Sharks-Predators: What to watch for


Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Antti Niemi will get his wish.

The Sharks goaltender, who said that he would be best suited to play again right away after getting pulled two minutes into the game against Pittsburgh on Thursday, will start in net against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at HP Pavilion.

Todd McLellan said the decision was not difficult.

It was easy. Hes going to be our goaltender when it counts, said the coach. He hasnt had a lot of time throughout training camp, and he needs to play some games. So, its pretty simple.

Thomas Greiss was arguably the Sharks best player in the 4-3 come-from-behind win against the Penguins. McLellan was quick to point out that Greiss, whose 1.99 goals-against average and .928 save percentage are decidedly better than Niemis stats (2.96, .893) will get more looks down the road.

Thomas played extremely well, we all appreciate his effort and hell get many more opportunities to play this year. But, tonight its about Nemo getting his game back.

Every day Im shufflin: The Sharks third line was finally able to contribute on Thursday, getting a huge goal from Jamie McGinn with less than five minutes to play that tied the game at 3-3.

It was a big goal for the third line last game, to be rewarded and put the puck in the net, so hopefully we can continue that, said McGinn this morning. We got that monkey off our back kind of thing.

McGinn also has a new linemate, if you go by practice yesterday and the skate this morning. Marty Havlat has joined McGinn and Michal Handzus, as McLellan seeks a more balanced attack.

RELATED: Tinkering with third D pair continues

Marty and Zeus have a good relationship, and I think they understand each other, said McLellan. I think they could be a dynamic pair together as the year goes on.

Havlat and Handzus are no strangers, as the two played together on the same line in Chicago for most of the 2006-07 season.

Hes very smart with the puck and his positioning, and a good passer and playmaker, Havlat said of Handzus. He can get you the puck pretty quick. Hes great at both ends.

Avoiding the Big D: There could be another reason that McLellan wants to change his forward lines up, specifically splitting up Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Actually, make that two reasons Predators defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

Thornton has skated with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski the last two days, while Marleau looks to be with Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell.

They have Suter and Weber and will try and match up against one of our big centermen Im assuming Jumbo, explained McLellan. So, that will allow another big body in Patty to play against other pairs.

When you put Patty and Clowie together they are two big men. If they are playing well, theyre a load to handle down low.

As good as the top two lines were on the Sharks successful 5-1 road trip, McLellan sensed even they were getting a little too stale, as he put it.

We werent getting a lot from our third and fourth lines anyhow, and our other two lines for the most part carried the team on the road trip. But, they started to sputter at the end, too, he said.

Pavelski recovering: Joe Pavelski was back on the ice this morning after sitting out Fridays practice with a flu bug, that has been making its way through the team. Marelau and Dan Boyle have also had bouts with the illness.

Pavelski still leads the team with 13 points, but had a six-game scoring streak snapped against the Penguins.

RELATED: Pavelski latest flu victim

Its just something you have to deal with, said Pavelski, who said he wasnt feeling 100 percent during the win over the Penguins, before adding he has to be better than he was in that game.

Odds and ends: The Sharks and Predators met once this season, with San Jose skating to a 3-1 win in Nashville on Oct. 25. Pekka Rinne is expected to start in net for the Preds. Hes started every game so far, and is coming off of a shutout of Phoenix on Thursday. That day also marked his 29th birthday, and he signed a 49 million, seven-year deal with the team before the game. Not a bad day. Nashville is in the middle of a five-game road trip. They are 1-0-1 so far.

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

Sharks shuffle up their lines ahead of homestand

Sharks shuffle up their lines ahead of homestand

SAN JOSE – When the Sharks signed free agent forward Mikkel Boedker in the summer, head coach Pete DeBoer immediately pictured him on a line with Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi, saying a couple weeks ago that it looked good when he wrote it down “on a napkin.”

DeBoer apparently went through a few more napkins on the flight home from Detroit on Sunday, a 3-0 shutout loss to the Red Wings on Saturday surely on his mind.

The Sharks resumed practice on Monday with four entirely new lines, including Boedker up with the Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Couture centered Donskoi and Joel Ward, while Tomas Hertl was in the middle of the third line with Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto. Chris Tierney skated as fourth line center with the remaining wingers.

“It’s not a panic situation or anything, I think you’re always looking for ways to get the most out of your group,” DeBoer said. “Our four-line game hasn’t been where I want it to be.”

Getting more out of Boedker is apparently part of the motivation for shuffling things up, as the newcomer has just four shots on goal through six games, with one point (a goal against Columbus on Oct. 15).

Playing with Thornton and Pavelski could help in that regard, just as it helped players such as Hertl last season.

“He’s got to shoot the puck more…and he knows that,” DeBoer said of Boedker. “I’m not concerned about him, but the nice thing about playing with those two guys is they push you to go to the areas where you have to score. Hopefully that gets him going.”

Boedker said: “It’s two of the best [players] in the league, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. Just got to listen and do the things they expect me to do, and make sure that I do them to the highest level.”

The line changes spreads out the Sharks’ speed a little more evenly among their scoring lines. They looked slow in losses to Detroit and the Rangers, especially.

“[Boedker] can bring some things to that line that Tomas maybe doesn’t,” DeBoer said. “Tomas has a great skill set, but this guy can back people off with his speed.”

Hertl will skate at center for the first time since early last January, although he saw plenty of time there in training camp when Thornton and Couture were competing in the World Cup. Last season, he had 15 points (4g, 11a) in 37 games before moving to the Thornton line full time on Jan. 9, where he took off.

The 22-year-old has three points (2g, 1a) in six games this season as a left wing.

“I think Hertl can play anywhere,” DeBoer said. “His game is at that point in his career and he’s a good enough player now that not only can he play anywhere, but I think he can make other people better around him.”

While the line changes will give the Sharks a new look on paper, Couture believes the bigger issue with the team – going back to the third period of Thursday’s 3-2 loss in Pittsburgh – is its compete level. 

“It’s compete and battle and playing the right way that we need to worry about,” he said. “We didn’t play well in Detroit, there’s no way around that. … We just didn’t compete, [and] that’s a frustrating thing, but it’s an easy thing to fix.”

The head coach echoed Couture’s estimation.

DeBoer said: “We have to realize how desperate a team we were last year every night, and the teams that we’re playing are out to hunt us based on our success last year. If we don’t have that desperation level, it’s going to be tough to win.”

The Sharks open a three-game homestand on Tuesday against Anaheim, and host the Blue Jackets and Predators later this week.