Battle for roster spots in full effect

645174.jpg

Battle for roster spots in full effect

SAN JOSE There may be just two months left in the regular season, but the battle for roster spots in still going strong for the San Jose Sharks.

Andrew Murrays departure the veteran forward was waived by the club on Monday morning, as it hopes to reassign him to Worcester was a reminder of that competition. Players like Benn Ferriero, John McCarthy, Jim Vandermeer and Tommy Wingels are all expected to compete for either playing time or a spot on the team when everyone is back and healthy.

Todd McLellan said after Mondays practice that with Murray now off of the active roster, it gives us an opportunity to evaluate some of the other younger players the John McCarthys, and Wingels, and the Ferrieros while they are here, to see what we have and where they fit in.

The Sharks fourth line and their roster, really has been in a state of flux since Marty Havlat was hurt in late December. Wingels, Ferriero and McCarthy were all still with the AHLs Worcester Sharks when Havlat suffered a partially torn hamstring on Dec. 17 against Ottawa.

Ferriero got the first chance, and was recalled immediately after Havlat went down. He scored goals in three of his first six games back, but since then, has just three points in 13 games despite playing mostly on the second line. Ferriero was scratched Feb. 2 at home against Dallas before returning in Phoenix on Saturday on the fourth line.

McCarthy was recalled in time for the game on Jan. 21 in Vancouver, with Ryane Clowe and Wingels both hurt. Hes scoreless in five games on the fourth line.

Vandermeers spot on the roster is safe for now, as he provides defensive depth and has the ability to play as a physical forward, too, which he did in the three games prior to Saturday in Phoenix when he was a healthy scratch.

REWIND: Vandermeer adjusting to life as a forward

We really feel comfortable playing him as a forward, McLellan said. But, as a reminder to us and to him, hes still a defenseman. If we need one, he provides us tremendous depth, but with the ability to go up front thats also nice to have.

Wingels, meanwhile, is still recovering from an apparent left shoulder injury he suffered on Jan. 19 against Ottawa. He has resumed skating and theres an outside chance he could play Friday against Chicago, although his return during the teams long road trip looks more likely.

The 23-year-old Wingels may be the most intriguing of the bunch, and played the best game of his brief NHL career just prior to getting hurt. On Jan. 17 against Calgary, the Evanston, Illinois native played a career-high 21 minutes and 23 seconds on the teams top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

He was asked if the timing of his injury made it that much more frustrating.

I think any time you get hurt theres frustration, Wingels said. There was a good opportunity to play. You just try to work yourself back into the lineup now and go from there.

He did play some good games, McLellan said. We gave him every opportunity to have an impact on the game.

His injury set him back a little bit, but with that being said, once we get bodies healthy its going to be a competitive environment for not only ice time, but for roster spots. We cant keep everybody. Given the opportunity and the time on the ice, they have to make good on it, because we will have to get down in numbers.

Sheppard update

James Sheppard skated with the Sharks again on Monday, and still wants to return to a competitive game by March 1. In all likelihood, that would come with Worcester on a conditioning assignment.

He still feels pain in his right knee after an ATV accident in the summer of 2010, but doesnt notice it as much now when hes on the ice.

Once you get warmed up the pain kind of leaves, which is nice. I think your body gets warmed up so naturally it feels better. Then, just the adrenaline and having so many things coming at you takes it away, Sheppard said. I think afterwards its a bit there, but I dont really care about that, as long as you feel good during the game I can deal with that.

Hes still not ready to play yet, though.

The coaches have watched enough hockey to realize when someone is ready and someone is not. Its going to be kind of a collaboration. We both have to agree that Im ready to play, he said.

Rewind: Sharks get the bounces in imperfect win against Hurricanes

Rewind: Sharks get the bounces in imperfect win against Hurricanes

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ performance over the Hurricanes on Saturday night at SAP Center won’t be one that the team re-watches and reflects back upon as a model for how they want to perform.

Still, after deserving better in last Wednesday’s loss to Ottawa, and maybe even Friday’s defeat to the rival Ducks, there was a sense that the 4-3 win was essentially an evening out of their recent luck. San Jose had just 20 shots on goal, tying their season low, but four of them beat Cam Ward. That includes the second period when their shooting percentage was a lofty 50 percent (four shots, two goals).

“It’s good to see the puck go in for a few guys,” Joe Pavelski said. “The bounces – that’s why you just have to keep playing. I would have thought we would have won the other two games before this one.”

Pete DeBoer said: “I think when you look at the week, out of the three games we played, it was probably our poorest of the three. But we found a way to win, and the other two we lost, maybe we deserved better. That's hockey.”

After falling behind 2-0 in each of their last two games, the Sharks jumped on the Hurricanes just 12 seconds in when Patrick Marleau scored on a two-on-one with Joe Thornton.

Aaron Dell was surely chuffed after that one. In a previous start against Carolina on Nov. 15, the first-year backup stood on his head but got no support in a 1-0 loss.

“It’s a good feeling to get one right away,” Dell said.

