Eric Fehr and Marcus Sorensen spent most of the season toiling in the AHL Garrett Grayson Jersey , just waiting for their chance.
That opportunity has arrived in the playoffs for San Jose and those two fourth-line forwards are a major reason why the Sharks swept Anaheim to advance to a second-round series against Vegas.
Fehr scored one goal while anchoring the fourth line and Sorensen had three as San Jose’s bottom group of forwards that also includes Melker Karlsson matched the scoring output of the entire Anaheim team in the series.
”It’s awesome to see,” top-line forward Evander Kane said. ”It really gives a big spark to our group when you see those guys go out there and play in the offensive zone, create scoring chances and score goals. That really adds to our group. It takes pressure off us as top players to know all four lines can score.”
The deadline addition of Kane provided the Sharks a major spark down the stretch but a lower-profile deal a week earlier for Fehr was also key to San Jose’s success.
Fehr stepped right in as San Jose’s fourth-line center, giving coach Peter DeBoer the confidence to roll four lines and keep his top players fresh. It was a surprising development since Fehr’s career looked to be nearing its end after 12 seasons when he cleared waivers for Toronto back in November and got loaned to Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego.
He remained there hoping to return to the playoffs where he helped Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup against the Sharks two years ago. His opportunity came when the Sharks dealt a 2020 seventh-round pick for him.
”That’s what kept me playing, the chance to come in here and play some playoff hockey,” he said. ”That’s the best time of the year. This is what you play for.”
While Fehr is on the back end of his career, Sorensen should be ascending. He was expected to make the team out of training camp after playing well in the postseason last year against Edmonton.
But Sorensen was beaten out by Barclay Goodrow and spent most of the season in the minors or as a healthy scratch before playing the final five games of the regular season after Goodrow broke a finger.
Sorensen showed enough there for DeBoer to have confidence to use him in the playoffs and the move paid off with him scoring goals in the final three games of the sweep.
”I think he’s a player who enjoys playing at this time of the year,” teammate Logan Couture said. ”He plays a hard game but this is probably the best hockey I’ve seen him play, at least the NHL level because he’s making a difference every shift.”
The Sharks aren’t alone in getting key contributions from fourth liners, whether it’s two goals from Colorado’s Gabriel Bourque Ryan Allen Jersey , a key empty-net goal from Nashville’s Ryan Hartman, strong overall play from Washington fourth-line center Jay Beagle, or Boston’s Sean Kuraly chipping in with a goal and two assists.
After missing the opener with an upper-body injury, Beagle scored a goal in Game 2 against Columbus and has won 71 percent of his faceoffs in his three games in the series after Washington lost nine of 10 defensive-zone draws late in a Game 1 loss.
”Especially this time of year, Beags is an all-in guy, a true pro, a buy that will give up his body to make a difference,” coach Barry Trotz said. ”For me, it’s a mentality. There’s other guys that can probably kill (penalties) as well as Jay, but he pulls people in the fight. And when it comes to the penalty kill unit Lawrence Guy Jersey , he has a lot of pride, and he’ll pull the other guys in.”
The Wild got no goals or assists from some of their most skilled forwards, Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle, one reason they lost to Winnipeg in five games.. But their fourth line was a valuable asset, providing more than just a couple of token checks before retreating to the bench. Daniel Winnik (one assist), Joel Eriksson Ek (one assist) and Marcus Foligno (one goal) gave the Wild plenty of productive shifts against the Jets.
”It’s a really tough job for a big man to sit on the bench and come out with a lot of energy,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”Every big guy that I’ve had has always said, `I’ve got to get into it. I’ve got to get into it. I can’t sit.”’
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell and Teresa Walker contributed to this report.
Ben Roethlisberger insists he has no problem with the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting Mason Rudolph.
That his comments during a radio appearance shortly after the Steelers took the former Oklahoma State star in the third round of the draft – when Roethlisberger openly wondered why the team drafted a quarterback when he plans to be around a good while longer – were made in jest.
