Back-to-back may benefit Sharks


Back-to-back may benefit Sharks

CALGARY The Sharks have precious time to rest between now and the end of the regular season.

Theyll invade Calgary on Tuesday night, less than 24 hours after beating Edmonton on Monday, 3-2. Its one of three remaining back-to-back situations left on San Joses schedule, and after the brief flight from Edmonton late Monday, the team will enjoy an opportunity to get a little more sleep after the coaching staff canceled the morning skate.

While a breather is typically welcomed this late in the season, it might actually benefit the Sharks to get right back at it tonight at the Saddledome. The Sharks snapped a five-game losing streak against the Oilers, and is was evident in the locker room at Rexall Place that there was a least a temporary sense of relief as the Sharks got a rare moment to enjoy a win something theyve done just three times in the last 14 games (3-8-3).

RECAP: Sharks snap skid with 3-2 win in Edmonton

Getting right back out on the ice on the wings of those good feelings might be good for them.

Yeah, I want to keep going here, Dan Boyle said after the Oilers game. I want to get back to where we need to be. The wait sucks, we need to play and play these games, and get some wins.

I posited that to the captain, as well.

I hope, well have to see tomorrow night, but I hope, Joe Thornton said. I hope we take what we had in this game and carry it over tomorrow. The Sharks are Flames are right beside each other in the standings, so its going to be a battle.

Thornton is right. While the win against the Oilers was nice, the Calgary Flames are one of a number of teams the Sharks will be battling with down the stretch to make the playoffs. Ninth place San Jose is one point ahead of the Flames, with one game in hand, headed into tonights showdown.

The Sharks could climb as high as seventh or fall right back down to the 11th spot, depending on how tonights action shakes out. The Los Angeles Kings host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, while Dallas, four points up in the Pacific Division, is in Minnesota.

Were going to go there and play, and we know theyre going to be prepared. Its a big game for them, as well, Todd McLellan said on Monday night. Wed like to bottle this up, get some rest, and put the work boots back on.

Its unclear this morning which goaltender McLellan will go with against the Flames. Antti Niemi has started the last seven games for the Sharks, but it wouldnt be shocking to see him get the call against the Flames, too. Traditionally, Niemi plays his best hockey when hes in the net over and over again, as evidenced by his 34 straight starts in the second half of last season.

The goaltender failed to get into a rhythm on the teams nine-game road trip in late February, when Thomas Greiss started two of the first four games both coming when the team played on consecutive nights.

McLellan claimed after the Oilers game he hadnt yet thought about who his goalie would be against the Flames, but with the importance of the game, you'd have to think he's leaning towards his number one.

When asked if he wants to play again right away, Niemi quickly responded: Im ready to go. Well see what happens.

Mailbag: Should Sharks trade a d-man for scoring help?

Mailbag: Should Sharks trade a d-man for scoring help?

Tuesday’s practice was canceled, as the Sharks boarded an afternoon charter flight to Los Angeles with the dads in tow for the annual fathers trip. That leaves us some extra time for a mailbag…

Why is no line set over halfway through the season? (Kevin Cocquyt @KevinCocquyt39)

The shuffling up of lines is one of those aspects of the game that I think gets overblown a bit. I can’t put a number on how many times Pete DeBoer has prefaced his reply to a question about the latest line changes with the phrase, “we’re not married to any lines…”

That said, I do think the preference would be to ice a more consistent top six at this point. The fact that they haven’t found a left wing to consistently skate on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski is concerning. On the second line, it remains to be seen if Kevin Labanc can stick with Logan Couture, or if he’ll start to fade a bit in his first NHL season. The other players that started the season on the second line, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker, have been moved all up and down the lineup all season long (more on that below).

Tomas Hertl’s absence has thrown a monkey wrench into all of this, of course. Assuming he gets back next month, there’s still plenty of time to get the lines sorted out for the playoff push. Regardless, though, they are almost always fluid, and keep in mind when DeBoer made a major change to his lines last playoff run – moving Patrick Marleau up to the second line and Chris Tierney to center the third line in the middle of the Nashville series – the Sharks finished off the Predators in the second round and went on to beat the Blues in the Western Conference Final.

