Sharks-Coyotes: What to watch for


Sharks-Coyotes: What to watch for

PHOENIX Goaltender Antti Niemi will return to the crease tonight in Phoenix and try for his third consecutive shutout when the Sharks visit the Coyotes for an early evening match at Arena.

Niemi took a slap shot in the wrong place during Wednesdays practice, so Thomas Greiss filled on for Thursdays 5-2 home win over Dallas. Niemi is coming off of a 1-0 shutout on Jan. 24 in Calgary in the game just before the All-Star break, and a 6-0 win over Columbus in the first game back from the break on Tuesday.

NEWS: Niemi returns, Demers still not skating

He said that hes not really thinking about his personal streak, but

Maybe it gives me a little extra spark, a little extra energy, he said on Saturday morning.

Niemi has good career numbers against the Coyotes, too. In eight games, hes 5-1-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average, .933 save percentage and one shutout.

He has yet to face them this season, though, as Greiss played on opening night in a 6-3 Sharks win, and took a 3-0 loss on Nov. 12. Both of those games were at HP Pavilion.

They have some of the same core guys and Ive seen the games, so I dont think it really matters, said Niemi of not facing Phoenix yet this year. Its a Western Conference, team so I know them pretty well.

Mike Smith, who was the goaltender for Phoenixs shutout win on Nov. 12, will oppose Niemi. In six career games against the Sharks, Smith is 2-3-0 with a 2.94 GAA and .923 SP.

Sharks confident: San Jose has two comfortable wins under its belt in the first two games after the All-Star break, has won three in a row overall, and is a pretty positive bunch headed into tonight.

Is this the most confident theyve been all season?

Yeah, and its a good time to have our dads here, too, Torrey Mitchell said, referring to most of the team members having their fathers along in what has become an annual event. We want to play hard for them. Were feeling good about ourselves right now, definitely. Were scoring some goals the last two games and playing well so it feels good right now, but we obviously cant get too confident.

We should feel good about our game, coach Todd McLellan said.

After struggling on the scoreboard going into the break, the Sharks have exploded for 11 goals in their last two games while maintaining a strong team defense.

I think the fact that we have scored some goals and buried teams, guys get confident, Ryane Clowe said. When that happens, too, guys get hungry to score. You see guys scoring and putting points up, and then everyone wants to try to contribute.
Coyotes getting desperate: Phoenix enters the game in danger of fading out of the playoff race. They are in 12th place in the Western Conference with 52 points, five behind the eighth place Minnesota Wild.

They have just two wins in their last nine games, and have not played since a 4-1 loss to Anaheim on Jan. 31 in which Smith was pulled in second period.

Its tough to make huge moves in the standings, especially with the one point reward for an overtime or shootout loss. A lot of teams, including our team, have to be desperate, McLellan said.

We want to play well and win as many games as possible, and if you dont have that sense of desperation in your game, you have no chance of winning in the second half it gets ramped up so much.

Despite Phoenixs struggles, the Sharks remember that 3-0 loss on Nov. 12 and wont take the Coyotes lightly.

Theyre a tough team to play and have always been a pretty tough team to play, especially the last couple of years, Mitchell said. Theyre tough to beat here, and were expecting that.

Power play surging: The Sharks power play is five for its last 12 over the past five games, and back in the NHLs top 10 after a pretty dismal two month stretch.

As we reported yesterday, one big reason is Joe Pavelski is back on the point and Logan Couture is on a loaded top unit that also features Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton Patrick Marleau and Pavelski. Theres more to it than that, though, according to Clowe.

I think more than anything, if you see the goals were scoring, its just shooting, he said. The pucks have taken a couple bounces and went in, and were running the plays we want to run, but were shooting.

The Sharks second power play unit consists of Clowe, Brent Burns, Justin Braun, Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn.

Crowd sourcing: The Coyotes, plagued by relocation rumors for the past several years, are the worst draw in the NHL. Officially they are averaging 11,589 fans per game, but on many nights its much, much less.

Is it more difficult to play in front of a light crowd?

Its fun to play in front of a lot of people when youre on the road, but youve got to deal with it. Its the same for both teams, Mitchell said. Its almost like a road game for them too, sometimes. But, you get up for the game. Theres two points on the line, so everyones ready to go.

Odds and ends: Joe Thorntons 58 points against the Coyotes are his most against any team. Logan Couture has a five-game point streak, with five goals and three assists. Jason Demers (lower body) and Tommy Wingels (left shoulder) remain out for the Sharks. Phoenixs power play is just 2-for-26 in the last 11 games. Joe Pavelski has six goals in his last six games against Phoenix.

NHL Gameday: Sharks to ice new lines against Ducks

NHL Gameday: Sharks to ice new lines against Ducks

Programming note – Sharks-Ducks coverage starts tonight at 7:00 p.m. on NBCSN.


Sharks: 3-3-0, 6 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Ducks: 2-3-1, 5 points, 4th Pacific Division


***The Sharks will be playing just their second home game. They beat the Kings at SAP Center on Oct. 12, 2-1, and promptly went on a five-game road trip through the Eastern Conference, going 2-3-0. Tuesday’s game against Anaheim is the first of a three-game homestand, and the Sharks have five of their next six at home overall.

San Jose notoriously struggled in its first home game after a multiple-game road trip last season, going 1-8-1. Their lone win was in a shootout over Edmonton.

The coach welcomes a heated rivalry game.

