Desperate to kill penalties, San Jose adds Joe Thornton to the mix

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The San Jose Sharks have been abused by the St. Louis power play through the first three games of their opening-round series.

The Blues have scored on five of their 13 man advantage opportunities — a 60 percent clip — and went 3-for-4 at HP Pavilion in Monday’s 4-3 victory.

Generally speaking, allowing three PP goals in a payoff game (in front of your home crowd, no less) forces a head coach to make big changes.

That’s exactly what Todd McLellan has done, putting captain Joe Thornton on the PK unit for Game 4.

“It’s time,” Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m good with it.”

More, from The Merc:

With his long arms and long stick, the 6-foot-4 Thornton is the ideal soldier for the Sharks’ style of penalty kill, which relies on positioning in a four-man box and the interception (or discouragement) of cross-ice passes.

However, in Monday night’s Sharks loss in Game 3, he didn’t play a second of short-handed time during the Blues’ four power plays, three of which led to goals. McLellan tends to keep Thornton’s ice-time light during penalty-kill situations to save his legs for 5-on-5 play and power plays. During the regular season, Thornton averaged 1:03 minutes of penalty-kill time per game, lowest among the team’s top six forwards other than Ryane Clowe.

The concept is logical. But not when a team is down two games to one in a playoff series, with the biggest reason staring back at McLellan from the stat sheet. In 5-on-5 play so far, the Sharks and Blues are tied on the scoreboard, 4-4. Special teams are making the difference. The Blues have five power play goals to the Sharks’ two.

So here comes Jumbo Joe.

(Note: In this series, Jumbo has played exactly 28 seconds shorthanded.)

Thornton isn’t the only reinforcement coming to the penalty kill in Game 4. It’s expected that Michal Handzus will make his series debut and play a big role on the PK, where he averaged 1:21 per game this season.

Judging by his comments, “Zeus” has studied up on the St. Louis power play.

“They shoot the puck and have pretty strong guys,” he told CSN Bay Area. “They find a lane from the top, and we’ve got to play more as a four-man unit and block shots up top or down low.

“It is what it is, you have to outwork their five-man unit.”

Blues name Larry Robinson as new senior consultant to hockey operations

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Larry Robinson has joined the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues made the announcement Thursday, revealing that Robinson has joined the organization as a senior consultant to hockey operations.

Based on the comments of Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, it sounds like Robinson will work closely at times with head coach Mike Yeo. It could also further help the development of an already impressive defenseman in Colton Parayko.

“Bringing someone like Larry in, I just think, helps our hockey operations from top to bottom,” said Armstrong, per the Blues website.

“His ability to talk to Mike Yeo about coaching — that’s one area that we don’t have on our staff is a former head coach. You can think you know what Mike’s going through but I don’t know what Mike’s going through. Larry does. So he’s going to be able to relate to him on a lot of the things that he’s going to go through.

“He’s coming in as a consultant. I can learn a lot from him, our assistant coaches can, Parayko can. There’s not an area of our hockey operations he can’t touch to make us a better group.”

Robinson was most recently the director of player development with the San Jose Sharks, however it was reported in May that he would not return to that organization for this season.

Looks like Matt Duchene will make preseason debut tonight vs. Stars

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According to reports, there is substantial interest from other teams in Matt Duchene. That said, he remains with the Colorado Avalanche for now and will, it appears, make his preseason debut Thursday against the Dallas Stars.

Earlier this week, Darren Dreger reported on TSN that as many as eight teams have interest in Duchene, with the Senators aggressively pursuing the 26-year-old forward.

According to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, Duchene will be in the lineup tonight versus the Stars.

Trade speculation has been swirling around Duchene for months now. He reported to training camp last week, and has since said his status with the Avalanche is a “day-by-day” situation.

“I love playing hockey. I want to win,” Duchene told The Denver Post. “That’s the biggest thing on my mind. I’m trying to get better every time I touch the ice right now.”

Habs prospect Juulsen out six weeks with fractured foot

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Tough news for the Montreal Canadiens and prospect defenseman Noah Juulsen on Thursday.

The Habs have announced that the 2015 first-round pick is expected to be sidelined six weeks after suffering a fractured foot on Monday.

The Habs selected Juulsen with the 26th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft following his 52-point regular season with the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League.

This past spring, Juulsen appeared in two playoff games for the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. He turned 20 years old in April and it seemed like the Habs were going to give him a serious look to make the NHL club out of training camp.  

“We like the way he skates and his transition game,” said head coach Claude Julien earlier this week, before the injury was revealed. “He’s going to get a chance to make this team and if he doesn’t he’s not going to be too far away.”

Fight Video: Lappin, Puempel land some good shots in preseason tilt

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Who says players don’t care about preseason hockey?

Matt Puempel and Nick Lappin are trying to earn spots on their respective clubs, so they know they may have to do the little things others aren’t willing to do to stick around in the NHL.

On Wednesday night, that involved dropping the gloves against each other. These two seemed to be in mid-season form when it came to throwing punches.

Neither player is considered a tough guy. Lappin had 17 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Devils last season, while Puempel has 28 penalty minutes in 79 career NHL games.

Here’s the video footage of the scrap:

By the way, the Rangers won 4-3 in overtime.