San Jose Coach Todd McLellan's job security didn't look so solid a month ago, when the
"We just come to work every day. We work hard," he said Monday, then paused.
"Those are the cliches that coaches will give you. But when those rumors start, you're not prepared as a coach. You don't get the training for that," he said. "You can spend as many games as you want in the league and learn about power play, penalty kill, matching lines and all that type of stuff, but when that happens you've got to stay focused. You have to have people around you that keep you focused on your task and your job. And the staff that I'm fortunate to have here did that."
It helped, too, that the Sharks — who had to play 16 of their first 21 games on the road — settled in at home and got in some constructive practices. Starting with a 6-4 victory over the
The Sharks, who lost to the Ducks, 3-2, in overtime on Monday night at Anaheim, are largely the same group that squandered a 3-0 series lead over the Kings in the first round of the playoffs last spring, but with a few new faces in key roles. "There really weren't many changes,"
Turning things around took more mental effort than physical exertion.
"Just the understanding that I think we knew we had a good team," Pavelski said. "We started not taking anything for granted. We have to play every night. We have to do a lot of little things, a lot of intangibles that lead to wins. Sometimes you don't understand how hard they are and on a consistent basis you have to be able to do them."
They'll have to maintain the strong special-teams play that has put them in the top 10 in power-play and penalty-killing efficiency and hope their depth continues to come through. Even then, the West is tough and their playoff history is less than glorious.
"Everyone's chipping in," Couture said. "That's what successful teams have: four lines that go out and they score on a regular basis. . . . When we've got everyone going, we're a tough team to beat."
The slightest letup will bring the rumors to McLellan's door again. "That can happen again awfully quick," he said, "especially in our league."
The American Hockey League is considering whether to stretch beyond its traditional East and Midwest roots and establish a division on the West Coast to accommodate teams whose top affiliates now are thousands of miles away.
The idea has been discussed before but appears to be gaining momentum. The Bakersfield Californian reported last week the ECHL's Bakersfield Condors — owned by the
Many factors complicate establishing an AHL West, including the need for at least four
The Ducks have long hoped to have an AHL farm team in San Diego but couldn't be the lone West Coast outpost. They've kept their AHL affiliation agreements short so they'd be free to move if the AHL formulates a viable Pacific plan.
An AHL spokesman said Monday the league has been working on a framework and process that would satisfy the desire of Western teams to have their affiliates closer but said no timetable has been set.
• Gordie Howe, slowed by
• The NHL's holiday trade freeze, which began Friday, ends Saturday at midnight local time.