La­banc gets back on board in loss

Winger’s early goal against Colum­bus is his first in 11 games

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS - By Cur­tis Pashelka cpashelka@ba­yare­anews­group.com

SAN JOSE » Sharks winger Kevin La­banc wouldn’t be en­tirely forth­com­ing if he said the 10-game goal drought he car­ried into Thurs­day’s game against the Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets wasn’t weigh­ing on him in some fash­ion.

But La­banc, in his third pro­fes­sional sea­son, is also ma­ture enough to re­al­ize there’s only pos­i­tive way to re­act.

Start­ing on a line with Lo­gan Cou­ture and Tomas Hertl, La­banc scored his first goal since Oct. 5 at the 11:50 mark of the first pe­riod, but the Blue Jack­ets an­swered with four of their own, in­clud­ing an empty-net­ter, to beat the Sharks 4-1 win at SAP Cen­ter.

An­thony Du­clair and Seth Jones each scored once and Nick Foligno added two for Colum­bus, with Jones’ goal at the 9:15 mark of the sec­ond pe­riod giv­ing his team a one-goal lead.

The loss snapped the Sharks’ point streak at six games (4- 0-2). San Jose hosts the Philadel­phia Fly­ers on Satur­day.

With his for­wards fail­ing to gen­er­ate many qual­ity scor­ing chances, Sharks coach Pete De­Boer, start­ing late in the sec­ond pe­riod, once again shuf­fled up his for­ward lines, as Cou­ture and Hertl fin­ished the game with Timo Meier on the other wing.

While the Sharks ap­plied more pres­sure and fin­ished with 45 shots on net, they weren’t able to beat Colum­bus goalie Sergei Bo­brovsky a sec­ond time.

The Blue Jack­ets also blocked a stag­ger­ing 30 shots.

“You have them some credit.

They’re a big, heavy, hard team. They box out, they’re hard around the net,” De­Boer said. “It’s a John Tor­torella- coached team, that’s what they take pride in. So we knew it was go­ing to be hard to get to the net tonight, but you have to find a way.

“You’re go­ing to play teams like that if you want to go any­where in the play­offs, and you have to fight through that stuff, and we didn’t do enough of that.”

La­banc started the sea­son on a line with Cou­ture and Hertl, and had the game-win­ning goal in over­time for the Sharks in their 3-2 win over the Los An­ge­les Kings on Oct. 5.

But de­spite 23 shots on goal since that point, La­banc en­tered Thurs­day still look­ing for his sec­ond goal of the sea­son. He has had six as­sists in the last 10 games, with four com­ing in San Jose’s 8-2 win over Philadel­phia on Oct. 8.

“You def­i­nitely feel more con­fi­dent,” af­ter you score, La­banc said af­ter the game. “You feel 10 pounds lighter, so it’s a good feel­ing, and you just kind of roll with it and you take it into the next game.”

There’s no ques­tion La­banc’s been cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for him­self at even strength. Ac­cord­ing to nat­u­ral­stat­trick.com, La­banc had a Corsi-for per­cent­age of 63.37 in the Sharks’ first 12 games, and has had 37 high-dan­ger scor­ing chances.

“Get the mon­key off your back, but it ob­vi­ously stinks we didn’t get the two points tonight,” La­banc said. “We just have to worry about our up­com­ing game.”

Cou­ture and Hertl both car­ried seven- game point streaks into Thurs­day, with Cou­ture col­lect­ing five goals and seven as­sists in that span and Hertl pro­duc­ing three goals and eight as­sists.

Cou­ture’s as­sist on La­banc’s goal ex­tended his point streak to eight games, match­ing the long­est streak of his ca­reer, which came dur­ing the 2011-12 sea­son.

Still, the Sharks had trou­ble get­ting any­thing go­ing in the first two pe­ri­ods when they found them­selves down by two af­ter 40 min­utes.

“We weren’t good,” Cou­ture said. “We didn’t pass well, we didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t spend enough time in their end, we didn’t forecheck. We turned pucks over. We can go down the list, we did a lot of things wrong tonight and we got what we de­served.”

Cou­ture, Hertl and La­banc were on the ice quite a bit against the Blue Jack­ets’ top line of Artemi Pa­narin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkin­son when the two teams were at even strength Thurs­day. It’s noth­ing new. Since Cou­ture and Hertl were put to­gether on the same line at the start of last sea­son, they’ve typ­i­cally been re­spon­si­ble for not only gen­er­at­ing of­fense, but also slow­ing down the op­pos­ing team’s top play­ers.

Joe Thorn­ton was play­ing in his sec­ond game back af­ter miss- ing nine games with an in­fec­tion in his right knee. He again started Thurs­day’s game on a line with Joe Pavel­ski and Meier, who was car­ry­ing a nine-game point streak.

• Meier was named the Sharks Foun­da­tion’s player of the month for Oc­to­ber with nine goals and five as­sists.

“With Jumbo out, there’s no doubt those guys feel like they should dom­i­nate for us ev­ery night,” De­Boer said of Cou­ture and Hertl.

“It’s a big ask. We play them usu­ally against the other team’s top play­ers ev­ery night and we’re ask­ing them to cre­ate of­fense.”

ARIC CRABB — STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

The Sharks’ Kevin La­banc cel­e­brates his first pe­riod goal against the Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets on Thurs­day night.

ARIC CRABB — STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Sharks for­ward Joonas Don­skoi, left, bat­tles the Blue Jack­ets for the puck in front of the net dur­ing Thurs­day night’s game in San Jose.

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