Mitchell re-invigorated with new linemates

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Mitchell re-invigorated with new linemates

GLENDALE It was one of the biggest highlight-reel moments of the season, and it came courtesy of an unusual suspect.

Torrey Mitchells goal with less than two seconds left in the second period in Dallas was dazzling. The forward, who has scored just seven times this year in 61 games, received a pass from the neutral zone from Joe Thornton with the clock winding down and the visitors trailing by a goal. He cut to his right, and then quickly shifted his weight the other direction in making defenseman Alex Goligoski look foolish. He finished it off with a sneaky short-side backhand that beat goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

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Dont really have an explanation, it just worked out, Mitchell said on Friday about his goal. It felt good, and that was obviously a timely goal at the end of the period.

The Sharks seemingly carried the momentum into the third period, taking their first lead just 25 seconds after the faceoff on Patrick Marleaus 27th of the season, before the disappointing end.

But the loss doesnt diminish the fact that Mitchell, who has two goals in the last three games, seems re-invigorated on a line with newcomers Daniel Winnik and Dominic Moore.

RECAP: Sharks' effort improves, but result the same

That line is starting to feel comfortable with each other. There are some good pieces there speedy pieces, good defensive pieces. Theyve been able to chip in offensively, and I like the way the three of them have been playing, Todd McLellan said.

New blood often brings new energy, and not necessarily with those players themselves. Mitchell seems to sincerely enjoy playing with his new linemates, and it shows.

Theyre doing a good job, theyre easy to play with, theyre fun to play with, and they have a lot of energy. We obviously have a lot of guys pushing for the third line role, too, so its keeping us honest and keeping us showing up every night, knowing we basically have to fight for our position. Its been good for us, and its been good for me.

Thats led to an uptick in production on the scoresheet, but theres more to it than that. Hes gaining the confidence of his head coach, who scratched him from the lineup on two separate occasions, most recently on Feb. 21 at Columbus.

Two situations this year where hes come out of the lineup, and hes done what a good player will do. Hes responded, McLellan said. Now, a real good player is going to maintain that. Hes getting that opportunity now, and I think Torrey Mitchell is a real good player. Lets see if he can do it, and maintain it.

It appears that McLellan is happy with that trios defensive play, too. Winnik, although he has yet to score, has been solid in his own zone and along the boards. Moore is also playing well as the center on that line, which lately, has been drawing the assignment of keeping the oppositions top line at bay.

At home, where McLellan has the last change, they were out there against Edmonton's dangerous Jordan Eberle-Sam Gagner-Taylor Hall line. On Thursday against the Stars, Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson entered with a combined 31 points in the last eight games, but had trouble generating offense while matched up primarily against that line.

Mitchell embraces that challenge.

You want to be careful, because you want to stay on your toes and contribute offensively as well. But obviously, if thats our role for that game is to shut down that other teams top line, then thats fun for us, Mitchell said. Its exciting going into the game knowing you have an opportunity to shut down Gagner, or whoever it may be. Its good. I like that. Its fun.

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).