Sharks head into All-Star break on best roll in 5 years
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) After an up-and-down start to the season, the San Jose Sharks head into the All-Star break on quite the roll.
Led by a rejuvenated Joe Thornton, All-Stars Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns and newcomer goalie Martin Jones, the Sharks have earned at least a point in 10 straight games heading into the break for their longest point streak in five years - when they made their last trip to the conference finals.
''When you're playing this good you don't want a break,'' Thornton said. ''You just want to play every other day like we've been doing because you feel so good. We've been playing a lot of minutes. If the guys use the rest the right way we'll be fine coming out of the break.''
The Sharks will enjoy six days off before starting a four-game road trip in Anaheim next Tuesday. They will come back in second place in the Pacific Division, thanks to an 8-0-2 stretch that vaulted them up from sixth place and is the best run for the team since going 9-0-1 from Jan. 15, 2011, to Feb. 9, 2011.
After missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 2003, the Sharks are once again a contender in the Western Conference.
''We put ourselves in a decent spot, have some momentum,'' forward Tommy Wingels said. ''Obviously can climb in our division a bit, but go to the break feeling good about yourselves. Then you go from there.''
It was an odd start to the first season under coach Peter DeBoer as the Sharks struggled to generate any consistent play at home but were outstanding on the road. San Jose lost 12 of the first 17 games at the usually imposing Shark Tank but offset that with a perfect six-game road trip in November and other good stretches away from home.
Injuries to center Logan Couture, who missed 30 games with two lower-body ailments, and shorter stints that forced the team to play without one of its top defensemen for eight games hindered the Sharks.
''I think the personnel setbacks played a role in that,'' DeBoer said. ''I don't think it was the guys getting the hang of the system. That came pretty quickly. I think not having a full roster but also how key the pieces were that were missing played a role in that.''
But with the team mostly healthy in January, DeBoer made a key lineup change that has helped spark this recent run. He moved the inconsistent Tomas Hertl to the top line with Thornton and Pavelski, where he has shined with six goals and five assists during the 10-game streak.
Thornton has scored in all 10 of those games, recording two goals and 12 assists, and has 25 points over the past 19 games to become the 33rd player in NHL history to reach 1,300 career points.
''We've got some confidence, he definitely has some confidence and he's making some great plays and it's typical Jumbo,'' Pavelski said. ''It's what he does. Since Hertl's come on and found his stride here, it's been definitely a fun line to be on.''
DeBoer also separated Couture and Patrick Marleau, giving the team strong centers on three lines. That depth has helped lead to the success of the past few weeks.
''I don't think it's any secret that that kind of slotted everybody in the right places,'' DeBoer said. ''All of a sudden our depth scoring is increasing, which is huge. The reality of this league is it's a one-goal-a-night league. And certain players are one-goal-a-night players on the positive and either defending or creating. We're just on the right side of that now.''