Braun gives Sharks luxury on defense

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Braun gives Sharks luxury on defense

SAN JOSE We touched on this topic a bit this morning on Sharks Talk, and Fridays practice offered the opportunity to follow up on defenseman Justin Brauns strong play. The 24-year-old has been getting close to 20 minutes a game lately, after not even making the opening night roster.

Braun spent most of Thursday nights win over the Wild paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. He played 19:23 in all, including 3:21 on the power play. To put that in perspective, prized offseason acquisition Brent Burns played 19:34, with 4:07 of that on the power play.

Nearly identical numbers. And thats not a knock on Burns, but a credit to Braun.

KURZ: Is Braun taking minutes from Burns?

I mentioned to McLellan that having Braun in the fold, adding to the teams defensive depth, must feel like a real luxury.

Isnt it nice? And its something we wanted, he said, somewhat emphatically. Just like Logan Couture did last year. Somebody to come in and take jobs, and steal time away. That push from underneath to the top is so valuable. It keeps everybody honest.

McLellan mentioned on Thursday that he sees a more confident Braun as compared with last season. I asked Braun what he himself thinks the difference is.

The comfort level, and just knowing what to expect every night, he said. Not wondering what other teams are going to bring, but just going out and playing my game.

Braun pointed out that the reason hes more confident is a two-way street. The coaching staff is showing him how secure they are in his ability, by upping his ice time which, in turn, makes him even more self-assured.

You want to be out there, and you feel like when youre playing those kind of minutes, theyre getting more confident in you which helps you on the ice, he said. If you maybe make a mistake, youre going to get a little bit more of a chance instead of getting sat down quickly.

His current partner, Vlasic, also sees a teammate improving before his very eyes.

Hes doing great. He got called up for a reason and is staying for the simple reason that hes playing well, said Vlasic. Hes even on the second power play, and sometimes the first one. Hes doing great things, hes getting pucks to the net, hes playing hard and playing well.

The flip side is that defensemen Jason Demers and Jim Vandermeer will have to wait to get back into the lineup. Demers has played in just two of the last nine games, while Vandermeer has sat for six of the previous seven.

McLellan admits he worries a bit about those players who are being forced to watch from the press box.

But, thats just the nature of the business.

Those guys, are very, very good players and they are very important, he said. But, until we have a bump in the road and until it falters, we like what were doing on the back end.

Marleau back to the middle as Sharks deal with no Couture, Haley

Marleau back to the middle as Sharks deal with no Couture, Haley

SAN JOSE – All four of the Sharks’ lines have been in a blender for much of the season. 

Now, with Logan Couture out for at least one game and probably longer, and Micheal Haley getting tagged with a one-game suspension, the coaching staff has no choice but to mix and match the remaining forwards in time for Tuesday’s home game with the Rangers.

They’ll hope it’s the right recipe to snap out of what has been a miserable six-game losing streak in regulation, including the last two in which the Sharks have been outscored 13-3 by Dallas and Nashville.

The most notable player to be shifted is Patrick Marleau, who will apparently be centering the second line against New York. It will be just the fifth game he starts at center this season, and first since Feb. 11 in Philadelphia, when he was filling in for an ill Couture.

Marleau, of course, has played plenty of center over the years, including the second half of last season and first handful of playoff games when he was in the middle of the third line.

“I don’t think there’s been a year where I haven’t played center, so it’s just one of those things, move in and out,” Marleau said. “We’re interchangeable throughout the whole lineup, anyway.”

Marleau has been one of the few effective Sharks players lately, with three of the team’s last five goals. He has 26 goals on the season, third on the team, and is fifth on the Sharks in points with 44.

“Patty is playing great. I don’t think we could ask for more from him,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “Arguably a lot of nights this year he’s been our best forward. He’s playing hard, he’s playing strong. He’s been a real valuable piece for us. We wouldn’t be in the spot we’re in this year without him and the way he’s played this year.”

Marleau is set to skate with Melker Karlsson and Mikkel Boedker, as Karlsson is good to go after missing the last eight games with a lower body injury. The 26-year-old Swede is having a nice season with 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games.

The third line featured Tomas Hertl between Joel Ward and Marcus Sorensen, while Chris Tierney will center the fourth line with Timo Meier and Joonas Donskoi.

Karlsson, who confirmed he was ready to return, said: “Cooch is out, and we’ll see how long he’s going to be out, but I’ll do my best. I’m going to work hard, and hopefully can get going here.”

Marleau described Karlsson as “tenacious on the forecheck, causes a lot of turnovers. He’s hungry on that puck. He’s going to get his opportunities, and I’m sure he’ll put a few in the back of the net.”

* * *

Of course, the Sharks don’t care who scores the goals, just as long as it’s someone. It’s been a season-long issue for them to get their depth scorers to do more, and if they want any chance at reclaiming first place in the Pacific Division while Couture is out, that will be a necessity.

Among the players that will bring their scoring woes into Tuesday’s game will be Donskoi (no points 13 games), Hertl (no points in 12 games), Boedker (no points in 10 games), Ward (no points in six games), Sorensen (one assist in 10 games) and Tierney (one goal in 12 games).

Could Couture’s absence be a wake up call for those guys?

“I would hope it doesn’t take an injury to get that. That’s something we’re looking for, it’s something we’ve challenged the group to get more out of them,” DeBoer said. 

“They’re the first guys to recognize they’ve got to give us a little bit more. That’s been an ongoing process. The good news is they’ve all done it before. I feel that they all have the ability to raise their level another notch here before the playoffs. I think they have enough character that we’ll see that.”

Time is growing short, as the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in a little more than two weeks.

Marleau said: “When you go into playoffs, [secondary scoring] is usually what makes a difference. We need everybody contributing and guys stepping up at different times. We know that in this room, and guys are looking forward to doing that.”

Sharks' Haley suspended one game for punch on Jarnkrok

Sharks' Haley suspended one game for punch on Jarnkrok

SAN JOSE – Sharks forward Micheal Haley has been suspended one game for punching Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday in San Jose’s 7-2 loss, and will miss Tuesday's home game with the Rangers.

After absorbing a borderline hit from behind into the glass by Jarnkrok, Haley tracked down the Predators forward and promptly delivered a left jab to Jarnkrok’s face at 12:56 of the final frame. He received a match penalty for intent to injure on the play.

According to the video released by the league, Haley “was seeking retribution” for the hit by Jarnkrok, who was already being penalized for boarding, and delivered a “forceful punch on an opponent who was not able to defend himself at the time.”

The 30-year-old Haley, who has never been fined or suspended before in his career, gave his perspective of what happened on Monday.

“We were breaking out there and next thing I know I was face first in the glass,” Haley said. “Just emotions [took over]. Kind of scared from the hit and I just went after him. Looked at him right in the eyes. He saw me. By the time I swung at him his face might have turned a bit. When I went at him I saw him clearly look at me, and I thought he knew I was coming.”

Haley expected Jarnkrok to engage him after the Predators forward delivered the bad check.

“I thought it was a pretty dirty hit, and I thought I gave him ample amount of time. I think he [had] enough time to know what I was trying to do, and trying to get him to fight.”

He added: “In hindsight, I wish none of it happened. I wish I didn’t get hit and I wish I didn’t punch him, but it happened. I don’t think I started it. It wasn’t premeditated or anything. If I missed that punch then we probably don’t have this conversation.”

In 54 games this season, Haley has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. His 110 penalty minutes is fifth in the league.