Sharks hopeful talks lead to CBA progress, Boyle mum

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Sharks hopeful talks lead to CBA progress, Boyle mum

SAN JOSE The NHL lockout reached a new low point on Friday with the cancellation of the Winter Classic, which would have brought more than 100,000 fans to Michigan Stadium to witness the Maple Leafs and Red Wings in the annual outdoor spectacle.

Less than 24 hours later, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr engaged in a lengthy bargaining session in an undisclosed location, and issued brief statements afterwards that were absent of the petty public sniping weve seen throughout the labor impasse.

There is optimism, albeit cautious, that the corner has finally been turned in terms of getting a new collective bargaining agreement in place and beginning a shortened season in early December or even late November.

I think it made, I guess, the possibility of missing a whole season kind of hit home for everybody, said Brad Stuart of losing the Classic. Obviously, nobody wants that to happen. Maybe that was something that made everybody kind of wake up and say, lets try to do something before we cancel more than just the Winter Classic.

RELATED: CBA talks expected to last all week

Stuart was one of just four current Sharks skating at Sharks Ice on Monday, joining Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau and Thomas Greiss for an hour-long session. Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov has also been a regular participant, as the former Shark maintains a residence in the Bay Area. Ryane Clowe also is still local, but has decided to practice with the ECHLs San Francisco Bulls for the time being. Eight players are overseas in various leagues across Europe.

Stuart and Marleau are hopeful that the band will be back together soon.

I guess theyre talking, and thats a good thing, Stuart said. There hasnt been too many details as to what exactly has been discussed, but the fact that theyre talking and it seems like theyre going to continue to talk, is a good thing. I guess if theres any hope or a reason to be optimistic, thats it.

Marleau said: Any time you talk, hopefully cooler heads will prevail and the owners will scrap whatever script they are going by and realize that theyre hurting the game. Theyre only hurting themselves in the end of things.

Marleau was especially critical of the hard-line owners in comments 11 days ago, when he suggested the league planned all along to cancel games through November. On Monday, he doubled down on that criticism, although he believes that the Sharks ownership is not among those taking a hard-line stance.

Its tough when someone on the other side doesnt want to talk for so long. Its a good sign that theyre talking, he said.

We wanted to talk the whole time, and they just said no. Theyre going off of their agenda, and doing whatever they want. Theyre written this script already, so its no big surprise.

Should commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr rejoin the bargaining sessions (something thats unclear at the moment), it would be the first time the two leaders were in the same room together since Oct. 18. That was when Bettman and the NHL representation look just minutes to reject the unions counter-proposals to the leagues previous offer on Oct. 16.

An agreement is still far from a certainty at this point, of course, as there are a number of contentious issues to solve. The single biggest roadblock seems to be current contracts, as the players association wants NHL ownership to be fully responsible to the deals that are currently signed. The league would like an immediate 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, as well as new restrictions on future contracts.

Boyle mum on latest news

Dan Boyle has been among the more outspoken NHL players when it comes to the current lockout.

On Oct. 4, he made headlines when he suggested that the owners wanted the players to miss some paychecks before truly negotiating, and that Bettman only requiring eight votes to deny a CBA proposal didnt make sense.

On Oct. 25, he suggested that both the NHL and NHLPA had yet to really begin bargaining. Its supposed to be a negotiation, and I think right now both sides feel like its their way or the highway. I think youve got to give to get, and I dont know that were at that point yet, he told CSNCalifornia.com.

On Monday, Boyle declined to answer anything lockout-related, save for one brief statement.

Until this thing gets done, we just have to wait and hope. Thats it, he said.

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Lightning in second of back-to-back

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Lightning in second of back-to-back

Programming note – Sharks-Lightning coverage starts today at 7:00 on CSN California with Sharks Pregame Live

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 27-16-2, 56 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Lightning: 21-20-5, 47 points, 6th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***After missing Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles due to illness, Logan Couture could return against the Lightning. According to coach Pete DeBoer, Couture is feeling “good. Talked to him this morning at the rink. Went for a little skate. Looks good, but we won’t know until game time.”

Joonas Donskoi, who has missed the last three games with an upper body injury, will also be a game-time decision.

***Aaron Dell will make his second start in a little more than a week, getting back in shortly after a 3-2 loss in Calgary on Jan. 11. The game winner came from Dougie Hamilton from a sharp angle with 2:19 to go, on what was a stoppable shot.

“I think [Dell's] body of work has been real good. That could happen to anybody,” DeBoer said of the Hamilton goal. “I didn’t think he had a poor game that night. It’s going to happen. This isn’t like you need to see a bounce back effort, or anything like that. We’re comfortable with what he brings. I know he’s excited to play, and he’s played well for us.”

***The Lightning are just 2-5-1 in their last eight games, and are in the midst of a six-game road swing. It started with a win over the Kings on Monday, 2-1, and was followed by a 2-1 overtime loss in Anaheim on Tuesday. Tampa Bay has scored two or fewer goals in six of its last seven, but also brings the NHL’s fourth-ranked power play (22.9 percent) into tonight’s contest.

No word yet on the goalie, either, after Martin Jones made 22 saves in the Sharks’ 3-2 win at Staples Center. It could make sense to go back to Jones against the Lightning, while leaving the miserable Colorado Avalanche for backup Aaron Dell on Saturday.