The difference in the game was the Sharks’ pair of second period goals, after they had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 wiped away. Logan Couture’s redirection of a Brent Burns shot put San Jose ahead to stay, 3-2, while Kevin Labanc’s second goal in as many nights on the rebound of a Dylan DeMelo blast was the necessary insurance, and the game-winner.

Labanc now has three goals in his last five games, generating the type of offense that was expected from others on the team, but just hasn’t come.

“It’s a confidence booster, that’s for sure,” Labanc said of scoring in consecutive games. “It’s just momentum, and you ride with it. You just keep going, and whatever opportunities come by you, you’ve just got to make sure it goes in the net.”

DeBoer said: "For a team that's had trouble scoring, he's one guy that's consistently scored for us. The puck follows him around. … He's done a great job, and he's a hard guy to remove from the lineup just because of how he's playing and how he's contributing.”

At the end of a three-game California road trip, Carolina pushed hard to start the third down 4-2. Derek Ryan’s power play goal brought the ‘Canes back to within one, and the way the ice was tilted over those first four minutes, it looked like the Sharks might be in trouble.

Instead, they buckled down in the defensive zone despite missing defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is “day-to-day” with a lower body injury after leaving in the second period, according to DeBoer.

"They have a lot of talented guys on the team that can make plays,” said Paul Martin, who got the most fortuitous bounce of the night when his first period slap shot went in off of defenseman Brett Pesce's skate. “For us, it was just trying to find a way to win at that point, take care of our own zone, and Deller made some big key saves when we needed them."

Dell’s biggest stop came with about 20 seconds left, when he challenged Jeff Skinner on a rebound try – one of 11 shots for the Hurricanes forward – and saw the backhander hit him in the chest. He’s now 3-1 in his nascent NHL career.

“The last minute six-on-five is always a really, really long minute,” Dell said. “I think we played it pretty well.”

Carolina had plenty of zone time over the final two minutes with Ward pulled for an extra attacker. But this time, it was the Sharks’ opponent that never got that necessary bounce.

Instant Replay: Sharks make most of opportunities in win over 'Canes

Instant Replay: Sharks make most of opportunities in win over 'Canes

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – After a disappointing defeat less than 24 hours earlier, and with a four-game road trip on the horizon, the Sharks could have overlooked Carolina on Saturday night at SAP Center.

Although it wasn’t their cleanest game, and they managed just 20 shots on goal, the Sharks got past the Hurricanes, 4-3. San Jose’s modest two-game losing streak came to an end.

Twice the Sharks took a one-goal lead, and twice the Hurricanes responded. At 11:02 of the second period, Joakim Nordstrom’s shorthanded goal on a partial breakaway knotted the score at 2-2.

The Sharks tallied a pair of scores to take a 4-2 lead into the dressing room at the second intermission, though. Logan Couture redirected a Brent Burns wrist shot at 12:18, and less than two minutes later Kevin Labanc smacked in the rebound of a Dylan DeMelo shot off of Cam Ward’s pad at 14:10.

Carolina got back to within 4-3 in the third period, taking advantage of an ill-advised cross-checking minor on Brenden Dillon. Derek Ryan was left alone in front of the net, and slipped a shot through Aaron Dell’s five-hole at 3:42.

Carolina pulled Ward for the extra attacker with about two minutes to go, and Dell made a key save on a Jeff Skinner rebound with 20 seconds left to preserve the win.

San Jose beat Carolina for just the fifth time in the past 15 meetings (5-8-2). The Hurricanes won the only other matchup on Nov. 15, 1-0.

There was a flurry of goals early.

The Sharks opened the scoring just 12 seconds into the game, when Patrick Marleau finished off a two-on-one rush with Joe Thornton. Carolina responded shortly after that on Lee Stempniak’s power play goal at 1:59, but the Sharks reclaimed the lead when Paul Martin’s point shot nicked Brett Pesce’s skate and fluttered through Ward at 3:14.

The Sharks lost Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the second period. The defenseman left for a stretch in the middle frame, returned for a shift, but did not play at all after that.

Carolina went 1-1-1 on its three-game road trip through California.

The Sharks completed a stretch of eight home games out of 10, and begin a four-game road trip in Toronto on Tuesday.

Special teams

The Sharks went 0-for-1 on the power play, going up against the league’s best penalty kill.

Carolina finished 2-for-2. San Jose is just 23-for-32 on the PK in its last 12 games (71.8 percent).

In goal

Dell was making his fourth start of the season, getting both Carolina games while the other two were against the Islanders. He improved to 3-1 on the season with 30 saves.

Ward took the loss, allowing four goals on 20 shots goals. It was just his second loss to the Sharks in his career in eight decisions (6-2-0).

Lineup

David Schlemko missed his third straight game with a right ankle injury. Matt Nieto, a scratch for the previous five games, replaced Micheal Haley on the fourth line.

Burns’ three-game goal-scoring streak was halted.

Up next

The Sharks will visit Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Chicago on their upcoming roadie, playing four games in six nights, before returning home to host Calgary on Dec. 20.