TJ Galiardi #21, Adam Burish #37 and James Sheppard #15 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after Galiardi scored a goal against the Colorado Avalanche in the second period at HP Pavilion on February 26, 2013 in San Jose, California. Sheppard got an assist on the play.
(February 25, 2013 - Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America)

Sharks Galiardi: We didn’t feel great in 2012 playoffs, we do now

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Last year the San Jose Sharks’ playoff run lasted all of five games. Will things be any different this time around?

They certainly believe things have changed.

“100 percent,” Sharks forward T.J. Galiardi said in a CSN Bay Area report. “Confidence is one big thing. I don’t think we felt great going into the playoffs. No one admitted it last year, but we didn’t really feel great going into it. This year we’re so balanced up front, that any one of our lines can hurt other teams.

“It’s going to be hard for other teams to try and figure out how to match up against us. We feel way better about it this year than last year.”

The Sharks’ season was one of extremes. They won their first seven games, only to follow it up with a 5-10-6 stretch. Not long after that they got on another seven-game winning streak and eventually landed the sixth seed.

Along the way, the Sharks think they found a team identity.

“I think in the past 15-20 games we’ve found what made us successful and gives us success on the ice, and that’s playing a north-south game,” forward Tommy Wingels said.

“At times you can make pretty plays, but at other times you’ve just got to advance the puck. With teams swarming and constantly hounding the puck, you’ve got to move forward. That’s something we’ve got to continue to do.”

It helps that the Sharks have been one of the best teams in the league when it comes to killing penalties and that goaltender Antti Niemi has been strong, even during the Sharks’ rough patches.

“We’ve been playing a better game for a longer period now, and we’ve had more unity with our team as far as lines and pairings go down the stretch than we did last year,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan.

The question is if it will be enough when their first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks starts on Wednesday.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.