Thursday, April 12, 2012
McLellan still not at 100 percent
By Pierre LeBrun
ST. LOUIS -- Sharks head coach Todd McLellan is still not feeling 100 percent.
He suffered a concussion Feb. 26 when he was knocked out by a stick after a collision in front of the bench in Minnesota. Then, as he revealed Thursday morning, he got dinged a second time March 26 in a game against Colorado.
"We were in a game and the same thing happened, a collision in front of the bench, although I didn’t get hit by both guys, but Jumbo turned and whacked me,” McLellan said Thursday morning at Scottrade Center, referring to Sharks captain Joe Thornton. "I was bugging him afterwards about [Alexander] Radulov earlier in the year in Russia. Maybe that was Jumbo sending me a message."
McLellan was jokingly referring to Radulov whacking his coach in the KHL earlier this season. But in all seriousness, getting whacked a second time wasn’t pleasant.
"It wasn’t nearly as hard and didn’t knock me out or anything like that,” he said. "I don’t know if you’d even call it a concussion but I just got hit again is all."
McLellan still gets headaches.
"I’m fine," he said. "It’s not something I wish upon anybody. I understand now, and I really mean this, what the players go through. I was one of those guys that said, 'We all had them when we played and we played through it, suck it up and play.' Until you go through it, you don’t understand. I still have headaches at different points. Would I be playing if I was capable of playing? I don’t know. But I can coach. I think."
He’s kept his sense of humor, but he’s clearly not 100 percent.
"I have a tendency to get a headache later in the day," he said. "I don’t know if it’s fatigue, tired or stressed. It could just come with the coaching fraternity down the stretch. That could be causing headaches. But I’m OK."
Blues netminder Brian Elliott took part in the morning skate. He doesn’t talk on game days but head coach Ken Hitchcock said Elliott would dress as the backup to Jaroslav Halak on Thursday night for Game 1.
Elliott missed practice Wednesday with what the team called a minor upper-body injury.
"He feels good," Hitchcock said Thursday morning. "He's 100 percent, ready to go, so the two days off really helped him. If he had to play today, he could play, no problem."
Blues veteran winger Jamie Langenbrunner, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, has been there and done that. On a young Blues team, his experience, along with that of the likes of Jason Arnott and Scott Nichol, will be important as the playoffs begin.
"I think that’s one of the reasons we are here," Langenbrunner said Thursday morning. "You hope to help during the peak and valleys you’re going to have and try to keep an even keel. I think we did a good job of that for the most part as a group this season. Now, it’s going to be a new experience for some, we’ve got a lot of guys playing in their first playoffs. It’s going to be a little nerve-racking at first, but this is a group that’s growing and keeps getting better and better. I think the group will respond very well."
The Sharks haven’t opened the first round of the playoffs on the road since 2007 when they got a split in Nashville and went on to eliminate the Predators in a 4-5 matchup.
They’re used to opening at home as a high seed.
"It’s definitely different, we’re used to having home ice," Joe Thornton said Thursday morning. "But it’s different and we’re excited. We’re looking to win Game 1 and put some pressure on them."
The Sharks know what it's like to feel pressure at home in the opening round, losing Game 1 to Calgary in 2008, Anaheim in 2009 and Colorado in 2010.
So they hope to turn the tables on the Blues and shift the pressure on the young home team.
"We’d like to come in here and win Game 1 and see how they react," Thornton said. "But we really just focus on ourselves. We need to get our game plan going and go from there."
No changes expected in the Blues' lineup from what we reported Wednesday. The Sharks only had an optional skate but here’s the best guess at what’s expected for Game 1: