Sharks prepared to face quick Blackhawks in conference finals


Western Conference Finals begin Sunday in San Jose.
SAN JOSE – An eight-day break between games could be important to the San Jose Sharks as they open the Stanley Cup Western Conference Finals on Sunday at HP Pavilion.

Game time is set for Noon.

That much of a layoff might normally be too much for a team fresh off of two convincing best four-of-seven series victories. But when the opponent happens to be the Chicago Blackhawks, time off to prepare for such a fast team should be helpful to the regular-season conference champion.

“For us to get into a track meet won’t be very productive for us,” said San Jose coach Todd McLellan.

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was equally impressed at the overall speed of the Central Division champion.

“They are very quick,” Nabokov said. “We have to be disciplined, not only staying out of the box but following the plan.

“They are a good short-handed team,” Nabokov continued. “We experienced that ourselves.”

The Sharks gave up three short-handed goals in one period in a 7-2 home-ice loss to the Blackhawks on Nov. 25.

“They have a lot of skill up front, Kane, Toews and Sharp, Kris Versteeg, too. John Madden is a huge addition for them with that Cup experience.”

Toews, the ‘ Hawks’ captain, tops the playoff-scoring race with 20 points. Kane leads the team with seven playoff goals.

Joe Pavelski paces the Sharks with nine goals and 15 points.

The Sharks are one of three teams in the league to have competed in the last six post-seasons and the only team still in the hunt for the Cup with Detroit and New Jersey already eliminated. San Jose’s seven series wins trail only Detroit’s 10 and Pittsburgh’s eight over the past six seasons.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville has previous post-season experience against San Jose. San Jose had a 2-1 series record against while Quenneville headed the St. Louis Blues,. San Jose outlasted St. Louis 4-3 in the spring of 2000, then 4-1 in 2004. St. Louis won the 2001 series 4-2.

“We’ll need quick starts against Chicago,” warned McLellan.

Since the Sharks had a one-point edge over Chicago in the regular season standings, the home-ice advantage for the showdown went to San Jose.

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