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Sharks Locker Room: San Jose Has Winning Record With 3 Healthy Centers

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Based on last night, two things will help the San Jose Sharks win games: Hard work and health.

“If you want to win against teams like LA, the Rangers, you got to outwork them. You got to get them to the brink where they’re annoyed by the way we’re playing,” Nico Sturm said of the Sharks 3-2 OT win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday and 4-3 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday. “I thought today, actually yesterday, one of the things that really stood out to me is how physical we played, how hard we battled. We won’t get rewarded every night for it, but more often than not, it’ll work.”

It was Sturm and Luke Kunin’s hard work that gave the Sharks a shot in the arm, down 2-0 early in the third period.

Kunin’s forecheck caused Erik Gustafsson to hurry the puck. Sturm got in front of Braden Schneider to intercept the D-to-D pass.

It was fourth-line center Ryan Carpenter’s work that tied the game.

Tossed out of the faceoff circle, Carpenter won the faceoff anyway, beating winger Jimmy Vesey to the puck. Then Carpenter got in front of Jacob Trouba for the deflection.

Tomas Hertl would take it in OT for the Sharks, on their first three-games-or-longer winning streak of the season.

They’re now 13-31-4, but head coach David Quinn would argue a healthier Sharks team would’ve been a lot better.

“It’s not a coincidence we have the record we do since we’ve had three of our centers,” he said about getting Logan Couture and Nico Sturm back from injury on Saturday, the beginning of the winning streak. Couture had missed all of the season up to Saturday. Hertl, of course, has been a mainstay up the middle all year.

“We haven’t had all four of them together,” he continued, referring to Mikael Granlund, who just got hurt. “But if you look at our record and we have at least three of them in the line-up, it’s not bad. “

For what it’s worth, throwing out that season opener where Granlund got hurt on the second shift on the game, the Sharks are actually 8-7-2 from Oct. 29 against the Washington Capitals, when a healthy Granlund re-entered the line-up, to Dec. 12 against the Winnipeg Jets, when Sturm got hurt. That’s counting the two 10-spot losses against the Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, tossing out the Nov. 27 victory over the Caps without Hertl, and Sturm’s absences on Nov. 20 and 22, and Dec. 3 losses.

Add this three-game winning streak, and the Sharks are 11-7-2 with three of their top-four centers, 2-24-2 without.

“We thought that was gonna be the strength of our team and it is,” Quinn noted. “To have three of them in the line-up makes a big, big difference for us.”

Tomas Hertl

Hertl, on being tired after three games in four nights:

Maybe my hands were a little off today. One of the nights, the puck was jumping. I know I have to be better for our team. PK was good, even 5-on-5, but our power play has to make something happen.

Hertl, on Jan Rutta’s recent offensive surge:

When he was in Tampa, he said, because he played with Hedman, he was just kind of the defenseman, make sure he’s back. But like I said a couple of games ago, he said he will play more offensively and he gets points every game now. He used to, when he was playing in the Czech League, he was offensive.

Nico Sturm

Sturm, on the work ethic displayed by him and Luke Kunin on his goal:

Against teams like that, it’s got to be greasy. We’re not gonna dance around them there. They have more talent, that’s the reality of things. If you want to win against teams like LA, the Rangers, you got to outwork them. You got to get them to the brink where they’re annoyed by the way we’re playing. I thought today, actually yesterday, one of the things that really stood out to me is how physical we played, how hard we battled. We won’t get rewarded every night for it, but more often than not, it’ll work.

Mackenzie Blackwood

Blackwood, on the Rangers getting annoyed by the Sharks:

As the game went on and we tied it up and it went into OT, you can tell they were getting a little bit frustrated that they were in a tie game with us. It’s a good spot for us to be.

Blackwood, on helping Quinn beat his former team:

For sure. I know how good it felt for me, when we were in New Jersey, and Kaapo [Kahkonen] got that big win there.

David Quinn

Quinn, on having Logan Couture back:

It’s not a coincidence we have the record we do since we’ve had three of our centers. We haven’t had all four of them together. But if you look at our record and we have at least three of them in the line-up, it’s not bad.

We thought that was gonna be the strength of our team and it is. To have three of them in the line-up makes a big, big difference for us.

Quinn, on Henry Thrun and Jan Rutta soaking up the most minutes:

Very good. Both those guys played very well. Henry was outstanding tonight. Rutta, on top of the goal, great play on the goal, he played well, so those guys have really kind of found a little bit of rhythm together.

Quinn, on Nikita Okhotiuk’s game:

Nikita played well tonight. Big bounceback game. I thought he struggled last night.

Quinn, on Tomas Hertl’s OT winner:

That’s what great players do, right? They don’t maybe have their A-game but they show up at the most opportune time. That’s what Tommy did.

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