Could NHL lockout be nearing its end?


Could NHL lockout be nearing its end?

Collective bargaining negotiations resumed in New York on Wednesday afternoon, with a palpable feeling that the NHL’s 80-day lockout could finally be nearing its conclusion.

Representatives from both sides met for more than eight hours on Tuesday, with new owners and players in the room while commissioner Gary Bettman and union boss Donald Fehr sat out. After the meeting, the NHLPA’s Steve Fehr said, “It might be the best day we’ve had so far.”

On Wednesday morning, the league’s Board of Governors, including Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and executive vice president and general counsel John Tortora, held a two-hour meeting that served mainly as an update. The commissioner took to the podium after that meeting for an extremely brief statement in which he said that he’s “pleased with the process that is ongoing,” but did not want to comment further. He did not take any questions.

While an agreement is certainly not inevitable, there is enough optimism that many have begun speculating just when and how long a shortened NHL season would begin. Some have suggested that a 54-to-60-game schedule would be reasonable, so long as the season starts before Christmas. If an agreement is reached, players would likely need two to three days to return to their teams as well as a week-long training camp before games would begin.

In 1994-95, the last time the NHL played a shortened season, an agreement was reached on Jan. 11 and a 48-game schedule started on Jan. 20.

The NHL has already cancelled all games through Dec. 14, the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, and the All-Star Game in Columbus.

DeBoer laughs heartily at photo: Thornton 'doesn't like his shirt on'

DeBoer laughs heartily at photo: Thornton 'doesn't like his shirt on'

PITTSBURGH – Joe Thornton and Brent Burns are already two of the more recognizable players in the NHL, standing at six-foot-four and six-foot-five respectively, and beards that are only slightly shorter than that.

Strolling about the Steel City on Wednesday, they caught the attention of one hockey fan who snapped a photo of Burns and a shirtless Thornton, and sent it to Pittsburgh radio host Colin Dunlap, who subsequently tweeted the image. As of Thursday morning, it had nearly 5,000 retweets and more than 8,000 likes.

After the Sharks’ morning skate on Thursday, Thornton simply said he was “just seeing the sights,” before quickly running off to the showers.

Head coach Pete DeBoer laughed heartily when asked if he had seen the picture.

“I did. [Thornton] doesn’t like his shirt on, we know that,” DeBoer said. “That’s the uniqueness and the beauty of our group.”

The Sharks play the Penguins on Thursday night in the first meeting between the teams since the Stanley Cup Final.

NHL Gameday: Pens hurting in Final rematch with Sharks

NHL Gameday: Pens hurting in Final rematch with Sharks

Programming note: Sharks-Penguins coverage starts today at 3:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 3-1-0, 6 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Penguins: 2-1-1, 5 points, 2nd Metropolitan Division


***The Sharks and Penguins will meet for the first time since Pittsburgh’s win in the Stanley Cup Final last June. The Penguins are, however, missing some key pieces to that series victory as Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Matt Murray and Conor Sheary are all out due to injury.

The Sharks are 2-1 on their current five-game road trip, which concludes on Saturday in Detroit.

“A lot of reminders for sure being back here not long ago,” Joel Ward said. “Definitely excited, a good challenge with us being on the road early again. We’ll try to notch another road win.”

***Pete DeBoer said after the Islanders game that he wasn’t sure what his emotions would be like when he walked into the rink, which is now called PPG Paints Arena. Now that he’s here, how does he feel?

“An overwhelming sense I think of pride for our group and the journey we went on,” he said. “I know we came up short, but the memories I have coming back in here are just of how our guys really emptied the tank. … They were the better team, but I was very proud of our effort. That’s the overwhelming feeling right now.”

As for Joe Thornton, he recalled that the last time the Sharks were here they won Game 5, prolonging the series.

“The last time we were here was a pretty good feeling,” Thornton said. “That’s all I remember, really.”

***Matt Nieto will return to the lineup for Micheal Haley, who played against the Islanders and helped to generate the first goal in the 3-2 win.

DeBoer stressed that Nieto wasn’t removed from the lineup due to his play, but that the Sharks are “going to rotate guys in and out” due to their improved depth.

“[Nieto] brings some more speed for us. I thought he did a good job the game before we took him out,” DeBoer said. “Hales gave us a real good game against a physical team against the Islanders, and Neets will go back in to tonight. He’s just got to do his thing.”

Nieto said: “Something they try to do is play fast, and they’ve got a lot of speedy guys in their lineup. I think if I’m moving my legs it could be effective.”


Sharks: Joe Thornton. The Sharks’ top line center broke through on Tuesday in Brooklyn, setting up the game-tying goal and game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Islanders. Thornton didn’t have a very good Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins with just three assists in six games, so perhaps he has some retribution on his mind, even if he doesn't want to admit it.

Penguins: Matt Cullen. The veteran center is doing his best to help minimize the loss of Crosby, and is tied for the team lead with three points (1g, 2a). Dating back to last season, Cullen, who turns 40 on Nov. 2, has 11 goals in his past 31 games.


Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Mikkel Boedker – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Matt Nieto – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (confirmed starter)
Aaron Dell

Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust
Carl Hagelin – Nick Bonino – Phil Kessel
Scott Wilson – Matt Cullen – Patric Honqvist
Tom Sestito – Eric Fehr – Tom Kuhnhackl

Olli Maatta – Trevor Daley
Ian Cole – Justin Schultz
Derrick Pouliot – Brian Dumoulin

Marc-Andre Fleury
Mike Condon


Sharks: None.

Penguins: Kris Letang (upper body) and Conor Sheary (eye), Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Matt Murray (hand) are out.