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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Sharks bring in fresh faces at forward

By Pierre LeBrun

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- If the forward lines hold true from Wednesday’s practice, the San Jose Sharks could look more than a little different for Game 4:

Couture-Thornton-Pavelski
Clowe-Marleau-Havlat
Winnik-Handzus-Mitchell
Winchester-Desjardins-Wingels

That left T.J. Galiardi and Dominic Moore on the outside looking in. For Michal Handzus and Brad Winchester, it would be their first appearance in the series.

But that’s only if coach Todd McLellan is committed to what he experimented with Wednesday.

"Potential lineup changes, there’s potential shuffling,’’ McLellan said after practice. "We still have to sit down as a staff and confirm everything. But there’s always that opportunity.’’

After losing two straight games in the series, a fresh look is the obvious way to go.

"Well, you put some fresh people in the lineup that I’m sure are hungry, if we go about doing that," said McLellan. "They would want to play and stay in the lineup; that should give you an emotional and physical jump. It’s also the coach sending a signal maybe to some guys that he’s not happy with their game. And that includes shuffling the lines that aren’t working. It puts everybody on notice that maybe we can be better."

Winchester and Handzus are both big bodies. The idea would be to try to have more bodies penetrate and crash the net. The Blues have been incredible in the way they’ve defended the blue paint and left the Sharks with very little in terms of true offensive chances.

With Patrick Marleau without a point in three games, McLellan needs to find a spark. Putting Marleau back at center instead of wing could be that spark.

"Well, he’s able to use his size and speed through the middle," McLellan said of putting Marleau at center. "When he’s a winger, he has a tendency to play on one-third of the ice surface. He’s a big man, he’s a strong man, and he can get to places because he can skate well. When you put him in the middle, he should be able to work four corners versus two."

Putting Couture on Thornton’s wing is something McLellan has done in the past to jump-start his team.

"Jumbo is so creative," Couture said Wednesday after practice of Thornton. "And Patty likes to use his speed in the middle. Just some changes. That’s good sometimes and I think right now is a good time for it."

Thornton says the top-six forward group is made up interchangeable parts, but he’s fine with the changes.

"Just about a different look, finding different chemistry," said Thornton. "If he does change the lines, hopefully it will spark some offense from us."