***The Lightning are just 2-5-1 in their last eight games, and are in the midst of a six-game road swing. It started with a win over the Kings on Monday, 2-1, and was followed by a 2-1 overtime loss in Anaheim on Tuesday. Tampa Bay has scored two or fewer goals in six of its last seven, but also brings the NHL’s fourth-ranked power play (22.9 percent) into tonight’s contest.

Top defenseman Victor Hedman reportedly remains out tonight with an illness. It will be his third straight game out of the lineup. He leads the league among blueliners with 31 assists, and his 38 points trails only Brent Burns (46).

***San Jose beat the Lightning in the only other game of the season series on Nov. 12 in Tampa Bay, 3-1. The Sharks are 4-3-0 this season in the second of back-to-back games, and 15-6-0 against the Eastern Conference.

Tampa Bay is just 3-8-2 against the Western Conference.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Tommy Wingels. Although he’s found it difficult to stay in the lineup on a nightly basis this season, Wingels has managed to contribute recently, including a goal against the Kings on Wednesday. The 28-year-old fourth liner has one point in three of his last six games, despite being scratched for seven of the last 12 overall. He’s had success against the Lightning, too, with four goals and seven points in eight career games.

Lightning: Jonathan Drouin. The forward saw a five-game point streak come to an end on Jan. 17, but has at least one point in eight of his last 10 games overall. After a misguided decision last season in which he demanded a trade that never happened, Drouin, 21, is third on the Lightning in scoring with 29 points (13g, 16a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Melker Karlsson – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Patrick Marleau – Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Ryan Carpenter – Tommy Wingels

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

Aaron Dell (starter)
Martin Jones

Lightning
Ondrej Palat – Vlad Namestnikov – Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn – Tyler Johnson – Joel Vermin
Brian Boyle – Valtteri Filppula – Jonathan Drouin
Michael Bournival – Cedric Paquette – Gabriel Dumont

Nikita Nesterov – Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison – Andrej Sustr
Braydon Coburn – Luke Witkowski

Andrei Vasilevskiy (starter)
Ben Bishop

INJURIES

Sharks: Logan Couture (illness) and Joonas Donskoi (upper body) are questionable. Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are on injured reserve.

Lightning: Steven Stamkos (torn meniscus), Brayden Point (upper body), J.T. Brown (upper body), Ryan Callahan (lower body) and Victor Hedman (illness) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I think we’ve been saying all year our job is to try and be in their end and get a good forecheck. Luckily of late we’ve been getting some points, so that’s good.” – Micheal Haley, on the recent play of the Sharks’ fourth line.

Three takeaways: Sharks getting regular production from fourth line

Three takeaways: Sharks getting regular production from fourth line

LOS ANGELES – It’s a bit strange that the Sharks and Kings won’t play again this season, and the way things are going for Los Angeles, there’s a good chance a playoff matchup won’t be possible, either.

Here are the three takeaways from Wednesday’s 3-2 Sharks win at Staples Center, giving them three wins in five games over their primary adversary.

1 – Shutting down the Kings’ top guys

While goal scoring has come and gone for the Sharks, as long as they keep putting up defensive efforts like they did on Wednesday, they’re going to be fine more nights than not. Jeff Carter was held in check, while Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty both failed to record a single shot on goal.

Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter was critical of his stars after the game.

“When it’s that close going into the third period, you need your top guys to step up and make a difference in the third. That wasn’t the case,” Sutter told LAKingsinsider.com.

“You need your big guys to score. I think other than Jeff, there hasn’t been a whole lot of that.”

On the other side, the Sharks got goals from Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski, while Joe Thornton had a pair of assists in one of his better games of late. 

2 – Strong special teams

Pavelski shot down a suggestion that special teams was the biggest difference in the game, but in a one-goal win, the Sharks got a power play goal from their captain while completely shutting down the Kings’ power play.

San Jose is 3-for-13 on the power play over the last four games, and the top unit looked dangerous all night, even without Logan Couture. Pavelski was especially jazzed after his goal, perhaps wiping away some lingering visions of his missed net against the Blues last Saturday.

The Sharks’ penalty kill, though, was brilliant. Los Angeles had just one shot in seven minutes and 39 seconds of time on the man advantage.

“I think we did a good job up the ice. We stopped a couple on the breakout,” Burns said. “That’s huge to keep it down.”

3 – Fourth line contributors

Over the last six games, the Sharks’ fourth line – featuring some different players at different times – has contributed 12 points (that includes Mikkel Boedker’s hat trick in Edmonton).

Against the Kings, it was Micheal Haley, Tommy Wingels and Ryan Carpenter giving the team good minutes. Wingels scored the Sharks’ second goal on a nifty setup by Haley on a two-on-one, while Carpenter looked comfortable in his 12 minutes of ice time despite not playing an NHL game in a month and a half.

“I thought [Carpenter] came up and gave us some real good minutes, and Hales has been great all year,” Pete DeBoer said. “Big goal by Wingels coming into the lineup after sitting for awhile.”

Haley said: “It’s definitely nice to get a goal. That’s always a positive. I think we’ve been saying all year our job is to try and be in their end and get a good forecheck. Luckily of late we’ve been getting some points, so that’s good.”