“I’m actually excited and glad we’re having this type of game coming off the way we played last game,” Pete DeBoer said. “There are no speeches that need to be made, you have to be emotionally invested here tonight in order to win. I think we will be.”

Under new/old head coach Randy Carlyle, Anaheim dropped its first four games (0-3-1, all on the road), but brings a two-game winning streak into tonight. Carlyle led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup in 2006-07, and replaces Bruce Boudreau, who was fired after last season.

Both the Sharks and Ducks have scored exactly 14 goals through their first six games, and both are just 3-for-20 on the power play.

***The Sharks are last in the NHL in faceoff percentage (42.9 percent). That’s not typical, as San Jose finished seventh last season, which was actually its lowest overall finish in the Joe Thornton era.

Tomas Hertl (47.6 percent) will replace Chris Tierney (31.9 percent) as the third line center, while Tierney gets bumped to the fourth line.

“Hopefully I’ll be strong and win a lot of faceoffs for guys, and everybody will be better,” Hertl said. “If you’re losing it’s hard, because you’re chasing the puck all game.”

DeBoer pointed out that faceoffs are harder to win on the road, where the Sharks have played five of their first six games, but “it’s definitely a concern.”

“It mimics our five-on-five game a little bit,” DeBoer said. “It’s a compete area for me, and we’ve got to get better at it.”

***Micheal Haley will return to the Sharks’ lineup in place of Matt Nieto on the fourth line. In the final preseason game on Oct. 9, the Sharks and Ducks combined for 86 penalty minutes, including four fights – two involving Haley. 

“They obviously have a few guys that can play a physical style, so we'll be ready,” Haley said. “I don't think it will be like that game (preseason) necessarily, but we're a heavy team, too, so we'll match them.”


Sharks: Mikkel Boedker. The offseason addition is off to a slow start with just one goal, no assists and four shots through six games, but will get a look on the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. San Jose will go with four all new lines after getting shut out in Detroit on Saturday, 3-0.

Ducks: Nick Ritchie. The 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Ritchie scored the game-winning goal on Sunday in a 4-2 Ducks win over Vancouver at home. He’s playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and has two points (1g, 1a) through the first six games.


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

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

Martin Jones (confirmed starter)
Aaron Dell

Nick Ritchie – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Ryan Garbutt – Antoine Vermette – Chris Wagner
Joe Cramarossa – Michael Sgarbossa – Jared Boll

Cam Fowler – Josh Manson
Clayton Stoner – Sami Vatanen
Shea Theodore – Kevin Bieksa

John Gibson
Jonathan Bernier


Sharks: None.

Ducks: Nate Thompson (Achilles surgery) and Simon Despres (concussion) are out.


“I don’t know if speed is the biggest thing we’re missing right now. With us it’s compete and battle and playing the right way that we need to worry about. We didn’t play well in Detroit, there’s no way around that. … We just didn’t compete. That’s a frustrating thing, but it’s an easy thing to fix.” – Logan Couture

Notes: DeMelo will play for Sharks soon; Couture battling illness

Notes: DeMelo will play for Sharks soon; Couture battling illness

SAN JOSE – Dylan DeMelo may finally be coming to a San Jose Sharks game near you.

The 23-year-old defenseman, who has yet to play in any of the first six games, will likely make his season debut shortly, coach Pete DeBoer indicated on Monday.

“That’s something we discuss every day,” DeBoer said. “We like him, we’re very comfortable with him. We’d have no problem putting him in. I know Bob [Boughner] has no problem playing him, and not worrying about playing him against anybody out there. It’s a nice luxury to have. 

“We can get to the point where it’s too many games where he’s sitting out. We’re getting close to that. We’re going to have to get him in soon here.”

DeMelo has not played for the Sharks since the final game of the 2015-16 regular season on April 9. He served as the seventh defenseman in the playoffs, but the Sharks dressed the same six blueliners throughout their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

In the preseason, DeMelo – who would have to clear waivers in order to be reassigned to the Barracuda – beat out Mirco Mueller for the seventh job on the Sharks. He signed a two-year contract extension in the offseason.

A former sixth round pick of the club in 2011, DeMelo had a breakthrough season in 2015-16, playing in 45 games and establishing himself as an NHL defenseman. He finished the season with two goals and two assists for four points and an even rating.

* * *

While the Sharks shook up their forward lines at Monday’s skate, the top power play unit remained the same. Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are still together and will try to work out the kinks to their game.

The Sharks are 3-for-20 on the power play, with just one of those coming on a five-on-four.

“We’re not shooting the puck enough, that’s the big thing,” Couture said. “We’ve got to shoot the puck, get traffic. We always have a guy in front of the net and we’ve been getting away from that.”

* * *

Couture has managed five points (2g, 3a) through the first six games, all while battling a persistent cold that he just can’t shake. It’s obvious he’s dealing with some sort of sinus issue when hearing him speak the past few days.

“It’s like a month, it won’t go away,” Couture said. “It’s crazy.”

* * *

Breaking with standard practice, the Sharks opted to stay in Detroit the night after Saturday’s game, rather than immediately flying home on the team charter.

The Sharks were a miserable 1-8-1 in their first home game after a multiple-game road trip last regular season, with their lone win coming against Edmonton in a shootout, so DeBoer figured he would try something different this year.

“When we sat down in the summer and looked at areas to improve, our record coming back from road trips was not good last year,” he said. “We looked at opponents when we came back, our travel schedule. We’re just looking for answers to fix some of the areas that maybe we weren’t real good at last year.”