Winnik said after Sunday's practice. "No one can control that. I'm not going, 'Geez, he's got this many goals.' I can't think like that."

What Winnik can think about is how his new line was rewarded for its efforts against Phoenix with more ice time than the one above it in the depth chart, how his two timely goals have helped the Sharks earn four critical points--and how he can help prepare his new team to face his old team.

He knows there are few secrets in the NHL, but he draws an NFL analogy to the situation he finds himself in.

"It's kind of an inside look at it," Winnik said. "Almost a sense like in football you'll see a team right before playoffs sign someone off the practice squad of the team they're playing because they know their schemes."

The deal seemed to catch the Sharks' locker room by surprise. McGinn struggled badly at times last season but seemed to find his game in the 2011 playoffs with a series of heavy hits in the Los Angeles and Vancouver series.

This year, he had 12 goals in 61 games before being traded--a respectable enough total considering his role.

Still, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson indicated, consistency was an issue -- and not just on the scoresheet. The day before the trade deadline, for example, Logan Couture was sidelined by three hard hits in Minnesota and nobody came to the rescue -- a role that sometimes fell to McGinn.

With Marty Havlat getting healthy and Wingels showing improved play, Wilson made the deal for what he considered to be more consistent players -- both defensively and on the penalty kill.

Todd McLellan won't talk about what McGinn has accomplished in Colorado, but he will assess the players on his roster now.

"We look at the assets that came here and what they're capable of doing," the coach said. "I believe we're starting to see some real good signs from Daniel Winnik."

McLellan mentions Winnik's size and strength along the boards as well as the timeliness--if not the quantity--of his goals.

"He's not a 25-goal scorer. We're well aware of that, and he knows that, too," McLellan said. "But the goals he does score are big goals, and our penalty kill has been fairly strong since he's been here, and he's been a big part of that. He's a utility guy."

The upper body injury to Galiardi came just as he was getting more comfortable in his new surroundings.

"Galiardi is an energy player. He has a rat factor to him--and I mean that respectfully--but he can get under the other team's skin," McLellan said. "We haven't been able to see that because of his injury."

By the end of the week, Galiardi could be healthy enough to return to the lineup. And he does regret not getting the chance to face his ex-teammates.

"Obviously I want to play against them, but you have to look at it long term and you want to take care of yourself and get ready for playoffs, when it matters," he said.

The Shark hit hardest when McGinn was traded had to be Couture. The two were junior hockey teammates with the Ottawa 67s as well as in San Jose. They continue to talk almost daily and planned to have dinner together Sunday night.

Couture acknowledges mixed emotions over McGinn's success with the Avalanche.

"He's one of my better friends, so it's good to see," the Sharks' leading goal-scorer said. But "obviously we're battling those guys to get into the playoffs, so it is a little tough to see him do well."

 

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