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Time for Sharks to improve power play

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Improving a power play that was a woeful 1 for 24 the last nine games is key to getting four Sharks to snap out of the collective scoring slump they took into the Olympic break, coach Todd McLellan suggested Sunday.

"Whoever is on that, it that has to start clicking and be better," he said after the fourth of five practices that serve as a minicamp for players who didn't compete in the Winter Olympics. "We don't necessarily have to score on it every time, but we have to be able to create a little more momentum off of it than we have."

San Jose's offense struggled in those nine games, scoring fewer than three goals in seven of them and being shut out twice. In the past seven games, only Patrick Marleau has more than one point, with a goal and an assist, while Joe Pavelski had a goal, Joe Thornton an assist and Dan Boyle was kept off the scoresheet altogether.

Before the power play went cold, the Sharks were a very respectable 10 for 38 in the previous 14 games. So what was the difference?

"One, we weren't sharp, two, we stayed out a little too long and weren't able to recover pucks," McLellan said. "We were slow to shoot. There's a lot of factors that come into play. We'll address that as players come back. That's the last thing we'll work on coming out of the Olympic break."

McLellan was responding to a specific question about Thornton and Marleau, but his answer would appear to apply to Pavelski and Boyle as well.

The minicamp wraps up Monday at Sharks Ice before the team flies to Philadelphia the next day. On Wednesday, the four players returning from Sochi will practice with the group for the first time since Feb. 7, and the season resumes Thursday against the Flyers.

On Sunday, Thornton, who leads the team with 56 points, acknowledged that his play the two weeks before the break wasn't up to the standard he set in the previous 50 games.

"The last six or seven games, I personally didn't play as well as I probably should have, but overall the first half has been a good year," he said.

In explaining the situation, Thornton cited the standings, then noted the narrowed gap between San Jose and the first-place Anaheim Ducks -- seven points, not the double-digits it had been -- as motivation going forward.

"We kind of separated ourselves, but now we're catching up on Anaheim," he said.

n Logan Couture set his alarm for 4 a.m. to watch Canada and Sweden battle for the gold medal, while teammate Joe Thornton opted for a few extra hours of sleep.

But both players who had been candidates to go to the Sochi Olympics for Canada had nothing but good things to say about the fact the team that didn't choose them came out ahead, 3-0.

"I've got friends who are on that team, and I sent out a bunch of texts this morning," Thornton said, adding that messages went out to his two San Jose teammates -- Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- as well as Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis. "Just super-excited our country won it again."

Couture said he held off on any text messages to his good friend, defenseman Drew Doughty.

"No, I'm sure his phone will be blowing up," Couture said. "Next time we see him, I'll just say congrats. He had a great tournament, and he was probably the best player."

And, no, Couture said he didn't have any second thoughts on Canada's decision to bypass him.

"No, like I said when it happened, it's an impossible team to pick," said Couture, who will be back in the lineup against Philadelphia after missing 16 games recovering from hand surgery. "They're going to have a good team regardless of who's on it, there are so many good Canadian players. Obviously as a Canadian, I was very happy to see them win gold."

(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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