”I think people took some things into a context that I was going to be mean or rude,” Roethlisberger said on Tuesday as the AFC North champions began organized team activities. ”That was not it at all.”
As if to prove a point Charles Harris Jersey , Roethlisberger went out of his way to praise Rudolph when the two shared a field together.
They didn’t exactly bro-hug or trade jokes, but the 36-year-old Roethlisberger did what he says he’s done throughout his 14-year career. A suggestion here. A comment there.
During one drill, Roethlisberger even found himself playing the de facto center as he whipped the ball underhand to the 22-year-old who may – or may not – being Roethlisberger’s eventual replacement.
”I have never been the type to be rude or mean to other quarterbacks,” Roethlisberger said.
”I’ve had a lot of quarterbacks through here that have been younger than me that I’ve tried to help any way that I can. I’ll continue to do that.”
The Steelers raised some eyebrows when they traded up to select Rudolph with the 76th overall pick in the draft, the highest the organization has taken a quarterback since making Roethlisberger the 11th overall selection in 2004.
Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said in the aftermath the Steelers had Rudolph rated equally with the first quarterbacks chosen in the first round, but declined to get into specifics about whether the team views Rudolph as Roethlisberger’s eventual replacement.
Roethlisberger expressed surprise during a radio appearance earlier this month, rhetorically asking why Pittsburgh used a third-round pick on a quarterback when there were players at other positions who could make a more immediate impact.
Roethlisberger stressed that wasn’t a slight at Rudolph and he is more than happy to help Rudolph get comfortable. When Rudolph threw high and hard to fullback Roosevelt Nix, Roethlisberger offered a bit of advice.
”I pulled him aside and said `You’ll learn quickly every throw doesn’t have to be the hardest throw you can make,”’ Roethlisberger said.
”You don’t have to put every throw on guy’s chests as hard as you can. That’s a great opportunity for a nice easy touch pass. Just trying to instill things like that.”
Rudolph has been deferential from the minute he became a Steeler, stressing it was his job to learn how to play in the NFL and not Roethlisberger’s job to teach him.
Roethlisberger didn’t hesitate when asked if there’s anything that stood out about Rudolph during their initial workout.
”He has a big arm Troy Niklas Jersey ,” Roethlisberger said. ”Seems to understand the offense. Seems to not have any issues in the huddle. So I thought he did really well.”
Any potential ”controversy” – be it real or imagined – remains far off at best. Rudolph is in the mix of a three-man race to be Roethlisberger’s primary backup. Landry Jones has held the job for each of the past three seasons, with 2017 fourth-round pick Josh Dobbs serving as the third stringer last fall.
The Steelers will only carry three quarterbacks out of camp. Given the lengths the Steelers went to draft him, Rudolph figures to be a lock for one of the two spots behind Roethlisberger, with the emphasis on ”behind.”
For how long remains the central question. Roethlisberger took two months during the 2017 offseason before deciding to return.
He announced his intention to be back in 2018 in a quiet locker room after the Steelers were upset by Jacksonville in the divisional round.
Asked what made him flip from saying he was year to year to hinting he could play beyond the contract that expires in the spring of 2020 and Roethlisberger remained somewhat vague.
He likes the offensive line in front of him – all of whom are signed through this season – and the skill-position talent that surrounds him in the huddle.
Oh, and Randy Fichtner has taken over as offensive coordinator after Todd Haley’s deal wasn’t renewed in January.
Pressed on specifics and Roethlisberger offered little while also somewhat contradicting himself in the process.
”Take it one year at a time and just feeling what you have left in the tank,” he said.
Which – for now – appears to be quite a bit.
NOTES: For the second straight spring, All-Pro RB Le’Veon Bell was not in attendance as OTAs began. Bell has yet to sign his one-year, $14.1 million franchise tender. … Injured LB Ryan Shazier (spinal surgery) watched practice from a golf cart.
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