So I guess my message here would be, don’t panic all that much at this point. It’s a long season.

Largest surprise and disappointment with the Sharks halfway through the season? There's a lot to pick from on both fronts. (Drew Cormier @DrewCormier)

I’ll give you one obvious and one maybe less obvious for both.

I’ll start with biggest surprise. It has to be Labanc. I know he tore up juniors last season, but this is still a kid who just turned 21 years old and wasn’t a high-round draft pick (sixth round, 2014). I knew the organization was high on him, and I even had him down as a dark horse player to make the team out of camp, but to come up so soon, and play regularly on a top scoring line and score seven goals – more than Donskoi, Boedker, Tierney, Joe Thornton and Joel Ward – is impressive, and, frankly, surprising.

One guy that’s gone under the radar a bit, though, is Brenden Dillon. The 26-year-old defenseman is simply faster and more mobile than he was last season, and he’s really made this defense corps one of the best in the NHL one-through-six. I know the numbers don’t show it, as Dillon has just four assists and a minus-five rating, but he’s a better player than he was last season.

As for disappointment, Boedker remains at the top of that list, even after his hat trick against the Oilers. He just doesn’t seem like the type of player that fits in with this forward group. At this point, I have to think there’s some buyer’s remorse there with Boedker owed $4 million a season through 2019-2020.

But another player that just hasn’t taken that next step so many thought he would is Donskoi. He was downright electrifying on some nights in the playoffs last season, and I thought this season we might see him get to 15-20 goals and 40-50 points. Instead, he’d be on pace for just 28 points in a full 82-game season. I thought he’d be better.

What do you think [Justin] Braun is worth? Can he be used as part of a deal for a top scoring forward? We need extra scoring. (Backhand Shelf @ChrisRivs)

I can understand the concern with the Sharks’ lack of scoring, and that many of their key forwards seem to be underperforming. Perhaps adding a little more scoring punch to their roster at the trade deadline is something that Doug Wilson will explore.

But, I don’t see any way this team will move one of its top four defensemen for a scoring forward. The strength and identity of this team this season has been its defensive structure and its ability to limit the opposition from getting shots and scoring chances in front of goalie Martin Jones. Moving Braun, or any of their other big minute defensemen, just wouldn’t make any sense.

I do, however, expect they’ll lose at least one of their current top six before next season, either through a trade or the expansion draft. That could very well be Braun, who might not get protected. In the meantime, though, they need him on the blue line.

Sharks recall three; Donskoi to IR

Sharks recall three; Donskoi to IR

The Sharks placed forward Joonas Donskoi on injured reserve Tuesday, and recalled a trio of players for their game against Los Angeles on Wednesday at Staples Center.

Donskoi has not played since Jan. 11 at Calgary, dealing with an upper body injury that is not believed to be serious. Although he’ll miss his third straight game on Wednesday, the 24-year-old could technically return for Thursday’s home game against the Lightning. In 41 games this season, Donskoi has six goals and 14 points.

Up front, forwards Ryan Carpenter and Barclay Goodrow were recalled, suggesting that someone from Monday’s 5-2 win over the Jets might not be able to play against the Kings. Logan Couture blocked a Toby Enstrom shot with about nine minutes to go in that game, and there was no immediate update on his status. The Sharks did not practice on Tuesday morning.

Carpenter has one goal in three games with the Sharks this season, coming on Nov. 30 in Los Angeles. He has 20 points (8g, 12a) in 29 AHL games this season. 

Goodrow has yet to make his Sharks season debut, but is first on the AHL Barracuda with 12 goals. He has 15 points (4g, 11a) in 74 career NHL games.

Tim Heed, also recalled, will likely serve as the seventh defenseman filling the void left by an injured Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist).